PITTSFORD -- Here are my three Bills thoughts entering Day 2 of training camp practices at St. John Fisher College:
1. Rex Ryan's theme was clear from the very beginning of Saturday's first practice of his second camp as the Bills' coach. He wants to do all he can to preserve the health of his players and allow them to enter the season with the maximum amount of gas in their respective tanks. Of the multiple mistakes to which the coach admitted to making last year, putting too much stress on his players' bodies during camp was high on the list. So the pace of Saturday's session was noticeably lower in intensity than what was seen on a regular basis last summer. The players weren't hitting, which also contributed to the mellower approach, but the periods generally had a methodical rather than maniacal rhythm. It felt like watching one of the camp practices of Hall-of-Fame Bills coach Marv Levy, who, along with fellow Hall-of-Famer Bill Walsh, were among the first coaches in the league to put a premium on preservation and get away from the old-school, pound-them-into-the-ground way of thinking.
The rules of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players are also fairly strict about minimizing contact in camp and the regular season, but Ryan is going beyond the scope of that because he knew that there were too many injuries last season.
2. When Ryan made a point of saying players had a 10 a.m. curfew Friday, another major change, it was a clear sign that he thought focus was an issue a year ago. Considering all of the problems the team had with communication on defense, you have to wonder how many players were truly awake or at least paying attention during all of those meetings in camp. From what Manny Lawson and other veteran players said during last June's minicamp, attention spans in the meeting room last year left plenty to be desired. That's when details are supposed to be absorbed, and for the most part, they weren't a year ago. Ryan is clearly trying to set a more business-like tone with his team, which is a departure from his otherwise seemingly carefree style.
3. The battle at wide receiver is shaping up to be as fun to watch as expected. You have a bunch of hungry young and older players vying for genuine backup opportunities. Second-year man Dez Lewis has emerged as an early favorite, but veterans such as Greg Little and Leonard Hankerson are showing they intend to be very much in the thick of the battle. For the most part, all of the receivers on the field (Sammy Watkins is still recovering from a broken foot) ran routes with an obvious sense of purpose, especially when it came to making double moves and cuts to shake free. That worked in multiple instances, although the team's top cornerbacks, Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, consistently excelled at sticking with their men.
Today’s practice: 10 a.m. to noon.
Next practice: 10 a.m. to noon Monday.
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