Bills refreshed after injury-plagued start
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills are healthier and refreshed following a much-needed week off. And they may have some new faces in the lineup as they look to make a playoff push over the season’s final seven weeks.
The Bills got back to work Monday following their Week 10 bye, with most of their players on the practice field after a first half of the season dominated by injuries.
“This should be the healthiest we’ve been in a long time coming back off the bye, and should have a lot of energy and passion,” coach Rex Ryan said.
Key players such as running back LeSean McCoy, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and wide receiver Robert Woods were on the practice field after dealing with injuries in recent weeks. So were linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and receiver Marquise Goodwin, among others.
“The week off came at a good time,” guard Richie Incognito said. “If you’ve got little nicks and dings, it gives you a chance to heal those up and it gives you a chance to get ready mentally. A week to get away from it and prioritize and get back up here.”
One player who did not return was receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins (foot) was eligible to practice beginning Friday after being placed on injured reserve on Sept. 30. Ryan said Watkins is continuing to make progress but is not yet there.
“He is eligible to return to practice this week, however, the trainers have said they feel he’s not ready to return,” Ryan said. “I just met with Sammy, Sammy feels fantastic. But we’re going to be smart with this and we’ll do what’s best for him, obviously, and until all our medical people are on board with him coming back there on the field, then we’re not going to practice him. But when that time occurs, and hopefully that time will occur soon, he’ll be back out there.”
Ryan hinted at some personnel changes, specifically pointing to the secondary and the offensive line, with one potential change at cornerback for Buffalo’s game at Cincinnati. Second-year cornerback Ronald Darby was benched in the loss to Seattle and he did not work with the first unit during the portion of practice open to the media Monday. In his place was fifth-year pro Corey White, who replaced Darby against Seattle.
After practice, White told reporters he and Darby split reps in practice and that it’s considered an open competition.
“We’ll see,” White said. “Right now we’re just competing in practice and we’ll see who starts on Sunday.”
The Bills will have a new center for the remainder of the season after veteran Eric Wood broke a leg against Seattle. Ryan Groy replaced Wood against the Seahawks and will compete with Patrick Lewis for the job.
That may not be the only change on Buffalo’s offensive line. Ryan is encouraged by the progress of former starter Seantrel Henderson. Henderson started in each of the past two seasons for Buffalo at right tackle but has yet to make it all the way back after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease late last season. Henderson was significantly underweight because of the disease and also missed the first four games of the year due to a suspension.
“I’m encouraged right now the way he practiced, especially last week,” Ryan said. “That was the guy that I remember, a special athlete. So hopefully he can continue that way. I was really encouraged with how he looked last week.”
The Bills (4-5) must quickly make up ground after slipping in the standings. After three straight losses, the Bills are 11th in the AFC, third in their division.
“We were all on empty ... but now I feel like we’re healthy and feeling good and we ought to be rolling now,” Ryan said.
NOTES: The Bills placed Eric Wood on injured reserve late Monday afternoon and promoted cornerback Marcus Roberson from the practice squad. Roberson, 24, has spent time on both Buffalo’s practice squad and active roster this season. Buffalo also signed center Dalton Freeman to the practice squad.