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Bills dealing with a lengthy list of walking wounded during first week of OTAs

The Buffalo Bills’ injury report Tuesday read more like a particularly tough week in the regular season.

Before the team headed out to the practice field, coach Sean McDermott read a lengthy list of players who wouldn’t participate, including three of the team’s big free-agent additions.

“Tyler Kroft yesterday sustained a broken foot and will have surgery today,” came the first update from McDermott. “Cole Beasley will not practice. He and Mitch Morse both underwent surgery a few weeks ago and are working through getting healthy. Core muscle procedure.”

Triple ouch.

Kroft, Morse and Beasley are all expected to play big parts in what needs to be a greatly improved offense.

The updates didn’t stop there. Center Russell Bodine didn’t practice, as he's recovering from shoulder surgery for an injury suffered late last season. Veteran running back Frank Gore and rookie wide receiver David Sills were both limited participants – Gore with foot and ankle injuries that are still healing from last year and Sills from a hamstring injury sustained in rookie minicamp.

Any injury is disruptive, but that’s especially true this year as the Bills try to blend in so many new faces. The Bills made Morse the highest-paid center in the NFL and will count on him to lead a revamped offensive line that could have four or even five new starters. Beasley and Kroft need time to develop as much chemistry as they can with quarterback Josh Allen.

“That’s a challenge,” McDermott said. “When you talk about availability, now when we’re not available, it’s not ideal. Is it going to stop us? No. We’re going to continue to work and that’s where the trust I have, (General Manager) Brandon (Beane), myself, and our medical staff, that’s what they’re here for, as well.”

Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. of USC makes a catch against Utah on Sept. 20, 2019. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Both Morse and Beasley were operated on by Dr. William Myers, a specialist in sports hernia and core muscle injuries.

“They are hard at work, and our training staff has done a nice job with them,” McDermott said. “They’ve worked hard, and we will get them back as soon as we can here.”

Both Morse and Beasley observed the team’s second organized team activity of the spring from the sidelines Tuesday. No timetable has been set for their return, but it’s reasonable to think they won’t fully participate in practice until the start of training camp.

“"That's a great question. I wish there was a definitive answer,” Morse told The Buffalo News after practice when asked what a timeline for his return might look like. “I mean, if I if I knew I'd tell you. I really have no idea. We're taking it one day at a time. We're definitely progressing in the right direction. Hopefully sooner than later, but you never know with these things.

"I'm sure, as the weeks progress, I'll be doing more and more in regards to joining the guys for individual drills and doing stuff. One of the cool things about this place is it's very fluid conversation. And there's no secrets, whether it's between the training room and the head (coach's) room and the weight room. It's a symbiotic relationship. Everyone's working together.”

The details of Kroft’s injury are concerning. McDermott confirmed that the injury is to the same foot as last season, when he missed the final 11 games. McDermott did not provide a timetable for his potential return, adding that the team is going to “let the process run its course right now.” However, a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport had Kroft being out for three to four months, which takes him close to the start of the regular season.

“Listen, it’s not ideal,” McDermott said. “Availability is key, but we trust our medical staff and Tyler, as well, who is a hard-working man and that he will be back in due time and ready to go.”

Despite the injuries, McDermott didn’t seem to have any second thoughts on the Bills’ approach to spring practices. Football players have to play football, after all, and injuries come with the territory.

“We always evaluate and you hate to see guys get hurt,” the coach said. “We just have to continue to work and build a mentally and physically tough football team, and sometimes you’re going to get some dings. Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of it as well. I would much rather develop a physically and mentally tough football team than go play golf every day and everyone’s healthy. There is a delicate balance there.”

It wasn’t all bad news on the injury front – as defensive backs Taron Johnson (shoulder) and Rafael Bush (undisclosed) were able to practice in red, noncontact jerseys. Additionally, linebacker Matt Milano (leg) and punters Cory Carter (knee) and Corey Bojorquez (shoulder) were full participants.

With Morse out Tuesday, the Bills lined up Jon Feliciano – another free-agent addition – as the starting center. He was surrounded by right tackle Ty Nsekhe, right guard Quinton Spain, left guard Spencer Long and left tackle Dion Dawkins – the only returning starter from 2018.

“I'd love to be out there with the guys,” Morse said. “I'm just trying to get all my mess-ups out of the way, you know what I mean? That's the thing, you get back and you start messing up, so I want to get those out of the way. So I'm just kind of being anxious about that."

That’s a feeling undoubtedly shared by all Bills fans at the moment.

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