PITTSFORD – How relieved was Rex Ryan to see Stephon Gilmore report to the Buffalo Bills’ training camp Friday?
“It’s good to see him,” the coach said, flashing a big grin under his mirrored sunglasses. “I try not to overreact ... and hug him in public.”
Ryan knew it wasn’t a given that Gilmore would show up. There has been little, if any, progress in the cornerback’s negotiations with the Bills for a long-term contract extension. After making his only appearance at One Bills Drive during the offseason for a mandatory minicamp, Gilmore made no secret about the fact he was contemplating holding out.
Ultimately, he realized that being fined upward of $30,000 per day wasn’t a good idea, and that there are worse things than playing the final year of his rookie agreement at a current salary of $11.082 million.
“I looked at every situation, but it was a smart thing for me to come here and be with my teammates, work on my game, do whatever I can to improve myself individually and as a team,” Gilmore told reporters after he and his teammates went through their conditioning testing in preparation for Saturday’s start of practices at St. John Fisher College.
How realistic does Gilmore think it is to reach an agreement before the start of the season?
“I mean, that’s what you hope, but you know it’s a business,” he said. “If it don’t get done, just play the season out and take my chances ... I don’t know the possibility. I just know what I’m worth. If it’s not that, it’s not going to get done.”
Gilmore wouldn’t say it in so many words, but he clearly considers himself better than the NFL’s top-paid player at his position, Josh Norman, who received a five-year, $75-million free-agent deal from the Washington Redskins during the offseason.
Norman was conspicuously left off of his list of top cornerbacks in the game (besides himself) that Gilmore rattled off for reporters: Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, Denver’s Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, and Seattle’s Richard Sherman.
As for Norman, Gilmore said, “He’s a good player. He had a good year last year, but, I mean, I know what I can do on the island, playing man-to-man. He just got free and did what he did” contractually “and good for him. I know what I’m worth and I know what I can do. Just keep doing it on the field and everything else will take care of itself.
Gilmore said he doesn’t want to negotiate his contract once the season begins.
“We’re going to negotiate and if he puts the deadline on, until the deadline and, hopefully, we don’t reach that deadline,” General Manager Doug Whaley said. “But the lines of communication are open. It’s going to be something that’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re confident that we’re going to put our best foot forward.
“All negotiations are difficult, but as long as we and his representatives and himself come into this negotiation process with one goal in mind and that’s to get a deal done, at least you start on common ground. And then you work from there.”
Gilmore realizes that the Bills could hit him with a franchise tag before the start of the 2017 free-agent period.
“Nobody wants to get tagged, but if it happens, it happens,” Gilmore said. “I’m not the first it happened to. I won’t be the last. I’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
He said he is long recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered late last season and is ready to fully take part in camp drills. Gilmore also doesn’t anticipate his uncertain contract situation becoming a distraction for him.
“With me, football, I love the game,” he said. “Once I’m on the field, I’m at peace, so when I’m playing, I don’t think about nothing else, I don’t think about nobody else. And my job is to stop the guy in front of me, so that’s what I do.”