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Gerald Hodges intends to make an impact on the Bills with humble, 'high-energy' attitude

Gerald Hodges prefers to talk about himself more as a person than as a football player.

He wants you to know that he's humble. He wants you to know that he has a "high-energy" attitude.

"Just trying to stay positive all the way around," the Buffalo Bills' linebacker said as the Bills approached the end of OTA practices last week. "And whatever I can do to help the guys in any way I can, that's what I'm going to try to do."

Hodges, who is entering his fifth NFL season with his third team, won't go into the specifics about what he does on the field. The Bills have been using him both at outside and middle linebacker, but neither factors into the way he describes the role he intends to fill.

That, according to Hodges, will come from being a good example for his teammates -- from doing whatever his coaches ask, from having a strong work ethic, from displaying all of the qualities expected of a true leader.

Of course, the Bills are seeking a whole lot more. They're looking for the same guy who, in 15 games (including 12 starts) with the San Francisco 49ers last season, had career bests with 83 tackles, three sacks, and a pair of interceptions.

If they get anything close to that or better, they'll have found one of the true bargain free-agent steals of the offseason. Hodges remained in the open market well beyond the time that his strong performance in 2016 suggested he would before finally signing with the Bills on May 25.

Hodges does his best to push the long wait into the deep recesses of his memory.

"Most importantly, it was a humbling process, just not having a job and just wondering where I'll be," he said. "But ever since then, I've been looking forward. Ever since I got on this team, I've been looking forward to how I can help these guys. I kind of haven't been wanting to linger in the past and things like that once I got my opportunity to be on a team and give all I can give."

After his previous NFL stints, what does he like best about being with the Bills?

"Just the environment so far," Hodges said. "Since I've been here, it's just mainly been family oriented and that's the most important thing about trying to be a championship team. You've got to be a family, because you've all got to have the same goal.

"Everybody is working hard, everybody is enjoying being here. Ain't nothing like coming into a facility where everyone's happy to be here, from the coaching staff to trainers."

At 26, the 6-foot-2, 236-pound Hodges is still very much in his prime and seemingly at a point where his career could be taking off. He brings a good deal of experience, including the two-plus seasons he spent with the Minnesota Vikings, who made him a fourth-round draft pick from Penn State in 2013 and then traded him to the 49ers early in the 2015 season. He has a decent combination of strength and athleticism to make him effective against the run and in pass coverage.

With competition at linebacker being fairly wide open beyond Pro Bowler Lorenzo Alexander at one outside spot, Hodges is a leading candidate to grab the starting spot on the other side. His ability to work in the middle, as he has periodically during the offseason, only enhances his value while competing with the likes of Ramon Humber.

"This has been exciting, just learning the defense, getting the defense down and things like that, and coming out here and working with the guys," Hodges said. "I look at it as football's football. As long as I stay focused and I keep the right attitude and a humble attitude, everything will work out how it works out.

"Just come in every day trying to learn something new every day and take it as I go."

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