Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills as they enter their fourth practice of training camp Tuesday night at St. John Fisher College:
1. There was a time, not so long ago, when Reggie Bush considered himself beyond the role of a return man. In 2014, as a member of the Detroit Lions, he said, "I'd like to think I graduated from returning kicks and punts." And the numbers pretty much reflect that stance, because Bush only returned two punts in the past four seasons (as a member of the 49ers, Lions and Dolphins) after returning 98 in the first six. But when you're 31 years old and virtually the entire NFL is showing no interest in your services, you begin warming back up to things you had no longer wanted to do.
The Bills made it clear to Bush that if he signed with them, his main contribution would be to return punts. If there are ways he can make an impact as a running back, ways to complement LeSean McCoy, fine. But per the structure of his one-year contract, if Bush isn't turning heads with what he does after catching punts, he won't be making anything close to what is commensurate with his status as an 11th-year veteran and probably won't be long for Buffalo.
The Bills have a crisis in their punt-return game. No one who was on the roster before Bush's arrival was any good at it. Once upon a time, Bush was very good at it, but he also is coming back from a torn meniscus. He has done no football team activity since Nov. 1, and he's also at an age when players generally don't get faster or more elusive ... or stay healthy.
2. Robert Woods has had a fantastic first few days of camp. The work he did on improving his speed is paying off. He's quicker into his routes and showing even more in the way of moves that have routinely had defensive backs (including Ronald Darby) turned in all directions except where they need to be to cover Woods. With Sammy Watkins still watching from the sidelines, Woods is making the most of his chance to gain the right kind of attention entering the final year of his contract.
3. Rex Ryan delivered a not-so-subtle message to Charles Clay after Monday's practice. When the coach was asked how big a factor he needed the tight end to be -- a "healthy Clay" was how the reporter put it -- Ryan said, "I think we definitely need him to be a major factor for us because he’s a matchup nightmare. A guy that can run like a receiver. He’s got run skills like a running back and a tight end body. And he’ll compete as a blocker. He’s really an all-around guy at that position. But we need to have him, you know he needs to have a big year for us ... you know you’re trying to get the ball in the hands of you best players, and he’s definitely one of our best players."
Clay's health was an issue last season and it raised concerns when he was with the Dolphins. He began camp doing extra stretching on the sidelines, and Ryan has talked about the coaches being cautious with exposing him to too much work during drills. What's unsaid is Clay pushing himself through any health issues he might have to optimize his availability.
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Today’s practice: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Next practice: 10 a.m. to noon Thursday.
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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