Chandler returning from injury

Dan Goldman
Bills Tight End Scott Chandler is ahead of schedule in his return from ACL surgery.

Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler was having the best year of his pro career before an injury cut his 2012 season short.

Early in a Dec. 23 match-up with Miami, Chandler made a 25-yard reception. But when he tried to plant his foot, the tight end heard a pop and went down in a heap.

The diagnosis was a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which usually requires a recovery time of seven to nine months. Chandler isahead of schedule, though, and was running routes against the defense on the first day of training camp.

"I think it's getting stronger, it's getting more used to the workload, it's going good for me," Chandler said. "I have these built-in days off to give it a little rest. We're trying to build toward week one, I've got to keep that in mind."

After he played college football at the University of Iowa, the San Diego Chargers selected Chandler in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL draft. He played in one game in 2007 and spent the entire 2008 season on injured reserve with a toe injury. After his stints with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, the Bills claimed him off waivers in December 2010 and Chandler played in the final four games of the season.

The tight end played in 14 games for the Bills in 2011 and recorded 38 receptions for 389 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, he played in 14 games and recorded 43 receptions for 571 yards and six touchdowns before going down with the injury.

Chandler developed into one of Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite targets over the last two seasons. He's working to develop chemistry with quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel.

"It's nice when I'm out there and I can slowly build a rapport with them," Chandler said. "What's also nice is I get to be in a meeting room with them and see what they're seeing and communicate what I'm seeing."

During Monday's intrasquad scrimmage, Chandler received limited playing time.

"I'm excited," Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone said. "I said it before when he first came back, he had some early success and I think that's one of the most important things for someone coming back off injury, and I just think that we feel we can get a lot out of Scott in this preseason and this camp as long we manage him correctly, which we're trying to do."

Chandler said he thinks he'll be ready for the season opener against the New England Patriots.

If the Bills are without Chandler, they don't have any other proven receiving targets at the position. Dorin Dickerson caught nine passes for 117 yards last year and Lee Smith, who is more of a blocker, caught four passes for 13 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Caussin, Nick Provo and rookie Chris Gragg are also in the mix for roster spots.