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'It's not a dream anymore' for Joe Licata after first practice with Bills

It didn't take long for Joe Licata to settle in Friday.

The former Williamsville South and University at Buffalo quarterback had a brief moment of reflection when seeing his last name on a Buffalo Bills helmet, but after it went on, it was time to get to work.

"It was cool being out there," he said. "Walking through this field house, I've been in here hundreds of times throughout high school and then in college, but once you put the helmet on, it's football. It's not a dream anymore, it's reality. It's getting to work, and really studying the playbook and getting out there with the guys."

Licata went through his first practice with the Bills on a tryout basis as the team opened its three-day rookie minicamp.

"It's just a great opportunity for me, so that's what it comes down to," he said. "You've got to speed your feet up a little bit, get the ball out a little bit quicker, but football is football. Once you get that adjustment period, it's not as bad. We're not out here playing against a Rex Ryan defense quite yet, but once that happens, then I'm sure it'll be a little bit faster."

Licata is one of seven players among the 31 at rookie camp participating on a tryout basis.

"It's going to take a lot of hard work, just consistently staying in that film room and asking" quarterbacks coach David "Lee a lot of questions," he said of what he'll have to do to earn a job after this weekend. "Him and" offensive coordinator Greg "Roman together, two great offensive minds, so I'm going to be in their ear the whole time and just asking questions and trying to learn as much as I can at this point."

That ability to quickly soak up coaching points impressed the other quarterback in the meeting room with Licata.

"He catches on to coaching quick," said Cardale Jones, the Bills' fourth-round draft pick out of Ohio State. A "couple things I was struggling with – and maybe his experience from being under center last year at his school – but a couple things he was doing, Coach Lee was saying, like, ‘Do it like this.’ I was looking at Joe, like, how?'

"The couple of reps he got today, I was trying to look at him, but I was getting coached up, so I’m looking forward to getting in the film room with him."

Licata's tryout amounts to a three-day job interview, but he said he didn't approach it like every throw had to be on the money.

"Once you start thinking that you have to be perfect, that's when everything goes badly," he said. "I'm just going out there and just trying to master the offense and just play football. Just be me. Once you start trying to be something you're not, that's when you get into a lot of trouble out there."

Bills coach Rex Ryan jokingly called Tyrod Taylor and Licata "1 and 1a" on the Bills' team's depth chart before admitting it would be an "uphill climb" given the quarterbacks in front of him.

"He's a nice kid and never looked out of place," Ryan said.

Licata isn't the only player with Western New York roots getting a shot at rookie minicamp. Center Robert Kugler is the son of Lockport native and former Bills offensive line coach Sean Kugler. Robert Kugler won a state championship with the Orchard Park High School team in 2008 and was a first-team All-Western New York football selection in 2009 as a junior before transferring to North Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania for his senior year.

"My dad being here, living a mile away, it's kind of crazy to be back here," Kugler said Friday. "I couldn't have been happier."

Kugler said he had the Bills "penciled in" as one of the teams he was most interested in during the draft process, having had a good conversation with them at Purdue's Pro Day. He made 43 straight starts to end his collegiate career with the Boilermakers.

"You're playing against guys now that are just so much bigger and faster than you were seeing on a daily basis in college, so you've just got to adapt to that," he said of his first taste of the professional game.

While with the Quakers, Kugler played tight end and defensive line. He transitioned to the offensive line after his redshirt freshman season.

"I wasn't the fastest tight end by any means," he joked. "I had a chance to start and get more time along the offensive line. It's definitely my natural position."

Perhaps that makes sense, given his dad's background.

"He's doing well," Robert Kugler said of his father, who is currently the head coach at UTEP. "I get to work with him in the offseason, which is nice."

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