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Graham's off and running; WR looks to make a good impression

Chan Gailey offered up the equivalent of a coaching compliment sandwich when describing rookie receiver T.J. Graham.

He caught the ball well (compliment). He's a raw route runner (constructive criticism). He can run fast (compliment).

"I'm anxious to see how he'll develop as time goes on," Gailey said.

Development is the buzzword this weekend, as the Buffalo Bills' rookie minicamp continues with three more practices, two today and one Sunday.

Later in his interview, Gailey let on that he "probably watched T.J. more than anybody," but not by design.

"Just because I hang around the quarterbacks and hang around the receivers more than anybody else," the Bills' head coach said.

It's understandable, however, that an offensive mind like Gailey's would be intrigued by a player with Graham's abilities.

The North Carolina State product's best attribute is his speed, and it was on display Friday. Early in the practice, he got behind cornerback Domonic Cook on a deep route, but the ball was slightly overthrown and fell incomplete.

It was but a brief glimpse at what the Bills and their fans hope Graham will bring to the offense this season. Even as a third-rounder, Graham was arguably the most talked about of the Bills' selections.

That's because he was largely an unknown commodity to even die-hard draftniks. Several publications had Graham listed as a seventh-round prospect, but as the Bills showed, those magazines often aren't worth the paper they're printed on. It only takes one team to like a player, and for Graham, it was the Bills.

That was in the back of his mind Friday.

"It's the first time you're playing in front of coaches. You're trying to make a good impression among the coaches and your peers, too," he said. "And trying to satisfy yourself, the standards that you set up."

Graham showed off some quick wit when asked what it's like to usually be the fastest player on the field.

"Sometimes I'm tired, so I might not be the fastest guy," he said. "It's pretty fun, but I'm not the only one who knows that. So sometimes you've got to work a little harder. The defense is going to play you a little differently."

Graham's been clocked in the 4.3s in the 40, but as Gailey alluded to, he's far from a finished product.

Asked about Gailey calling his route running raw, Graham said: "I'm assuming it was the same way going into college, but I worked at it. I used the offseason to get better, to improve my craft. I guess I've got some work to do."

All 45 players in camp can say the same. The Bills' nine draft picks were joined by 10 undrafted free agent signees, five first-year players and 21 players competing on a tryout basis (including Western New York natives Byron Mulkey and Cook) to make up the roster.

"You try to see the effort that a guy gives. You try to see if a guy is a lazy guy or a worker. You're trying to figure that out. You're trying to figure out, does a guy retain what you teach him? Can he hold on from day one to day two what you taught in day one, and add on to day two? So you're looking at that," Gailey said. "Those are the two main things. They're talented guys, or they wouldn't be here to start with."

A large part of Friday's session -- which went an hour and 15 minutes and was conducted on the grass field next to the field house -- was introductory. For nearly all of the players in attendance, it was the first time putting on the pads at the professional level.

That comes with a natural mix of excitement and angst.

"I had a lot of fun competing and putting on the uniform," Graham said. "The hardest thing was kind of figuring out the concepts. It's a really different playbook. So to come out and try to learn on the fly was pretty tough, but pretty fun just getting out and finally playing football. The last couple months have been kind of tough just training and training."

Getting the playbook installed was a point of emphasis for Gailey, but not a pressing matter.

"We've got 2 1/2 more weeks until OTAs, so I'm not worried about getting them ready for that right now," he said. "I'm just worried about seeing what they can handle in this short period of time."

email: jskurski@buffnews.com