PITTSFORD — Another day, another injury along the Buffalo Bills' suddenly ravaged offensive line.
Reserve tackle LaAdrian Waddle left Sunday's practice at St. John Fisher College on a cart after suffering an apparent leg injury, the latest setback for an offensive line that has struggled to find any sort of continuity during training camp.
Waddle joins center Mitch Morse (concussion), guard Jon Feliciano (shoulder) and guard Spencer Long (knee) on the injured list. Morse continues to work out on the sidelines, but remains in the NFL's concussion protocol. If healthy, he's a lock for the starting lineup, while Feliciano and Long had been rotating days with the starters during the first week of training camp.
Due to all the injuries, the first-team offensive line Sunday, from left to right, looked like this: Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Russell Bodine, Cody Ford and Ty Nsekhe. Ford, a rookie second-round draft pick from Oklahoma, bumped inside for the first time this summer.
The second-team line was, from left to right: Waddle, Vlad Ducasse, Ike Boettger, Wyatt Teller and Conor McDermott.
"The O-line, we all have to step in the same direction, we all have to move in the same direction," Dawkins said. "We all have to play the same tempo, the same speed, the same angles."
That's been a challenge given the number of injuries up front. With so many players hurt, predicting what the offensive line will look like Sept. 8 for the season opener against the New York Jets is premature. Players who might otherwise have been considered long shots to make the 53-man roster suddenly find themselves in key roles.
Bodine is a prime example. The 27-year-old started 10 games last year, but was thought to be expendable after the team signed Morse to a huge contract and also brought in Long, who previously played center for the New York Jets. With Morse and Long out, Bodine finds himself in a key spot along the offensive line.
“It's professional football. Whenever you're out there, you've got to go out and do your job," he said. "That's really all there is to it. It's your responsibility to make sure when you're in there, you're doing your job. As long as all five of us are doing that, we'll have a chance to be pretty good."
Bodine is fully recovered from a pair of surgeries. The first was for a broken fibula suffered in December against Miami, and the second was to repair his rotator cuff, an injury that nagged him for most of the 2018 season.
“The biggest thing for me was just getting my body right, getting back to trying to play good football,” he said. “It was one of those deals that I had to put a little extra into making sure that my body was right, that I was ready to go. Luckily, we've got a good training staff, good strength staff here. I was here the whole offseason trying to get myself ready to go. As far as the football part, it's just do your job. It's not really any different. Been fortunate enough to play a lot of football. You just go out there and do it.”
Bodine has started all 74 of the games he’s played in his career.
“It's definitely good that Russ knows what he's doing,” Dawkins said. "He has a bunch of starts. The coaches put guys in that room that have experience so if anything does happen like what's happening now, we just keep the train moving.”
Depending on how quickly the injured players up front return, Bodine may still have an uphill battle for a spot on the 53-man roster. The team would save a little more than $2 million against the 2019 salary cap if he’s cut, which is a significant amount. If the injuries linger, though, the team has some comfort in knowing that Bodine has done the job before.
“You look at some of the successful teams around the league, there is a layer of veterans on those teams,” coach Sean McDermott said. “There’s no substitute for experience. I don’t care how much you prepare or how good you are, experience is real. Russ, in this case, is a veteran player with a ton of experience and a ton of wisdom at the center position.”