PITTSFORD – That Reggie Ragland finds himself in a competition at middle linebacker for the Buffalo Bills is not a surprise.
That it's for a backup job, though? Well, that definitely does qualify as a surprise.
Ragland lined up with the third-team defense Tuesday during practice at St. John Fisher College. For a player who was expected to challenge Preston Brown for the starting job, that's a move in the wrong direction on the depth chart.
"It's very stiff. I think coach is still deciding," Ragland said after practice of the competition. "On my part, I've got to keep playing hard, and whatever the coaches want, I've got to go with."
As for losing second-team snaps to Gerald Hodges, Ragland said "it's never a step back."
"As long as I keep getting reps, I'm going to keep getting better," he said. "It's never a step back. You take what the coaches give you. Whatever the coaches give me, I'm taking it and running with it. ... The coach put me there for a reason. I've got to play ball."
Ragland has worked almost exclusively as the second-team middle linebacker since the start of training camp. The one-year anniversary of his knee injury passed over the weekend.
"I'm feeling better the more I get out there," he said. "I've got my days where I'm sore, but I've got to fight through that."
Ragland was held out of team drills for most of the spring, so in a sense he's still playing catch up.
"It's been tough. Everybody else has a couple months ahead of me in terms of getting reps, but that's no excuse," he said. "I've got to come in and learn and that's what I'm going to keep doing."
Coach Sean McDermott was asked about the competition between Brown and Ragland on Thursday and declared that it was too early to call a winner.
"Preston has done a nice job," McDermott said. "I believe he’s still getting comfortable in this system – it’s still new. You see him working after practice, which I love. He’s working on his craft, he’s a true pro and he has great command of the defense. He’s our signal caller.
"That said, I do like the work that Reggie is putting in also. It’s way too early at this point in time to declare a starter or say that it’s working itself out. I do like what both players have done to this point in camp."
Five practices have been held since McDermott made those comments. When it's Hodges elevating his game or Ragland taking a step back, at least Tuesday the team's depth chart got a shakeup.