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Tyler Kroft anxious to contribute as he nears return from foot injury

The Buffalo Bills are about as close to full health as they can be heading into the season opener.

The only player on the 53-man roster to miss Monday’s practice was tight end Tyler Kroft. That has been the case for him since the first practice of the spring, when he suffered a broken foot.

The difference is, throughout training camp and the preseason, Kroft was on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list. The Bills elected not to keep him there when it was time to cut the roster down to 53 players. Doing so would have meant he would miss at least the first six weeks of the season. It’s an indication that the Bills think Kroft will be able to contribute to the offense before that.

“The information we’re getting from out medical staff, it’s been very positive,” coach Sean McDermott said Monday. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s making a lot of progress. In terms of when (he’ll return to practice), I couldn’t tell you that at this point, but we’re hopeful for some time in the first couple of games here.”

Unless he’s able to practice the rest of the week, it seems like a stretch that Kroft will be able to play Sunday against the New York Jets. Nevertheless, his return appears to be not too far off.

“I feel really good,” Kroft said. “I'm excited that I didn't end up on the PUP list and I made the 53. … There was a level of frustration at first, obviously, being hurt again. You never want that coming back. You have expectations about what the offseason and what the season's going to look like, so that put a little wrench (in it) early on, but I'm happy now that the bullets are live and everything's going again that I was able to make the 53 and work back.”

Kroft said he does not believe his foot is at increased risk of injury, given that he gave it the proper time to heal. He was hurt during the first practice of the spring when he was stepped on, then had surgery the following day.

The Bills originally kept four other tight ends on the 53-man roster, but that number was reduced to three when Jason Croom was placed on injured reserve. Veteran Lee Smith and rookies Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney are the other tight ends on the roster. How Kroft fits into the picture when he returns to practice remains to be seen.

“There's obviously a little bit of that concern, getting back and making sure I'm on the same page with Josh, but I've been in his ear,” Kroft said. “I've been in every meeting ... so when I am out there, we're all on the same page ready to go.”

The Bills released their first, unofficial depth chart of the regular season Tuesday. The most interesting nugget was rookie offensive lineman Cody Ford listed as the starter at right tackle. Ford split time between right tackle and right guard during training camp.

Jon Feliciano is the listed starter at right guard, which would make Ty Nsekhe the swing tackle behind Dion Dawkins and Ford.

McDermott said Monday the Bills were still sorting out where Ford would line up. Feliciano, who has eight career NFL starts with the Raiders, is also listed as the backup center.

Other notes from the depth chart:

- Kevin Johnson is the only listed backup to outside cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace. Slot cornerback Taron Johnson is backed up by Siran Neal, who played safety last year.

- Frank Gore is listed as the starting running back ahead of rookie Devin Singletary.

- The team lists three starters at wide receiver: Zay Jones, John Brown and Cole Beasley.

- From the in-case-you-were-wondering department: Veteran tight end Lee Smith is the backup long snapper behind Reid Ferguson.

The Bills filled out their practice squad Tuesday with the addition of running back Byron Marshall.

The 25-year-old Marshall was released by Washington on Saturday. He appeared in 10 games over the past two seasons for the Redskins, carrying 12 times for 41 yards and making 10 catches for 66 yards.

Marshall entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016. He started that year on the Eagles’ practice squad before eventually spending three games on the active roster.

Marshall played in college at Oregon, where he had 3,170 yards from scrimmage along with 27 touchdowns. The Bills have another running back on the practice squad, but Christian Wade is ineligible to be promoted to the active roster this year as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program.

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