With first career start looming, Bills rookie Matt Milano leaning on his veteran teammates - The Buffalo News

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With first career start looming, Bills rookie Matt Milano leaning on his veteran teammates

It’s fitting that Sean McDermott got right to the point when talking about Matt Milano on Wednesday.

“He’s ready,” the Buffalo Bills’ coach said of the rookie linebacker, who's in line to make his first career start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. “He’s ready and he’ll only get more and more ready as he puts the time in this week.”

Cutting to the chase is Milano’s style. The Boston College product is content to go about his business under the radar.

“He's a quiet guy. Very humble, low key,” veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “That's just who he is. I think the more he’s been around this team, especially on the football field, the more reps he's gotten, the more times we've been able to have conversations about playing the game,” he’s gotten more comfortable. “You could see it on Sunday, too. As the game progressed, he became more confident.”

Milano took the first defensive snaps of his career in Week Four, replacing the injured Ramon Humber and playing 32 snaps. He finished with three tackles in the 23-17 win over the Falcons. Humber is out indefinitely with a broken thumb that required surgery.

“I thought he came in on a big stage last week and handled himself well for his first real, live game action,” McDermott said. “What’s important is where we go from here. I think Matt clearly understands that and then it’s important that we do things around Matt to help him as he continues to grow with his career at this point.”

The good news for Milano is that he’s in a linebacker room loaded with experience. Between Alexander, Humber and middle linebacker Preston Brown, that’s 24 years worth of it.

“If you ever need a question answered, you can go to Lorenzo or Preston or Ramon,” Milano said. “They know what's going on at all times.”

A fifth-round draft pick earlier this year, Milano’s primary role to this point has been on special teams. He leads the Bills with 77 snaps on special teams and has three tackles.

“Just playing fast, playing physical and not thinking too much,” Milano said of what’s worked for him so far. “I got to this point by working hard and playing fast, so that's what I'm going to continue to do on Sunday.”

Milano has the added benefit of being able to practice with the starters all week. For as much as every player says they prepare like they’re starting every week, it’s “not likely actually playing the game,” Alexander said.

“That’s when you kind of get a feel, get a rhythm. Maybe see how they're trying to attack you,” he said. “Just different reads and things you just can't get from watching film or taking mental reps, that’s going to be huge for him. I expect him to start fast and kind of finish how he started playing toward the end of the game last week.

“He’s just a guy that I think is really going to benefit from a great week of practice, being out there, getting reps with the ones, and is going to go out there and do a great job.”

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