Alex Carrington was asked this week whether the phrase “welcome home” ran through his mind upon re-signing with the Buffalo Bills.
“That definitely feels like the right phrase,” Carrington said. “I’ve always considered Buffalo a home.”
Carrington is back with the Bills after a one-year detour to the St. Louis Rams. He hopes to recapture the form that had him on the cusp of a breakout season with the Bills at the start of the 2013 season. That year, Carrington was a standout during training camp, and he took the momentum into the regular season. He started the first three games, but a quad injury in Week Three against the New York Jets ended his season.
“I was definitely hitting my stride,” Carrington said. “I hadn’t been that clear, ever. I was so focused and clear for that season. Unfortunately, I got hurt. Make no mistake about it – I’m still hungry.”
Carrington had a nondescript season with the Rams, making just one tackle in eight games played.
“I got a little tweak in my quad around midway through the season,” he said. “Chris Long had come back from his injury. … My coach tried to get me back on the field, but they needed numbers in other places. It's a business first. Whatever the team needs me to do to win, I'm all for it.”
In addition to Long, the Rams also had Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald (who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie) along their defensive line.
“They had the personnel there,” Carrington said. “I just wasn’t needed.”
Of course, the Bills may be the one team who can exceed the Rams in terms of talent along the defensive line.
“For sure, man,” Carrington said. “That’s the thing I’m most excited about is getting back into the room with those guys. Coach Karl Dunbar is there. I’m anxious to learn a lot of things from him, as well as the rest of the guys in the room.”
The Bills’ talent along the defensive line means the competition for reserve roles among veterans like Carrington, Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant and Jarius Wynn at training camp should be spirited.
“I’m excited about that group,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “That’s another group that we have some good football players there.”
Carrington has played in 52 career games since the Bills made him a third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-5, 301-pounder has 54 tackles, four sacks and six passes defensed in his career.
He’s also blocked six kicks in his career, including four in the 2012 season. That stands as a team single-season record and earned Carrington the nickname “Megahand.”
“The first thing that jumped out at me is this is the guy that blocks all the kicks,” Ryan said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s such a knack for it. The only guy I can remember that did it better was a guy named Alan Page. Now, if we can get Carrington to play like Alan Page as a defensive tackle, that would be fine.”
Carrington said he hasn’t discussed exactly where he’ll play with the Bills’ new coaching staff, but that he’s “taking the same approach I did when I was here previously. Whatever they need me to do, I’m willing to step up and do it.”
“I've been a fighter all my life, so it's nothing new,” he said of the competition to make the roster. “It's just another obstacle I've got to get over. I'm definitely still hungry. That didn't go away at all.”
The transition back to the Bills shouldn’t be too overwhelming for Carrington since the scheme Ryan runs will be similar to the one he played in in 2013 under Mike Pettine. If he can regain the form he had at the start of that year, the Bills will find a place for him.
“Athletic. Big. Smart. Let’s bring him back here and see what he can do,” Ryan said.