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Johnson's return not likely before training camp

Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey expects top receiver Stevie Johnson to sit out until training camp while he recovers from offseason groin surgery.

Johnson was among a handful of Bills not practicing Tuesday on the first day of organized team activity workouts. He had surgery about a month ago to repair a groin injury that had nagged him much of last season.

"Training camp, training camp," Gailey said on Johnson's likely return date. "I don't see him making minicamp. I'd love to say he would, but I don't know if he will or not. We'll see. You don't ever want to rush it to the point where you have a chance of injuring a guy further. We'll try to be smart about it, but if he can work we'll work him. He needs it like everybody else. We all need it."

Johnson last year became the first Bills player ever to post back to back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

"I'm feeling good," Johnson said. "They got me doing a lot of work in the pool and in my first day out here doing ladders and strides. Right now we're a good five weeks (from surgery) and I don't really feel too much in my groin. It's just a little bit in my hamstrings. Once we get that out of the way then I'll be full-go."

Meanwhile, Bills defensive end Shawne Merriman was absent. He was visiting a doctor to have his Achilles tendon checked out. Merriman had surgery on the tendon last season.

Gailey on Merriman: "He was gone today. Today was the only day he could see the doctor to get final clearances on some stuff. He'll be back Thursday."

Will Merriman be on the field when he gets back? "I think so. It depends on what we hear from the doctors."

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The organized team activity workouts officially are voluntary. Of the 90 players on the roster, the only one besides Merriman not in attendance was undrafted rookie safety Delano Howell, who is finishing up school requirements at Stanford.

Spring practices are closed to the public. Tuesday's session was the first of three practices this week. There are three more voluntary workouts next week and four the following week. None of the OTA sessions are in pads, according to the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL owners and players. Then there are three mandatory minicamp practices on the third week of June.

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Cornerback Terrence McGee and defensive tackle Kyle Williams worked in individual drills but not 11-on-11 sessions. Other players sitting out due to injury rehabilitation included: center Eric Wood, cornerback Chris Hill, safety Josh Nesbitt, tackle Erik Pears, tight end Mike Caussin, receiver Kamar Aiken, defensive tackle Torell Troup and defensive end Lionel Dotson.

Williams, who underwent surgery on bone spurs in his ankle last season, was encouraged by being able to do position drills.

"I've really kind of I guess gone to another level I guess with my training the last couple three weeks or so," Williams said. "I go from running to light change of directions, and the last couple of weeks really been doing some hard change direction stuff. It felt good. We kind of talked about it this morning, did some individual, felt really good and hopefully we're on an uphill climb and we're just going to continue to get better and better, keep going up."

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com