The race is on for Paul Posluszny.
The Buffalo Bills' rookie linebacker joined the fold Wednesday by signing a contract. Now he has six weeks to see if he can get ready to crack the Bills' starting lineup in time for the season opener Sept. 9 against Denver.
"I think as long as I do exactly what the coaches want me to do, physically I like to think I have what it takes to play," Posluszny said upon arriving at St. John Fisher College for Bills training camp. "The veterans are so sharp mentally, they have everything figured out and they know exactly where to be. As long as I can compete with them mentally, I think I'll be able to do the job."
The Bills expect Posluszny to do the job at some point soon this year, if not the first week. That's why they traded up nine spots in the second round and gave a third-round pick to Detroit in order to draft the 22-year-old from Penn State.
Posluszny (pronounced Pos-LUS-knee) signed a four-year deal that could be worth a total of $5.075 million. He got $2.55 million guaranteed, which was a 7 percent increase over last year's 34th overall selection. His base deal is worth $4.75 million, which is a 13 percent increase over last year's corresponding pick (Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson). He also has $325,000 in incentives he could earn.
The Bills have just one unsigned rookie -- first-round pick Marshawn Lynch, the 12th overall pick. He is not expected to be on the field when the Bills begin camp today with two practices -- at 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
None of the NFL's top 14 draft picks were signed as of Wednesday evening. Only five of the 32 first-rounders had contracts.
Posluszny is a 6-foot-1, 238-pounder from Aliquippa, Pa. He is the latest in a long line of star linebackers from Penn State. He's a two-time first-team All-America pick. He wore No. 31 for the Nittany Lions, the same number worn at Penn State by Shane Conlan, the former Bills star linebacker.
Posluszny switched from outside to inside linebacker his senior year. He said he knows from minicamp practices he fits that spot in Buffalo.
"In our defense the middle linebacker spot is the position to be at," he said. "I love playing that spot for the Bills. You can make a lot of plays, and you have a lot of fun in the middle."
For now Posluszny is second on the middle linebacker depth chart, behind John DiGiorgio, a second-year player from Saginaw Valley State who watched from the sidelines last year as London Fletcher's backup.
"The good thing is in spring football I saw just about the entire defense," Posluszny said. "So now when we install a defense, I'm not seeing it for the first time. . . . I've seen everything before so I should have a better feel for it now."
Posluszny previously stated he was determined to strike a deal in time for the first camp practice.
"Being a second-rounder, I don't think you should have that luxury [to hold out]," he said.
"I give the Bills a lot of credit," said Posluszny's Chicago-based agent, Mike McCartney. "Paul really wanted to be in camp on time. It could have been an opportunity to try to take advantage of that. Buffalo didn't do that."
McCartney said he was thrilled Posluszny landed in Buffalo.
"Paul is a blue-collar guy who doesn't bring attention to himself," he said. "I think the fans of Buffalo will embrace him. I think it's a great fit. He's everything you want in a teammate."
This is expected to be the second straight year the Bills' No. 1 pick is not at the first practice. Donte Whitner missed the first eight days of camp last year. He still was ready to start in the season opener.
Both Jim Overdorf, Bills vice president of football administration, and Doug Hendrickson, Lynch's agent, described the negotiations as upbeat.
"Actually it's been very positive," Overdorf said. "We've had ongoing negotiations. We've been talking a lot."
Asked about the slow pace of first-round deals, Overdorf said, "It seems like people are trying to determine what kind of structure the contracts are going to follow. That's what I think the hang-up is."
The Bills earlier Wednesday reached a deal with fourth-round pick Dwayne Wright, a running back from Fresno State. To make room for the signings, they released two rookies, receiver Aaron Brown and cornerback Duane Coleman.