Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins said his injured ribs were feeling “just about normal” after completing practice Monday.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Watkins said after the Bills started preparations for Sunday’s season opener at Chicago. “Had a great practice today. Felt normal. Felt pretty good out there.”
The Bills aren’t required to provide an update on how much Watkins participated in practice until Wednesday, and didn’t say if he has been cleared to play.
In Watkins’ mind, though, he’ll be ready to make his NFL debut.
“Of course. That’s a winner’s mentality,” he said. “I’m hoping I’m going to be out there on the field playing, getting reps with the guys and go out there and try to fight for a win.”
Watkins first hurt his ribs against Pittsburgh in the Bills’ third preseason game when he was hit by Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier. He sat out the game against Tampa Bay before returning to play in the preseason finale against Detroit.
The injury was aggravated when Lions linebacker Ashlee Palmer drove his forearm into the left side of Watkins’ ribs.
Watkins made it sound Monday like he wouldn’t have played in that game if given the chance again.
“Situations where you don’t know if you can go or not … I think for me, I learned about everything,” he said. “I just need to communicate more with the coaches, and we learned.”
Watkins’ latest injury is the same one he suffered against Pittsburgh – a contusion – although the more recent one is “a little deeper than what it was,” he said.
Watkins said it’s possible he’ll wear a flak jacket to offer more protection for his ribs if he’s able to play against the Bears.
“We’ll try just about everything; whatever helps me. We’re just going to see how far I can go. I think it’s just pain tolerance I have to get through and be prepared for,” he said.
Tight end Lee Smith (toe) and rookie linebacker Randell Johnson (ankle) did not practice Monday. Johnson worked out with trainers on the sideline.
He said after practice he’d be able to play Sunday.
The Bills reached an injury settlement with tight end Tony Moeaki, releasing him from injured reserve.
Moeaki, 27, was placed on IR on Friday as the Bills started to trim their roster down to 53 players. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound fifth-year veteran played in only one preseason game this summer because of a hamstring injury. He had signed with the Bills last December after he was released by Kansas City earlier in 2013.
With four years of experience, Moeaki is a vested veteran, but because he wasn’t part of the 53-man roster, he doesn’t qualify for termination pay. He was due to make a $1 million base salary. The $250,000 roster bonus and $100,000 workout bonus already paid to him will count against the Bills’ 2014 salary cap, as will whatever injury settlement he and the team agreed to.
Moeaki is free to sign with any team in the NFL now except the Bills.
Guard D.J. Morrell and fullback Lonnie Pryor were added to the Bills’ practice squad Monday.
Morrell, 23, is a 6-foot-6, 325-pounder who played at Old Dominion. He was with the St. Louis Rams during the preseason.
Pryor spent training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He entered the league in 2013 as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and spent time on their practice squad before being claimed by the Bucs. The 6-0, 229-pound 24-year-old played at Florida State with current Bills quarterback EJ Manuel.