Even before this whole media policy fiasco, it was a rough month for the Buffalo Bills. From Shaq Lawson needing shoulder surgery to Sammy Watkins’ broken foot to Dri Archer not returning Ryan’s calls, they’ve seen better days.
So on Tuesday, Rex Ryan stepped up to the podium and told everybody that everything will be juuuust fine.
The Bills head coach stood by the Lawson pick, citing the long-term benefits of the linebacker being 100-percent healthy. And the coach has no doubt at all Watkins will be ready Week 1 at Baltimore.
“I get it,” Ryan said. “It looks like it hit people across the face that, hey, here’s an injury to Sammy Watkins. But we knew about it. He’s not going to miss any time. By the time the regular season comes around, Sammy Watkins is not going to miss any time. Now, do we have a timetable on when he comes back specifically? No, we’re not going to give you that. But I’ll tell you this, he’ll be ready to go in the regular season.”
Watkins, who had surgery to repair a small broken bone in his left foot about a month ago, was at Tuesday’s OTA practice on crutches with the foot in a boot. Wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Greg Salas also weren’t in attendance, meaning Jarrett Boykin and Greg Little got plenty of time with the first-team offense in addition to Robert Woods.
Ryan might’ve been beaming with optimism but he also wouldn’t say Watkins is a go for the start of training camp in two months.
“We’re not going to put out a blanket statement that he’s going to be ready Aug. 1 or whatever the date is,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to do that because things happen. But I will say this: We’re confident that he’s doing a great job and he’s going to be back healthy. We know by the time the season rolls around, he’s going to be completely healthy.”
The key with this injury, likely a Jones fracture, is for Watkins to rest. Wide receivers past have rushed back to the field and needed a second surgery. Thus, don’t expect Watkins to do anything through OTAs and minicamp. And judging by Ryan’s tone, it sounds like the Bills will at least proceed with caution through training camp.
It just could prove difficult for Watkins to get necessary reps with quarterback Tyrod Taylor in time for the season.
As for Archer? The former Kent State burner who Buffalo claimed off waivers still isn’t returning Ryan’s phone calls.
“I can’t tell you anything about him because I haven’t talked to him,” Ryan said. “We’re better off talking about Jim Braxton or somebody like that who was a great fullback here many years ago. He has chosen, I guess, not to be on this team. I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him. I don’t think he has talked to his agent or anything else. That’s probably all we need to say about him.”
As reported on Sunday night, cornerback Stephon Gilmore isn’t in town for OTAs. While he wouldn’t be able to practice yet while recovering from his torn labrum, it’s also true that Gilmore’s reps would like to reach a long-term deal with the team. The 2012 10th overall pick is entering the final year of his rookie contract at a position where 10 players make at least $10 million per year and three make $14 million.
Ryan said he wishes Gilmore was here but that attendance is voluntary.
“I’m sure we’re not the only one with somebody choosing not to be here,” Ryan said. “The guys that are here are working. Do I wish everybody was here? Absolutely.”
The Bills’ right tackle competition came into a clearer focus Tuesday during the team’s second spring practice.
Seantrel Henderson, who started the 2015 season as the starter at that position, was not present. Jordan Mills got first-team reps Tuesday, ahead of 2014 second-round draft pick Cyrus Kouandjio.
That’s not a total surprise. Mills earned the job at the end of the 2015 season, with Kouandjio being relegated to a role as tight end.
What was surprising was coach Rex Ryan’s admission following practice that he hasn’t spoken with Henderson since the end of the 2015 season.
“I can’t really recall talking to him,” Ryan said. “I think he’s been in, but I haven’t talked to him personally.”
Henderson missed the final six games of last year because of Crohn’s disease.
“I have no update for you guys on that,” Ryan said. “That’s a medical thing. I haven’t seen Seantrel in quite a while.”
It’s five down, two to go for the Buffalo Bills in regards to signing draft picks.
The team reached an agreement with second-round linebacker Reggie Ragland on Tuesday. The Alabama product was taken with the 41st overall selection, which the Bills traded up for by sending the No. 49 pick and two fourth-round draft choices to the Chicago Bears.
Ragland won the 2015 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year award for the Crimson Tide after compiling 102 tackles, including 60 solo stops. That was 29 more than his next closest teammate. The 6-foot-1, 247-pound native of Madison, Ala., played in 53 college games, finishing with 222 tackles, four sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 10 passes defensed and one interception. He was a unanimous All-American selection in 2015.
Last year’s No. 41 selection in the draft, Carolina wide receiver Devin Funchess, signed a four-year, $5.5 million contract. Ragland’s deal is expected to slightly surpass that.
Left unsigned from the team’s seven-player draft class are first-round pick Lawson, a defensive end/outsider linebacker from Clemson, and fourth-rounder Cardale Jones, the Ohio State quarterback.
In addition to Watkins and Lawson other players not participating Tuesday included tight end Charles Clay, wide receivers Marcus Easley (knee) and Greg Salas and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee).
Ryan did not specify why Clay was out, but characterized his injury as minor.
“He’s doing well,” the coach said. “I know he was held out a little bit today and things. He’s really been working hard. … It’s not a serious setback.”
Gilmore, Henderson, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, and running back Karlos Williams were not in attendance. Goodwin is attempting to qualify for the U.S. Olympic track and field team, Karlos Williams recently had a son. An explanation for Dareus’ absence from the voluntary practice was not given.
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