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What We Learned: Notes from Day 4 of Bills training camp

PITTSFORD – If you’re of the belief training camp doesn’t really start until the first fight, it began Sunday for the Buffalo Bills.

A brief, heated skirmish broke out at St. John Fisher College after right tackle Jordan Mills and defensive end Jerry Hughes got into it. Players from both the offense and defense quickly converged, and at least a few punches were thrown from the likes of John Miller and Shaq Lawson, although no damage was done.

“Oh, that’s football. I mean, it’s just guys being guys,” Hughes said. “Mills and I, we go back and forward all the time. I text him, he laughs, so we’re going to have fun. We’ve got pads on, so at some point in time, you’ve got to make ’em talk. So that’s all that was.”

Mills likewise downplayed the incident.

“It’s camp, man,” he said. “We're getting back into pads. We haven't been in pads since January, the playoff game, so it's going to happen sooner or later. The sun's out, you're hitting each other. Some people are away from their wives, girlfriends, kids, so tempers start to flare. We live for that. It's all in competition.”

As Hughes was speaking, Mills walked by and the two shared a laugh, so there certainly does not seem to be any lingering bad blood.

2. Leslie Frazier downplays “make-or-break” talk for Shaq Lawson.

Outside of the quarterback competition, one of the dominant storylines through the early portion of training camp has been centered on defensive end Shaq Lawson’s role. The 2016 first-round pick is behind Trent Murphy on the depth chart at defensive end, leading Lawson himself to say he’s in a “make-or-break” season as a third-year pro.

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, however, didn’t go that far Sunday.

“I mean, Shaq is so young,” Frazier said. “To say this would be a ‘make-or-break’ year, it would be hard to do. I think his best football is ahead of him, he just needs to stay healthy and keep improving. He came in in great shape, he’s off to a great start in camp, and much too young, too soon, to say this is a ‘make or break’ year for Shaq Lawson in my mind.”

Lawson did look good during one-on-one drills against the offensive line Sunday, applying pressure against both Conor McDermott from the edge and Josh James from inside.

3. Ryan Groy has a good day.

The only real competition along the offensive line for a starting job seems to be at center, where Ryan Groy and Russell Bodine have rotated with the first team. It was Groy’s turn with the starters Sunday, and he looked the part. During one-on-one drills against defensive linemen, he prevented both John Hughes and Star Lotulelei from applying any pressure. Then during team work, Groy delivered a big block that sent blitzing linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to the ground.

4. Harrison Phillips staying put – for now.

Rookie third-round draft pick Harrison Phillips came to the Bills with a reputation as a stout run defender. Not as much attention was paid to his ability to rush the passer, but through the first four practices of training camp, he’s been impressive in that regard.

Frazier was asked because of that whether Phillips might see some work as the “three technique” defensive tackle – who is asked to pressure the quarterback more than the “one technique” that he’s currently playing.

“I think for now, if we can leave him at one position and let him progress and get some consistency … that’ll be the best thing for him,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how he develops over time. For right now, it’s probably better to leave him at that spot and that’s where he had a lot of success in college, as well. We’ll see how he progresses.”

5. Nick O’Leary sits out.

The first injury of training camp was suffered by No. 2 tight end Nick O’Leary, who sat out Sunday and was spotted with a walking boot on his right foot. The only other player not to practice was receiver Zay Jones, who is on the non-football injury list.

Rookie receiver Robert Foster appeared to jam a finger early in practice, but said afterward “Just a little bump that's it. Nothing really happened I just fell on it. I’m perfectly fine.”

Tight end Logan Thomas was also seen talking to a trainer, although no update on any potential injury was provided.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams got a veteran rest day.

6. Taking a break.

The Bills will have their first off day of training camp Monday. The team returns to practice at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, although that practice is closed to the general public.

What He Said: Leslie Frazier on standouts in early days of camp

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