PITTSFORD – Kyle Williams and Eric Wood were among the earliest arriving players at the Buffalo Bills’ training camp Wednesday.
A couple of gung-ho veterans trying to get a jump on things?
With nothing to do until Thursday’s physicals, conditioning work, and meetings, Williams and Wood got in their annual camp-move-in-day golf match at nearby Oak Hill Country Club. Following routine, they unloaded their pickup trucks of pillows, sheets, and other personal belongings for their three-week stay at St. John Fisher College, and then headed for the golf course.
But both readily acknowledged there was nothing routine about the most highly anticipated Bills training camp in years. As with other returning players, they aren’t exactly certain what to expect from their first camp with coach Rex Ryan, but they know it will be dramatically different from previous summers here.
“Yeah, and I think OTAs and minicamp felt different, too,” Williams, a Pro Bowl defensive lineman entering his 10th NFL season, said. “I think you look around, some of the players we added, obviously a change of pace in the head man. I’m excited about it. And I feel like we’ve got a group that can do some good things and do some special things.
“Attitude change, player additions, I think you would be lying if you said you didn’t see it or feel it. We’re excited about where we could go. But we have a whole lot of work before we get there. We’ve got a whole lot of work before we have that first game in September. Obviously, we’ve got some talented guys, but hopefully they understand that there’s a lot of work to get done before we can realize any kind of potential we have.”
Wood, a center beginning his seventh year in the league, said it’s impossible to go anywhere in Western New York without someone mentioning the tremendous enthusiasm surrounding the team.
The attitude is infectious.
“It’s outstanding that we’ve sold more” season tickets “than ever in history” even “with our playoff drought,” Wood said. “It’s awesome that the fans are excited. But from our perspective, we’ve got a long way to go. We haven’t even played a game yet.”
If OTA and minicamp sessions were any indication, camp practices, scheduled to begin Friday morning, will be shorter than they were under previous coach Doug Marrone. Ryan’s offseason practices lasted about two hours, which is about 30 minutes shorter than Marrone’s.
But the pace of Ryan’s practices is faster, because he jams more repetitions into them.
“In the spring, we had a little bit shorter practices, but we were really rapid-fire,” Williams said. “We were on two different positions on the field. And we’re really getting a ton, a ton of reps in, which I think will be good for us. It’ll be good for our tempo, our conditioning. There’ll be a lot of good things that come from that.”
“I’m assuming it’ll be pretty physical,” Wood said. “And I know what we’re going against, and that’s” Ryan’s “defensive scheme and the defense that we played against last year, and they’re pretty awesome.”
The players already received a fairly strong dose of Ryan’s abundant charisma during offseason workouts.
But many are still in disbelief over his recent skydiving adventure from 9,000 feet.
“I’m glad that he did, because I’m not,” Williams said. “Listen, if you’ve kind of watched or kept up with Rex over the years, Rex likes to live life. He ran with the bulls, he did a lot of things. Good for him. They’d have to get a whole lot bigger canopy for me to do it. Or something would have to be on fire before I’d jump out.”
Said wide receiver Chris Hogan, “From personal experience, I’ve done it. It’s pretty crazy. He’s pretty nuts, let’s say that. My fiancée made me do it. It was an awful birthday present. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Probably wouldn’t do it again, but I did it.”