Bills as smiles as they break camp
How did the Buffalo Bills end another training camp? With a fast-paced practice, signing autographs for the die-hard fans, and a practical joke that the entire team was talking about.
The Bills finished their 14th training camp session on Wednesday at St. John Fisher as the players and coaches packed up and headed back to Orchard Park to begin preparations for the regular season. Buffalo plays their third preseason game at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Washington.
While several players talked about an excellent camp experience, many more discussed veteran Fred Jackson dunking on head coach Doug Marrone. The prank epitomizes the new attitude in the organization thanks to the leadership of the former Syracuse University head coach.
"That's one of the things Coach (Marrone) stressed to us; this is a game that we have to come in here and yes, work, but the number one thing that we should do is have fun while we're out here," Jackson said. "He's been a living example of that. He lets us play jokes on him and we were able to do that again."
Marrone played an integral role in training camp this summer, but he wasn't the only one to have the spotlight on the campus of the private school in Pittsford.
EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb battled it out for the starting quarterback spot. Manuel played well in the team's first two preseason games and appeared to have the job won, but a knee injury will keep him out until the start of the regular season.
Jairus Byrd ended his holdout on Tuesday and will rejoin the team in Orchard Park. Byrd signed a franchise tender and the one-year guaranteed deal will pay him $6.9 million this season.
The Bills released veteran kicker Rian Lindell, who spent the previous 10 seasons in Buffalo. Rookie Dustin Hopkins will take over for Lindell.
"It hasn't been a secret, I've been happy," Marrone said about the eventful training camp. "I really have. With the way the players have gone out and worked. I think we haven't wasted a day out here."
The BIlls will look to improve to 3-0 in the preseason against a Redskin team that will not have quarterback Robert Griffin III who is still recovering from a right knee injury he suffered against Seattle in the playoffs last January.
Jerry Hughes, who came to the Bills this offseason in a trade from Indianapolis, is eager to return to the field following a two sack performance in the team's 20-16 win over Minnesota last Friday. Hughes and the rest of the first-team starters surrendered only three points in four series' against the Vikings starters.
"I think the sooner we get everyone on the same page, and everyone executing at a high level, I think we have great potential," Hughes said. "We have a lot of athletes, a lot of fast people. You know (defensive coordinator Mike Pettine) is going to take advantage of everyone's strengths and we just have to come together as a team and execute."
The third game is traditionally where the starters see the most action. Will Marrone follow this script?
"It's hard when you look at it," he said. "If you just say I have a quarter in a half, maybe a half depending on who's coming in on the pitch counts, and then you look at the last game and how much time you have, you're going to have more than that. What you're doing is you're looking to see how it all fits and how you're going to go after it."