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Vic Carucci's 3 Bills Thoughts: Time to panic at OLB?

PITTSFORD -- Here are my three Bills thoughts as they take the field Saturday for their first practice of training camp at St. John Fisher College:

1. The Bills didn't need this. Manny Lawson landing on the team's Active/Non-Football Injury list with what General Manager Doug Whaley said was an "upper-body injury" suffered in a workout right before camp has to be a cause of at least slight concern for the team. Maybe more than that, depending on the severity.

The Bills already are without the player they had earmarked as the starting outside linebacker starter opposite Jerry Hughes in Shaq Lawson, who is on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list while recovering from shoulder surgery. Shaq Lawson could miss half, if not all, of his rookie season. Manny Lawson was expected to step up and provide not only decent pass-rushing skill but also thorough knowledge of the defense. He's one of the foremost leaders of the defense, and his absence on the field will be felt.

Rex Ryan got a little perturbed when I framed a question about the depth at the position by saying he was "down to IK Enemkpali." Enemkpali is a Ryan favorite, the guy he took in last summer after he had seemingly ended his football career by delivering a jaw-breaking punch to Geno Smith when Enemkpali and the quarterback were New York Jets teammates.

"Well, I don’t necessarily look like we’re down to IK," Ryan said. "I’m excited about IK and I’ve mentioned that before.  It may give him an opportunity to get the majority of the reps at the one. So, we’ll see you know how he responds. We’re fortunate, we have Lorenzo Alexander who is a veteran payer that’s played a number of snaps in this league.  He’s a good football player.

"And we’ve got another couple of guys I think that are going to jump out at you, I think. I call him 'Curly,' (Bryson) Albright’s a guy that you look at him and you’re like, 'Who is the guy that looks like Big Bird?' That’s him. Maybe there’s an opportunity for another guy to step up. He was impressive during our minicamps."

2. Rex Ryan was talking with the media for the first time since the passing of his father, Buddy Ryan, earlier this month. The elder Ryan's health was failing, but his death was still a blow to Rex and his twin brother, Rob, the Bills' assistant head coach/defense. I asked Rex to give some thoughts about losing his dad, regarded as one of the top defensive coaches in NFL history.

"Everyone’s had significant losses in their life or they will at some point," he said. "But, it’s never easy. There’s no question about it. I knew, obviously, he had a lot of health problems.  He had eight different things of cancer, he had Parkinson’s, he had three strokes.

"I had mentioned before that the difference between me and my dad is that I’m not near as tough as my dad. He showed it, he never one time complained with all those issues that he had, not one time did he complain. And I think it was like, oh my God, this dude is a historic tough guy, there was no question. Yeah, it was rough."

3. I admire Stephon Gilmore's confidence and dug-in belief that he should be paid as one of the top five cornerbacks in the NFL. It isn't likely to lead to a contract extension with the Bills before or even during the season (he said he doesn't want to negotiate when the season begins), but he is a man of his convictions.

And the strongest part of his argument to be paid more than the player with the largest annual average salary at his position (Josh Norman, who received $15 million per year, after signing with the Washington Redskins as a free agent) is that he's asked to play man-to-man coverage. Gilmore believes that being left on an island as much as he is in Ryan's defense and holding his own as well as he did last year, his first in the scheme, earned him a substantial pay hike from his current $11.082 million.

Depending on how the season goes, I think Gilmore will maintain his typical business-like approach and deal with the contract whenever the time comes to deal with it again.

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Today’s practice: 10 a.m. to noon.

Next practice: 10 a.m. to noon Sunday.

Directions to St. John Fisher from Buffalo and points west: Take New York State Thruway to Exit 46. Take Route 390 North to Route 590 North to Monroe Avenue (Route 31). Turn right on Monroe Avenue. Follow green-and-white road signs to any of the shuttle lots.

Camp information: (877) 228-4257

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