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LeSean McCoy can see himself playing until 33

PITTSFORD -- LeSean McCoy took a swing pass and raced up field, leaving defenders in the dust and fans marveling at what they had just seen.

It was just one play in the first practice of training camp, but the message was clear: the Buffalo Bills' running back hasn't lost a step at age 29.

"I feel good," McCoy said after the Bills wrapped up their second practice of training camp Friday at St. John Fisher College. "I feel the same. I feel young. I feel about 25. Making the same runs, same cuts that feel good. I feel explosive. That's my game -- being explosive, quick. So when that kind of turns, and that leaves, then I'll be in trouble, but for now I feel fine. I can keep doing this until I'm about 33 man."

As he's aged, McCoy has learned that the "small things" he might have overlooked when he came into the league are now critical to his longevity.

"The diet, getting sleep -- all the small things that you don’t think about as a young player, now you’re older and you have to worry about," he said. "All the different maintenance that I’m doing with my body that I’ve never done until probably like last year. That makes a difference.

"I think the biggest thing is just diet and also my weight. When I was younger I could control my weight a lot easier. If I’m heavy, bad offseason, coming into training camp I could lose it fast. But now I have to really manage it the whole entire offseason, just watching what I eat, limit the drinks and the long nights."

What started off as a usual post-practice press conference turned into an interesting talk about McCoy's future. Asked how he arrived on 33 as the age he'd like to reach in his career, McCoy said his original plan was to play 10 years in the NFL, which he'll hit in 2018 at age 30.

"But that's easy," he said. "I'm gonna have a big year this year. I'm gonna win some games, so that's easy, 30, you know, 10 years."

McCoy leads the league in rushing since entering the NFL in 2009 as a second-round draft pick, with 8,954 yards. If the first two practices of camp are any indication, McCoy will add to that career total in a big way in 2017.

"You chase success," he said. "One thing what drives me since my whole career is always being kind of overlooked; since coming into the NFL with the draft, then actually being a player that became elite, still have to show it and prove it. Nowadays how it works is the young guys coming up that have a couple of good years, or a good year or two, they pump them, they praise them.

"The older guys that put a lot of work in they don’t get as much credit. You look at Frank Gore, a guy that’s been putting up numbers, so much success and he kind of gets overlooked, he’s in the top 10 in rushing. A guy like me, I know about him because I watched him, the growth each year, producing getting better and better. Younger guys are like, 'Frank, he’s down, he’s not the same, he’s older.' So it’s always those types of things that make you drive."

There is another motivating factor for McCoy that Bills fans are all too familiar with. He has never won a postseason game.

"I’ve been to the playoffs but haven’t won a playoff game," he said. "You just look for different things to improve on and get better; the chase, I call it chasing. I’m chasing a ring. I’m chasing different yardage. I’m chasing playoff wins. You just try to find things that motivate you working out, and motivate yourself."

Retirement talk from McCoy might sound crazy given that he's coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and looks as good as ever, but it's not unheard of in the NFL for a player to walk away sooner than expected. That's exactly what happened with Barry Sanders, who is one of the players he looks up to.

"I’m a big fan of Barry Sanders and I respect him a lot," McCoy said. "He’s a guy that a lot of people talk about. He retired early and fans would have loved to see him, like myself, play three or four more years. I just want to finish my career the right way – some winning and some successful years.

"I look at a lot of players that left the game, I'm sure they think about if they should have stayed. I love this game. I've been playing this game all my life. It's brought me a lot. I have fun with it. We have a good team here. A good coach in Sean and the guys around him, so I'm very positive about this year. Looking forward to it."

McCoy will have a massive impact on the Bills' success in 2017.  Don't expect the team to take it easy on him, either. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison made that clear.

"I’m not going to monitor anything, I’m going to let Sean take care of that – both Shone Gipson, Sean McDermott, I’m going to let them take care of that, and I’m going to coach all of the guys out there," he said. "We’re going to make the plays, and we’re going to give him the ball. ... I’m trying to move the offense, and certainly he’s one of our playmakers on offense."

Earlier this month, an writer predicted McCoy would win this year's rushing title. Asked about that prediction Friday, McCoy said "right now it’s just winning. It seems like everyone is against us and we don’t have a shot. That’s one of the things that you strive on and build on as a team.

"I think if we do well, the running game will have a lot to do with it. So, that’s one of those things that will come along later down the line."

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