Charles Clay has had chronic knee trouble since joining the Buffalo Bills as a highly paid free agent in 2015.
The problem has persisted during the team's current offseason workouts, and it is something that coach Sean McDermott is worried about.
"We are concerned with Charles' knee situation," McDermott told reporters Thursday before the Bills took the field for an OTA workout. "It's something we have to manage moving forward in order to have him on the field for us, which is important moving forward. He's a weapon for us."
McDermott did say that Clay has taken part in drills — as he did Thursday at practice — but the team is being cautious about how much work he receives.
"He's participated in most all of it," the coach said. "That said, just like with all of our players, we have to put them in position to be successful, Charles no different. So if managing his reps, if that's what we have to do, then we'll continue to do that."
Clay did not speak to reporters after practice.
McDermott added that Wednesday's signing of free-agent tight end Wes Saxton was not related to Clay's knee issue. Besides Clay and Saxton, the Bills have five other tight ends: Logan Thomas, Nick O'Leary, Blake Annen, and rookie undrafted free agents Jason Croom and Keith Towbridge.
McDermott said Thursday that Gerald Hodges was on his way back to Buffalo and there was a "good chance" the former 49ers linebackers would sign with the Bills.
As it turns out, the deal was done before practice was even over.
The Bills announced Hodges had signed as the team was going through its workout inside the AdPro Sports Training Center. To make room on the roster, cornerback Charles Gaines was cut.
The 26-year-old started 12 games and played in 15 for San Francisco last season, making 83 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble. A former fourth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, Hodges is known for his coverage ability. He played safety in college at Penn State. The analytics website Pro Football Focus ranked Hodges 21st out of 87 graded linebackers in 2016. The 6-foot-2, 236-pounder figures to compete with Ramon Humber for the starting job at weak side linebacker.
Not participating in practice Thursday were the following: guard John Miller (ankle), offensive tackle Michael Ola (knee), receivers Zay Jones (knee), Sammy Watkins (foot), and Kolby Listenbee (sports hernia) and tight end Annen (neck).
Miller and Ola were termed “day to day” by McDermott, while Jones remains “week to week” but is progressing well, according to the coach.
Fullback Mike Tolbert was not in attendance for the voluntary practice.
The Bills hired Terrance Gray as their college scouting director Thursday. Gray has spent the past 11 seasons as a college scout for the Minnesota Vikings, covering the Southeast.
Prior to that he spent three years with the Kansas City Chiefs. Gray played cornerback in college at Oregon State. The Beavers finished No. 4 in the country and appeared in the Fiesta Bowl in 2000.
“Terrance is a young riser in this business,” Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said in a statement. Minnesota Vikings General Manager “Rick Spielman has had a great staff, well-respected guys around the league. Terrance worked his way up to a Southeast area scout. The Southeast is well known as a prime talent area. He’s done a great job. Rick gave him a great recommendation. Every reference that Joe Schoen and I called on said that Terrance has what it takes. He just hasn’t had the opportunity.”
The Bills also hired Pete Harris as a Northeast area scout, Chris Marrow as a pro scout and Marcus Cooper as their BLESTO scout, finalizing their scouting staff.
Running back LeSean McCoy will host a charity softball game June 4 at Frontier Field in Rochester.
The game, which benefits the LeSean McCoy Foundation, will feature several current Bills players, as well as select police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. There will be autograph signings, a silent auction and raffles. Tickets are available at the Frontier Field Ticket Office, online at RedWingsBaseball.com or by calling (585) 423-WING.
News Sports Reporter Vic Carucci contributed to this report.