PITTSFORD – In Sammy Watkins’ mind, anything less than the playoffs would be a failure for the Buffalo Bills. The wide receiver doubled down on earlier comments Wednesday as players moved into the dorms at St. John Fisher College for training camp.
Watkins is well aware that the Bills set an all-time record for season ticket sales. He can feel the hype. He sees the new faces.
Now, it’s time for it to all transfer to results.
“We have to show up. We have to win. Win games,” Watkins said. “Everybody’s buying tickets and everybody’s got this Super Bowl thing on us. We’ve got to come out here and win. Coming in Friday for practice, we’ve got to start it up. We’re not going to just go out there and win games because we have all these players. I think if we handle our business in practice, we definitely have a shot at the playoffs.
“We have to win now. We can’t win next year or the following year and say we don’t have the team. We’ve got the team. We’ve got the coaches.”
As for Watkins himself, he may be limited early in camp. He said he does view himself as “100 percent healthy” off of surgery to repair the torn labrum in his hip, but it sounds like the Bills will be cautious with this prized possession.
“I’ll definitely be out there,” Watkins said. “I don’t know what circumstance with the staff, what I’ll be doing, how limited I’ll be.”
Since the surgery, Watkins has mostly let his body heal, learning the nuances of the position from new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal. He expects to have a better idea of where he’s at physically once he’s running routes against Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin and Buffalo’s cornerbacks.
Going from controlled offseason workouts to camp is quite a jump in intensity. And Buffalo mortgaged three premium picks to take Watkins fourth overall a year ago.
“I just have to go out there and see,” Watkins said. “It starts with competing. Once I get to competing, I can tell where I’m at. … I can’t wait. I can’t wait to go out and compete and get in 1-on-1’s to see where I’m at to measure the injury.”
Watkins won’t publicly set any personal goals, saying that Robert Woods or Percy Harvin could go for 1,000 yards and LeSean McCoy might have 1,600 rushing yards. It remains to be seen how the wealth is spread in this new offense.
As for as the team’s expectations? Watkins isn’t backing down.
“We’ve just got to put the work in with ourselves and come together as a whole team,” Watkins said. “Once we build that chemistry up this training camp, we’ll definitely win a lot of games and make the playoffs.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams and center Eric Wood, two veteran captains, had mixed reactions to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension being upheld.
Williams, a union rep for the team, wasn’t surprised the NFL upheld the suspension. The union stands behind the quarterback, too. Even if this is the quarterback, you know, who has helped keep Buffalo out of the playoffs for 15 years.
“We’re going to let the process play out,” Williams said, “but we’re going to try to defend him the best way that we can from our end of it which is obviously totally opposed to what the NFL’s position is.”
Meanwhile, Eric Wood liked the fact that the league stuck with a full suspension considering so many end up getting reduced.
“I felt that the consistency shown is refreshing,” Wood said. “Sometimes, it feels like they suspend a guy and then they always end up taking it away, taking half of it back or whatever.”
Embattled offensive line coach Aaron Kromer remains on indefinite leave and could be let go for good at some point in light of his arrest for allegedly punching a minor. Kurt Anderson, the assistant offensive line coach, presumably takes over in Kromer’s absence for the start of camp.
As of Wednesday, Wood wasn’t sure who his coach would be. He doesn’t see this as a lingering distraction.
“There wouldn’t be radical changes either way. I don’t think it’ll have a huge effect,” he said.
Wood says he has “a lot of confidence” in Anderson, who’s been with the team for four years.
“He’s a great coach,” Wood said, “and he has an extremely bright future.”
Meanwhile, the Bills had tackle Gosder Cherilus in for a visit one day after releasing guard Chris Williams, a source confirmed. The 2008 first-round pick signed a five-year, $34 million contract with the Colts in 2013, started 29 games and then was let go in a cost-cutting move.