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Camp observations

Bills center Mitch Morse enters concussion protocol

PITTSFORD – Here are my top takeaways from Day 6 of Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher College.

1. Injuries starting to take their toll. Coach Sean McDermott started his press conference Wednesday by announcing that center Mitch Morse is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Morse was given a veteran rest day Sunday, followed by a day off Monday. It raised some eyebrows when he did not practice Tuesday, an absence that was explained by McDermott’s announcement.

“He's in the protocol so I only want to say so much here, but any time a player is injured, I am concerned,” McDermott said. “Because it's their health and it's the health of our overall football team. You've heard me say how important availability is. We've got to make sure that we get these guys back. Just overall, the number of guys we've got out right now, it is concerning.”

Morse has a history of concussions from his time with the Kansas City Chiefs, including one suffered in Week 6 of the 2018 season that caused him to miss five games. Additionally, he missed two games in the 2015 season because of two separate concussions, one early in the year and then the Chiefs’ postseason game after being hurt in the regular-season finale.

Morse worked out on the sidelines with trainers, so he has progressed through at least the first two stages of the league’s five-stage protocol.

Additionally, guard/center Spencer Long suffered a knee injury Tuesday and did not practice Wednesday. That meant Russell Bodine lined up with the starters at center. He was flanked by Dion Dawkins and Quinton Spain on the left side and Jon Feliciano and Ty Nsekhe on the right. Rookie second-round draft pick Cody Ford rotated with Nsekhe.

Tight ends Dawson Knox (hamstring) and Jason Croom (hamstring) remained out, watching practice from the sideline.

Defensive tackle Robert Thomas (undisclosed) and kicker Stephen Hauschka (undisclosed) did not practice. McDermott said before the start of practice he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Hauschka, who ended the 2018 season on a down note.

“He looks like he's in a good space mentally,” he said. “Physically, he looks like he's in great shape. I think he's off to a good start.”

2. No Shady. Running back LeSean McCoy was excused for a personal matter, McDermott said. “It's something we've known about for a couple days here, so nothing unexpected at this point,” the coach said.

Several Philadelphia-area media outlets reported Tuesday that McCoy paid $55,000 to a Philadelphia police officer after an arbitrator ruled that the running back and another man injured the officer during a nightclub brawl in 2016. It’s not clear if Wednesday’s absence was related to that case.

3. Going long. The Bills practiced for two hours Wednesday, making it the longest workout so far during training camp. Not surprisingly, that led to tensions rising. First-round draft pick Ed Oliver seemed to get under the skin of the offensive line the most.

Early in the practice, Oliver pushed an offensive lineman back into Josh Allen, knocking down the quarterback. That’s a big no-no in camp given all that Allen means to the organization.

Later, Oliver pinned Feliciano on the ground and got off a few punches before the scuffle was quickly broken up.

Allen was under duress most of the practice, which perhaps isn’t a surprise given the injuries up front.

“That’s where it starts is up front,” cornerback E.J. Gaines said. “We need those guys to really be some dogs up there, which we definitely have. Today I think they showed that against our offense, and that’s beautiful to see as a secondary.”

4. Rest day for Jerry Hughes. Veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes did not practice, getting a maintenance day. That meant Shaq Lawson and Trent Murphy were the starting defensive ends, followed by Eddie Yarbrough and Mike Love with the second team.

Safety Micah Hyde also did not take part in team drills, with Kurt Coleman stepping into the starting lineup. McDermott said it’s a “delicate balance” when it comes to preparing proven veterans for the start of the regular season.

“You always want to be smart,” he said. “We take a lot of time in the offseason, in particular in the spring with our sports science department, medical staff, strength and conditioning staff, coaching staff and really try to map out a good schedule so we know going into it that it's been taken through the ringer if you will and given a lot of thought. That said, we want to build them up so we acclimate them to the amount of reps they will see in a game at some point. Physical toughness, mental toughness, that's all part of developing a football team and getting ourselves ready to go for the regular season here.”

5. Kroft making progress. Tight end Tyler Kroft, who has been out since breaking his foot during the first spring practice, remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Kroft, though, appears to be making some progress in his recovery, including being spotted at camp without a walking boot. Still, it’s unclear when he may return to the practice field.

“He's making positive progress,” McDermott said. “The young man is an extremely hard worker. He cares about it. He's been very diligent with his rehab. I think he's making steps in the right direction, which is good to see. Timeline, really couldn't tell you at this point.”

6. Lineup notes. Linebacker Maurice Alexander continues to get a regular spot on the second-team defense along with Julian Stanford and Corey Thompson. All three of those players figure to be key contributors on special teams. If that continues, it will be interesting to see where that leaves fifth-round draft pick Vosean Joseph.

7. Noteworthy. Allen’s best throw of the day went to Andre Roberts down the left sideline. It was delivered with pinpoint accuracy. … Love continues to have a strong camp. He schooled Ford with a spin move during one-on-one drills. … Tre’Davious White stepped in front of John Brown for an easy interception of an Allen pass, although the defense appeared to get flagged for an offside. … Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips intercepted an Allen pass after the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Star Lotulelei. Phillips returned the interception for a would-be pick-six. “I did the easy job,” Phillips said. “It was nice to get back in the end zone. It’s been a while.” ... The Bills released offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles with an injury settlement. He was placed on injured reserve before training camp began with a foot injury.

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