PITTSFORD – On the first day of training camp, after briefly mugging for a camera, Marcell Dareus bolted for a set off doors leading to the Bills' locker room that were off limits to the media. His response when asked to stop for a brief interview: "I need to take a shower."
Dareus took a more scenic route to the locker room Friday. He walked toward one end of the practice field at St. John Fisher College and around the bleachers, avoiding the main thoroughfare. He had slipped away into the distance by the time I spotted him about 100 yards away.
Anyone who saw me running 100 yards while trying to catch him, and my breath, must have been amused. It's like Mr. Chow saying to Alan in "The Hangover": "It's funny because he fat." After drawing close enough for him to hear me calling his name for the second straight day, he didn't break stride.
"Gotta get treatment," he said.
I'm sure Dareus has better things to do than speak to me. Likewise, there are better ways I can spend my time than running after him. But that wasn't the point Friday. The defensive tackle missed an opportunity to make amends with people who lost faith in him last season, but he couldn't be bothered.
Heaven forbid he would own up to transgressions from the previous season, reassure people he learned from another bad decision, promise it wouldn't happen again and reinforce the notion that he's serious about football. It's not that difficult. Buffalo fans in particular are a forgiving lot that understands people make mistakes.
Dareus, who hired an image consultant in the offseason, could have steered the conversation to suit his agenda. His offseason included a mission to Haiti, where his father was born. He donated $25,000 to a fund to help the children in a country still recovering from the 2010 earthquake that killed 316,000.
It was among several acts of nobility, revealing a side to Dareus that contradicts the childish behavior he had shown for much of the past six seasons. He's 27 years old. The young-and-dumb excuse has expired. Yes, he had a tough upbringing, but that's true for many NFL players. He needs to grow up.
Dareus wasn't required to answer to the media, but he'll need to answer for the six-year contract worth $96 million he signed two years ago. For the mathematically challenged, that's $16 million per season, or $1 million per game, over the life of the deal. They're paying him to be an integral part of their defense, but he has grossly underachieved for various reasons since getting his money. It's hard to fathom a worse contract in football.
Two years ago, I thought the Bills lost their marbles after they gave LeSean McCoy a five-year extension worth $40 million that wasn't necessary. The deal was designed to make him feel better after he was traded to Buffalo. At least McCoy has been their best offensive player and worth the price of admission.
Dareus makes twice as much money per season while providing about half the value of McCoy. Feel free to blame Doug Whaley. He was the general manager at the time – technically, anyway – but ownership ultimately agreed to that doozy despite knowing Dareus' history of regrettable decisions.
Eleven months ago, when he was suspended for smoking pot, Dareus was sure to deliver a message. "Talk is cheap," he said. "It's all about action." Looking back, it was mostly talk and very little action. And it was expensive. He lost about $3.75 million in salary, and the Bills lost a key member of their defense for four games.
Remember, his banishment came after he had been charged with possession of synthetic weed and street racing in separate incidents, which led to a one game suspension. Another time, he was benched for part of a game for tardiness and showed up late to practice the very next day.
Last August, on the night he was slapped with the four-game suspension after testing positive for marijuana, he spent the evening hanging out on Chippewa. Based on photos that raced across the internet hours after he was banned, he looked like a man who was sentenced to four weeks' vacation.
Dareus had a month to pull himself together, get his priorities straight and think about where his career was headed. Given the headaches he created, the least he could have done was make sure he was in top physical condition after serving his time. Instead, he shamelessly returned from the suspension out of shape.
He pulled a hamstring in the tunnel while getting amped up for his season debut. He finished with 3½ sacks and 24 tackles in eight games while having virtually no impact on his team. In the real world, people beg to work for time and a half. He made about $12.25 million while working half the time.
Where do I sign up?
It must be maddening for the Bills, who know Dareus is a fantastic player when his head is right. He proved as much when he had 17½ sacks and 81 tackles over a two-year stretch. Maybe he was more suited for the 4-3 defense. It was no coincidence that his best two seasons came in the years leading into a contract year.
You never know how a person will react to a fortune. Many players are eager to prove that they're worth every penny. Dareus makes you wonder if falls into a category of players who made their money and lost their passion. It was among many questions that he had an opportunity to answer over two days.
Apparently, his shower was more important. He'll need more than soap and water to clean up his act.