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Camp Observations

Bills DE Shaq Lawson realizes it's 'big year for me, big year for the team'

PITTSFORD – Few players have more fun on the football field than Shaq Lawson.

The Buffalo Bills’ defensive end is seemingly always in the middle of whatever conversation is going on, either on the sideline or in the locker room. On Sunday, Lawson joined some of his defensive linemates in showing off some dance moves while Lakeside’s “Fantastic Voyage” blared over the speakers.

Video of the dance went viral, and coach Sean McDermott took notice Monday before the start of practice at St. John Fisher College.

“He’s had a good camp,” McDermott said. “I love his energy. That’s part of showing their true personalities. That’s helpful. That’s good for us. Guys need to know they can come to Buffalo and feel good about being themselves – showing us who they really are.

“That’s what I saw yesterday. Shaq was in the middle of that dance line. I’m not sure (about) some of the moves, maybe, that he was working in there.”

Told of his coach’s review, Lawson respectfully disagreed.

“Oh, man, I think I can dance a little bit,” he said after practice. “I can dance only during football. … When I'm on the field, I've got a little jig to me.”

Of course, it’s not all fun and games for Lawson, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. After declining to pick up his fifth-year option, it’s clear that the Bills need to see more from the former first-round draft pick before committing to him.

“I've got to prove myself this year and see what happens at the end of the year,” Lawson said. “I know it's do or die for me this year, for either a big contract or signing a little deal. I know it's a big year for me, big year for this team. If you win, everybody gets paid, so that's the great thing about it.”

Lawson has been working with the second-team defensive line behind starter Trent Murphy for most of training camp. The Bills, though, rotate heavily along the defensive line, so both players can expect to see plenty of snaps.

Lawson said he embraces the pressure that comes with entering a contract year.

“I’ve been going through adversity and things throughout my life, so I know how to handle it. You've just to get back up if you get knocked down,” he said. "I’m more a student of the game than I've ever been these past couple years. Breaking down my opponent, the guy I'm going against – that's really slowing the game down for me.”

2. Ford again at guard. Rookie second-round draft pick Cody Ford once again worked at right guard with the starters Monday. McDermott said the decision to move Ford inside starting with Sunday’s practice was a combination of injuries at the position and getting a look to see where he best fits.

“I really appreciate his attitude and his mindset with it,” the coach said. “Really to me, it personifies who we’re becoming as a team and the way he was unselfish with it and his approach to it. I love that he put the team first. We’re just looking at things this time of year and just trying to put the best five on the field.”

3. Oliver still with the starters. Rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the team’s first-round draft pick, again lined up with the starters most of the time ahead of Jordan Phillips. That continued a pattern of playing time that started Sunday.

“When I asked Ed afterwards, which I appreciate, he didn’t like everything that went on in practice,” McDermott said. “But that’s good. That’s the growth mindset that we talk about. None of us are finished products. We have to continue to develop, continue to evolve. There was some good in there. … I love how hard he plays and his competitive nature.”

4. Good news and bad news on the injury front. Guards Spencer Long (knee) and Jon Feliciano (shoulder) were both able to return to practice after sitting out Sunday. However, the team was without cornerback E.J. Gaines (groin) and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle (quad), who is expected to be out for the season. They joined tight ends Tyler Kroft (foot), Jason Croom (hamstring) and Dawson Knox (hamstring) on the injured list. Center Mitch Morse also remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Croom, Knox and Morse worked out with trainers on the sidelines.

 5. Reported workout. Perhaps in response to the injury suffered by Waddle, the Bills reportedly worked out an offensive tackle Monday. According to a report from NFL Network, the team put former Dolphins tackle Sam Young through a workout. Young, 32, is a 6-foot-8-inch, 302-pounder who spent parts of three seasons with the Bills from 2011-13, appearing in 20 games with four starts. He had been with the Miami Dolphins for the last three seasons, making eight starts in that time.

6. Noteworthy. From the they’ll-practice-anything department comes this: The offense worked on the last-second, desperation lateral play at the end of practice – good luck replicating what that play looks like in an actual game. Going half-speed, the offense also worked on the Hail Mary throw to the end zone. … Once again, McDermott ended practice with players doing sprints from one sideline to the other. The coach said before the workout that doing so Sunday wasn’t any sort of punishment for a bad practice, but just part of the team’s conditioning plan. … Josh Allen’s favorite target during practice Monday was wide receiver John Brown. During 11-on-11 work in the red zone, Allen threaded the needle to Brown on the first play, although safety Micah Hyde, who is still in a red, non-contact jersey because of a neck injury, may have broken up the pass if he didn’t pull up. Allen later found tight end Tommy Sweeney for a pair of touchdown catches, the second of which came on a broken coverage. … Receiver Duke Williams made one of his best plays of training camp, pulling in a fade pattern despite tight coverage for a touchdowns. Williams celebrated with a big spike of the football. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him to convince the team he’s worth a spot on the 53-man roster. … Tight end Kyle Carter had a touchdown catch from Matt Barkley and rookie undrafted free agents Tyree Jackson and David Sills also connected on a touchdown throw over the middle.

7. One Buffalo. Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill visited practice Monday. He had a conversation with owner Terry Pegula and Bills General Manager Brandon Beane on the sideline.

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