Rod Streater was in the middle of the type of training camp that earns an NFL player a job.
The Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver consistently turned heads last summer, making at least one catch per practice that made observers take note. One misstep, though, was all it took to end Streater’s 2017 season before it ever got off the ground.
Streater dislocated the big toe on his left foot in the fourth quarter of the Bills’ second preseason game against Philadelphia. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but anyone who saw how much pain Streater was in that night got a good idea of the severity of the injury.
“It obviously hurt last year, messing up my toe, and not being able to experience what they experienced," Streater said Thursday after the Bills wrapped up their sixth 'organized team activity' of the spring. “It was pretty bad, but it really helped me just get my mind right, get tougher, and just get ready for this year.”
Streater was released by the Bills with an injury settlement in September. He said it took about 10 weeks before he was able to run routes after the injury, but by that point rosters around the NFL were pretty much set.
"I obviously wanted to play last year, but it gave me a whole year to heal up,” he said. “I didn't want to go out there and run a route and mess it up even more. Then I would be really messed up. Everything worked out. I healed up. I'm able to run now. I feel great. I just want to continue off what I did last year.”
Because he was released with an injury settlement, the Bills were prevented from re-signing Streater until late in the year. The team’s interest never diminished, though, and he was eventually brought back on a reserve/future contract the day after the regular season ended. That meant he wasn’t eligible for the postseason game against Jacksonville, but could rejoin the team’s workouts starting in April.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Streater said after Thursday’s practice. “I'm back here. The coaches must have liked what I did last year. So I'm just happy to be in camp and looking to make the most of my opportunity."
That certainly presents itself on the Bills’ current depth chart. Outside of No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin, jobs are wide open at the position.
“Once you get your foot in the door, it doesn't matter if you're first on the depth chart or last,” Streater said. “What you do in camp and what you do in preseason is what really matters.”
Streater was mostly with the second unit Thursday, behind Benjamin and Andre Holmes.
“The guys that are out here practicing are working their tails off,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. “I think (wide receivers coach) Terry Robiskie and Chad Hall, the guys that work with those guys, again, each day you see growth from what they did the day before and that’s the whole mindset that we’re looking for.
While being back with the Bills is familiar for Streater, plenty has changed, too. Daboll has replaced Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator, while last year's starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, was traded to Cleveland.
"It's a new year, but I'm taking it the same way I did last year," Streater said. "Learn each position. Learn the playbook in and out. Try to stand out each and every day so the coaches see I'm accountable and a guy they can depend on."