The Buffalo Bills held their first training camp night practice on Monday July 29th at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. The stadium was packed with Bills fans that lived up to their reputation as being loud, loyal, and rambunctious. The Bills players seemed to react well to the crowd and as head coach Chan Gailey put it, the atmosphere was great. Gailey stated, “I know it was good for the fans. And I know it was good for our team. Our guys love coming into a night practice and the atmosphere that is here. You get people here that are all Bills fans. It is a lot of fun.”
The Bills went into practice with a few players sitting out to due injury, including wide receiver David Nelson. Many, including Nelson, were very worried after he suffered a knee injury at practice on Saturday; however, he came away with somewhat good news, telling the media, “I am blessed to have the diagnosis that I’ve got.” It was revealed tonight that Nelson has a strained tendon in his right knee and will be out for just 4-5 days. The Bills have a day off of practice tomorrow which will give Nelson extra time to rest and Gailey would like to see him back on the field on Wednesday.
Unfortunately for the Bills, CB Justin Rogers left practice with a hamstring injury and did not return. LB Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman also left practice with an ankle injury, but was determined to get back onto the field with his teammates. Gailey commented on Merriman’s injury while talking to the media, stating, “He wanted to be back out here. He would not stay out and that is great. That is the attitude you hope they all have.” Merriman did return, but did not participate in any team drills. Safety Josh Nesbitt did not practice today with an undisclosed injury and DT Kellen Heard also sat out with an ankle injury. A couple more players who did not participate were RT Erik Pears due to a groin injury and TE Mike Caussin with a knee injury.
Although the list of injured players seems to be growing for the Bills, there were several players who stood out at the Bills’ first night practice. Wide receiver Marcus Easley, who missed his first two seasons in the NFL due to injuries, made a few great catches and plays. Right along with Easley, rookie wide receiver TJ Graham was also showing off his ability to consistently catch the ball and run with incredible speed. Graham proved tonight that if he makes a catch with daylight in front of him, no one will catch him. Another player to be noted was rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He stated after practice, “I feel pretty good today. I learned a lot today and I made a couple plays.” At practice Gilmore stayed on his receivers and broke up a few passes, which is good news for the Bills as they desperately need better pass coverage.
Overall, the first night practice went well for the Bills and the fans seemed to agree. The competition for roster spots is only increasing as time goes on and it is very clear that players are stepping up to prove they deserve a spot on the final 53 man roster. Chan Gailey will have some tough decisions to make, which he noted tonight, but in the end it is all for the best. The Bills need to continue to take training camp very seriously and work hard toward their one major goal: to end their 12 year playoff drought. Hopefully the current injured players will return to the practice field soon and the injury list will continue to shrink for the Bills. Bills players will return to the field on Tuesday July 31st for a 3:00 PM practice which is open to the public.