Share this article

print logo

Watkins becomes immediate fan favorite as thousands watch practice

PITTSFORD – The miserable offseason of Marcell Dareus is lasting a little bit longer.

The Buffalo Bills’ star defensive tackle was not on the St. John Fisher College field Sunday night because he has not yet been able to pass his physical conditioning test, coach Doug Marrone confirmed.

The rest of the Bills entertained a capacity crowd of more than 4,000 on the opening night of training camp. First-round draft pick Sammy Watkins drew the biggest cheers with some nice catches.

Dareus was nowhere to be seen. He’s in camp. But he was not in good enough shape to make it satisfactorily through all of the conditioning drills conducted on Saturday.

“At the present time, he hasn’t been able to pass all the tests to get him on the field, so we’re working on that, getting him ready to go,” Marrone said.

How disappointed is the coach in his troubled Pro Bowler?

“He’s not the only one,” Marrone said. “But obviously you want your players to come in ready to go. We’re here for a long period of time, and we’ll make up for it.”

Guard J.J. ‘Unga passed his conditioning test earlier Sunday and got on the field. Marrone indicated defensive tackle Alan Branch and linebacker Randell Johnson still need to pass their tests.

Dareus, 24, was arrested in Alabama on May 5 on charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia – both felonies. The arrest came after a traffic stop. On May 30, Hamburg police charged Dareus with reckless endangerment in the second degree, reckless driving, participating in an illegal speed contest and other traffic violations after he was allegedly involved in a street race with teammate Jerry Hughes. Dareus’ 2012 Jaguar crashed into a tree in the incident.

Dareus made the Pro Bowl as an alternate selection last season, when he had a career-best 7.5 sacks. His 71 tackles placed him second among NFL defensive tackles.

“He’ll be in shape ready to play,” Marrone said. “He’ll be ready to go.”

Asked if he thought Dareus “had his head on straight,” Marrone said: “I just think right now he just needs to focus on getting himself ready, getting on the field, and focus on football. I think that’s what he’ll be ready to do, and those have been my conversations with him.”

Meanwhile, here were the other main developments on Day One of camp:

• Left tackle Cordy Glenn remained out due to illness and initially was replaced by rookie seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson. But Henderson tweaked a muscle 50 minutes into the session and walked off. Fourth-year man Chris Hairston wound up taking most of the snaps with the starters at left tackle.

• Third-year veteran Nigel Bradham took all the snaps with the first team in place of Kiko Alonso, out for the year with a knee injury. In the nickel defense, the two LBs on the field were Bradham and rookie Preston Brown.

• Corbin Bryant took Dareus’ starting DT spot.

• The offense ran in no-huddle mode the whole two-hour session. NFL rules prohibit teams from practicing in pads the first two days, so there was an emphasis on the pass game.

• Erik Pears worked exclusively with the starters at right tackle. Rookie Cyrus Kouandjio was the second-stringer.

• Receiver Marquise Goodwin left practice about halfway through under his own power. He either tweaked something or took a hard hit.

• Quarterback EJ Manuel had some good connections with Watkins, the fourth overall pick in the draft. Watkins caught four passes from Manuel in full team or 7-on-7 work, the nicest a 20-yard corner route on the right sideline.

“I really want to get it to him in a spot for him to catch it and get some yards after the catch,” Manuel said.

“I’m very excited to get one day under our belts,” Manuel added. “It’s crazy because we’ve been here for two days and had a bunch of meetings and really have been preparing for this practice since last Wednesday. … We installed for about 3½ hours last night.”

Manuel had a good escape of the pocket at one point and found Robert Woods open for about 15 yards along the right sideline. Manuel threw one interception. Safety Aaron Williams picked off a deep ball for Woods that hung in the air a bit too long.

The fans at Fisher’s Growney Stadium were buzzing most of the night.

“The fans were great,” said linebacker Brandon Spikes. “I’m not used to that, so it was good to see the fans come out and show us love.”