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Observations: Practice gets chippy as the Bills put on the pads

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Buffalo Bills Training Camp

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen throws during practice Saturday.

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PITTSFORD – The pads went on and, predictably, the temperatures rose Saturday at training camp for the Buffalo Bills.

The team’s sixth practice ended with some fireworks when starting quarterback Josh Allen shoved defensive tackle Jordan Phillips up high on the final play of 11-on-11 drills. Allen kept the ball on an attempted two-point conversion and as he tried to navigate through the middle of the line of scrimmage, Phillips made contact with the star quarterback.

That’s a big-time no-no, and Allen responded in a way that’s rarely seen by a starting quarterback. The shove set off a huge scrum, which head coach Sean McDermott quickly tried to break up. Allen and Phillips were each eventually pulled from the pile as teammates worked to calm them down.

“Maybe once or twice, but you know Josh is a little different,” running back Devin Singletary said when asked if he had ever seen a quarterback start a scuffle like that. “We all know that, so I’m not surprised at all.”

Center Mitch Morse was one of the first to get to Allen.

“It's just a bunch of fiery competitors out there, regardless of who it is,” Morse said. “When Josh comes out like that and has a show of emotion like that, it definitely catches your eye. But in the end, it's one of those things that it never makes its way to the locker room. I think it was a lesson learned for all of us.”

The offense was going for two points after Allen connected with wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a 10-yard touchdown reception. McKenzie, who had another strong practice, beat Cam Lewis in coverage and made a nice, leaping reception in the back of the end zone.

The drive also included a deep completion from Allen down the left sideline to Gabe Davis, as well as a short completion to Stefon Diggs in front of cornerback Dane Jackson.

During an earlier 11-on-11 session, McKenzie made a catch and was taken down to the ground by rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam. McKenzie responded to that with a quick shove, but it didn’t escalate from there.

It’s not a big surprise players on both sides were a little bit hot under the collar, given that the team held its first padded practice.

“We've already been here a whole week,” Morse said. “Guys aren't sleeping very well, away from their families. You put on pads. The anticipation behind pads can build up. It's just a more physical game out there when the pads are on.

“Yeah, stuff like that, especially on the first day, is going to happen. It's unfortunate, at times, but ... you work through some stuff and come out as a better team on the other side, which I feel like is the case in this point.”

Injury updates

Safety Micah Hyde did not practice Saturday after leaving the field with a hip/glute injury Friday. Hyde was on the sideline for Saturday’s practice, giving his insight to teammates, and McDermott intimated that it is not a major injury.

“Yeah he’s going to be day to day, he’s got some soreness on his hip there where he fell, where he came down on it, but we think he’ll be OK, at this point,” McDermott said Saturday.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins was excused for a second straight day for personal reasons. McDermott said the team “(hopes) to get him back in a few days.” 

“Just speaking on Dion: don't know much about what's going on, but we're all praying for him,” Morse said. “We wish that you guys would do the same, and we're thinking about him.”

The team was also without offensive lineman Ryan Bates, and wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Jake Kumerow. McDermott said all three are day-to-day and “dealing with overall soreness that comes through camp and some muscle tightness.”

McDermott said that Crowder, who the team signed in March, is in a good place mentally with the playbook, but hopes he’ll get more reps soon.

“In this case, availability and unavailability creates a challenge in terms of for a new player developing a rapport, in this case, with Josh,” McDermott said.

Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones returned to practice.

Terry Pegula in attendance 

Bills co-owner Terry Pegula spent Saturday on the field with the team. He embraced Allen on the sideline as the team warmed up and spent latter parts of practice watching alongside McDermott. It was the first public appearance for Pegula at training camp. 

Hodgins flashes

Third-year receiver Isaiah Hodgins hasn’t been able to carve out a spot on the active roster in his first two years, spending his rookie season on injured reserve and his second season mostly on the practice squad.

Hodgins is in danger of being lost in the shuffle this year, but he had a couple nice plays Saturday. He first beat cornerback Siran Neal clean down the right sideline and pulled in a nice reception of a good ball from quarterback Case Keenum. Later, Hodgins made a nice catch on a quick out in front of cornerback Nick McCloud. If Hodgins is going to earn a roster spot, he’ll need a lot more of those types of plays.

Defense starts fast

The early reps in 11-on-11 went to the defense. Reserve linebacker Tyrel Dodson came down with an interception of Keenum off a tipped ball. A short time later, quarterback Matt Barkley was intercepted by McCloud on a pass intended for Tanner Gentry. Rookie linebacker Terrel Bernard, who has looked good in the first week of camp, flashed on back-to-back plays a short time later. Bernard got a would-be sack of Keenum on one play, and then was a part of several defenders who swarmed into the backfield for what would have been another sack on the very next play. One more defensive highlight: Defensive end Von Miller made a terrific spin move against tackle David Quessenberry during one-on-one drills to easily get into the backfield.

Punter battle stays close

Matt Haack and Matt Araiza each got five punts during the practice. The hangtimes for each player, which are unofficial, broke down like this:

Araiza: 5.03 seconds, 4.8, 4.6, 4.74, 4.24.

Haack: 4.45, 4.85, 4.6, 3.95, 4.95.

Verdict: A slight edge to Araiza. Both punters had one bad attempt each. Haack’s best punt was his final one of the day. In addition to the 4.95 hangtime, it pinned the returner right on the left sideline.

More Miller time

There was a new Miller on defense today. The Bills signed cornerback Jordan Miller to a one-year deal. Miller was most recently with the Saints, who waived him earlier this week.

Cornerback Travon Fuller was waived/left squad. Fuller did not practice Friday.

The Bills are off Sunday.

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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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