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Observations: Stefon Diggs looking like himself in return to team drills

Observations: Stefon Diggs looking like himself in return to team drills

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Buffalo Bills training camp: Day 5 (copy)

Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) looks to be close to full strength.

The Buffalo Bills’ injury list is lengthy at the moment, but it’s not without some good news.

Stefon Diggs is back, and he looks like, well, Stefon Diggs.

The team’s No. 1 receiver participated in 11-on-11 work Wednesday under a scorching sun, another step in the right direction as he returns from a knee injury that kept him out of practice for two weeks.

“Leadership. A great teammate. Ready to go mentally,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said about Diggs before practice. “He was an awesome addition. Great to have him. He’s a leader, I’d say, on and off the field. He’s done a good job with the things we’ve been able to do.”

A highlight during training camp is the 1-on-1 battles between wide receivers and cornerbacks. During that drill, Diggs lines up against fellow All-Pro Tre’Davious White more often than not. On Wednesday, the two went at it on at least three snaps, with White forcing incompletions on all three.

On the last, Diggs got behind him and appeared to make a terrific catch as he tumbled into the back-left pylon of the end zone. But White recovered just in time to knock the ball away. Afterward, White helped Diggs to his feet and they exchanged a high five for their respective efforts.

During team drills, Diggs made a couple more receptions.

His return comes at the right time for the offense. The Bills are currently without wide receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, who are away quarantining as non-vaccinated players after exposure to an individual who returned a positive Covid-19 test.

“I've learned a long time ago, focus on the things that you can control,” Daboll said. “So look, there's going to be times throughout any season where things are going to pop up, personal reasons, sickness, injury, a loss. To be a good a leader, I think you have to focus on the things you can control, and really dominate the things you can control. And that's what we try to do as a staff and really all the players try to do.”

Additionally, wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie is out of the lineup with a shoulder injury. He observed practice Wednesday with his arm in a sling.

“You deal with stuff every year, usually week to week, sometimes day to day in this business,” Daboll said. “So we have a lot of good players on our football team. Whenever Isaiah’s back, it would be great, but we have enough players to really put together a game plan and do the things that we need to do.”

In addition to Beasley and Davis, defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler Jr. missed practice while they are on the NFL’s reserve/Covid-19 list. All four of them are required to be away from the facility for a minimum of five days from the time of their exposure.

The injured list is also lengthy. It includes: Running back Antonio Williams (neck), wide receiver Marquez Stevenson (foot), tight end Tommy Sweeney (foot), offensive tackle Spencer Brown (knee), defensive tackle Treyvon Hester (back), defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (knee), safety Jaquan Johnson (knee), long snapper Reid Ferguson (back), and cornerbacks Taron Johnson (hand), Levi Wallace (hip) and Dane Jackson (stinger).

Wallace and Jackson being hurt at the same time has put the competition to be the No. 2 cornerback on hold for the moment.

“Levi and Dane, they're still kind of neck and neck right now,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Tuesday. “We'll see how it continues to play out over the course of this week, as well as leading into the Pittsburgh game, but they’re both doing a good job for us.”

Wallace did not play Saturday against the Bears, while Jackson got hurt during that game.

“There was a lot of discussion about how we wanted to approach it going forward between the two, but we really needed to be able to see Dane in more detail, and that gave us an opportunity to do it, but also we wanted to be able to give Levi a chance to rest a little bit and deal with some nicks that he had and that gave him an opportunity to do that,” Frazier said.

Jackson underwent an MRI on his injury Tuesday. Although he did not practice, he did work off to the side with trainers.

Cornerback Tim Harris, whom the Bills signed Monday, had an interception during Wednesday’s practice. It’s clear, however, that Harris is still learning the ropes. His coaches implored him to take the interception, which came off a throw from Davis Webb intended for Reggie Gilliam, back to the end zone.

Safety Micah Hyde also had an interception after linebacker Matt Milano tipped a Mitchell Trubisky pass. Milano and A.J. Klein returned to practice after missing Tuesday as a Covid-19 precaution.

Milano had an interception of a Webb pass in coverage against wide receiver Tanner Gentry.

Tight end Dawson Knox turned in a strong practice, making three nice catches. Knox, however, also had a drop, which has been an issue for him in his first two seasons. … Other highlights included a would-be sack registered by defensive end Efe Obada and a couple strong receptions by veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders from Josh Allen.

The Bills will practice inside Highmark Stadium at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, although the practice is closed to the public.

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News Sports Reporter

I started at The Buffalo News in 2009, and have previously been honored as one of the top 10 beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors for my coverage of the Bills. I live in Amherst with my wife, Melissa, and son, Elliott.

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