The Buffalo Bills and a collection of fans wearing Paul Posluszny's old No. 51 jersey at Ralph Wilson Stadium didn't need to wait long before getting the full Poz effect. The best and worst of Posluszny's days in Buffalo were wrapped neatly into the Bills' first series Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Posluszny was called for illegal contact on the Bills' first play from scrimmage for holding up tight end Scott Chandler, was beaten by running back Fred Jackson for a 30-yard pass play, stuffed Jackson on second and goal at the 1 and made a terrific tackle on third down when it appeared Jackson had an open lane to the end zone.
"It evened out," Posluszny said after the Bills' 35-32 overtime victory over the Jags. "He got me. He ran a great route in coverage, and I got lucky and got him on the goal line. He's a great player. He creates some matchup difficulties for a lot of teams, which is why he's able to do what he does."
And, yes, he was roundly booed Saturday.
Posluszny was greeted mostly with indifference until he pumped his fist after dumping Jackson near the 2-yard line after a 70-yard drive in the first quarter. The Kids Day crowd quickly realized the man shooting into the running lane was the once-popular linebacker who departed for Jacksonville rather than re-sign with Buffalo.
"It's why the fans here are so great," he said. "If you're one of them, they cheer for you. If you're not, you're not. My four years here, I obviously loved because they're great fans, but it was different being on the opposite end of that."
Posluszny called the signals for the Jacksonville defense, which was shredded in the first half by a Bills team that had been inconsistent in the first two games. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 11 of 12 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bills rolled up 236 yards in the first half alone.
Posluszny considered coming back to Buffalo after meeting with inside linebackers coach and associate head coach Dave Wannstedt. The Bills made a strong pitch for him, but he signed a six-year contract worth $45 million with the Jaguars shortly after the NFL lockout ended. He believed Jacksonville was a better team and gave him a better fit.
Posluszny, 26, played four years for the Bills after being plucked out of Penn State in the second round of the 2007 draft. The Bills viewed him as a heart-and-soul middle linebacker and a key to their 4-3 defense under former coach Dick Jauron. The heart and soul were there but often the production was not.
Bills coach Chan Gailey was hired to replace Jauron last season, and he brought the 3-4 defense with him. The Bills' defensive line was mostly shabby during his stay in Buffalo, which prohibited from making plays many expected when he came out of college.
Posluszny had a career-high 151 tackles last year, but he struggled mightily against the pass. He finished with 398 tackles in 45 games in a Buffalo uniform.
His departure wasn't a total loss for Buffalo.
The Bills' response to losing Posluszny was signing linebacker Nick Barnett to a three-year deal worth $12 million, which looks like a bargain. Barnett, 30, through three preseason games appears to be a consistent player who is adequate against the run and better against the pass. Barnett arrived at a fraction of the price.
Posluszny, who finished with six tackles before leaving the game early in the third quarter, told reporters in Jacksonville before the game that he expected a mixed reaction when he took the field Saturday. He was given a warm welcome before the game, but it wasn't long before his relationship with Buffalo became chilly.
"I was surprised," he said. "I thought [the boos] were going to come faster. When I was walking out of the tunnel, everyone was cheering and saying hello. I thought I was going to get booed more quickly than that."