PITTSFORD, NY ( WKBW / buffalobills.com ) Eyewitness Sports Director Jeff Russo with Multi-Media Journalist Jason Gruenauer were at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford Saturday as the Buffalo Bills took to the field at Training Camp.
Head Coach Chan Gailey; Linebacker Shawn Merriman; Quarterback Tyler Thigpen; Cornerback Aaron Williams all talked to Eyewitness Sports and BuffaloBills.com about day one of practice.
Check out the photo gallery by Jason Gruenauer.
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Head Coach Chan Gailey
PM Practice – July 30, 2011
On how the first practice went:
I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never been here before, so I didn’t know what to expect. There were some things that I thought were better. I thought that our run fit defensively was ahead of the first practice last year even without OTA’s and minicamp. I thought guys understood where to go. I thought our timing in the passing game especially on the deep balls was not where it needed to be. We got a long way to go there, but other than that it was probably a typical first practice.
On conditioning tests:
No, I’ve never done one of those. I think guys are professional. They should come into camp in shape. We normally work them pretty good in the off season and they have the responsibility to stay in shape when they show up to camp. I think overall we’re OK, we’re not great. We are trying to be smart about how we practice. Early in camp, the most anybody goes is three plays, and then as we go on it will be four plays, and then as we go on it will be five plays, and so we’re trying to be smart how we practice these guys, to slowly work them in to playing shape.
On LB Arthur Moats’ ability in coverage:
Athletically he’s going to be fine, that’s not the issue. Just learning and having the instincts to do all that stuff.
On his first impression of second-round pick DB Aaron Williams:
I don’t have an impression because I didn’t get to watch him very much. I’ll have to go watch the tape to get a full impression of Aaron. We know he’s a big, strong, physical corner and that’s why we drafted him. I expect him to be a very good player, but I have a hard time saying of what he did on the field today. I really didn’t watch him.
On rookie LB Brandon Hicks getting dinged up in practice:
He just got winded. He’s from Florida so it isn’t heat (jokingly). He probably just had anxiety, wanting to do great. He’s an all-out player, that’s how he does it. He just needs to slow down and get in the swing of things.
On WR Marcus Easley:
He tweaked it a little bit there in the end, but I think he’ll be fine. It was a normal, coming off an injury, getting back into full speed, making sure you get your feet under you type deal.
On LB Shawne Merriman:
Till we get pads on, just the normal stuff. He’s going to look very similar to every other guy out there now. When he gets the pads on, to me that’s where he makes the difference. I think in pass rush and leadership, that’s what we expect to see right now till we get the pads on. Once we get the pads on it will be obvious.
On Merriman being a difference maker in pass rushing:
I think we’re counting on him a lot, that’s why we signed him. We think he can be an impact player for our football team.
On OL Andy Levitre’s new hairstyle:
I’m much more worried about how he plays than what he looks like.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
PM Practice – July 30, 2011
On playing against a defense instead of working with just receivers:
It’s different when you get out there and you’re running against coverages with people getting jammed at the line. It definitely alters the timing. That’s why you can only do so much when you’re with each other and not when you’re playing against someone in a practice. Today went well. We had some good things happen. We missed some deep balls that were just a step or two long. You are going to miss some of that stuff on the first day of practice. Mentally, it was a pretty good practice. We didn’t put in a whole lot, but the guys handled it very well. Chan (Gailey) cut the reps back a little bit having everyone go in three rep waves. It was a good decision today because everyone was still working. Everyone is still getting into game shape, but they didn’t get overworked to where they couldn’t go anymore.
On missing some deep balls with receivers:
It’s just timing from the layoff. We attempted five of them today. Those are things that will come. It’s me putting the ball out there too long. It’s guys on their third rep or who just got finished running a deep route. It’s also guys who are little heavy in the legs or just off on their timing.
On the team looking physically bigger:
I think that it is something that they wanted to address. (Shawne) Merriman on the other side looks big. There are some big boys over there and I know up front we are a little bigger. I think it’s a good thing, especially in our division, which is very physical; bigger is better.
On being entrenched as the starter going into the season:
It feels good. It’s good to get back out there again. We spent so much time in meetings yesterday getting ready for this practice. It’s just good to finally get out on the field. We’ll have some film to look it. We will install some new things and get back on the field again. It’s nice to get out there and throw with Lee (Evans), Roscoe (Parrish), Stevie (Johnson) and all the guys. The timing is so critical that we can go ahead and start working on that from day one.
Linebacker Shawne Merriman
PM Practice – July 30, 2011
On being back on the field:
It felt good. It was a good first day of real work. I’ve been out a long time, so being out there with the guys on defense and getting the tempo back together again felt good.
On the guys surrounding him on defense:
I love it. These guys are hungry out here. We are gelling out there. I see things coming together for us. We want to go out there and get it done.
On the lockout bringing everyone back to where he is after missing time:
There are a lot of guys who haven’t done anything in six or seven months. It’s a level playing field. I have been out of the game a little while and I’m trying to get back on the same page.
On being rusty:
It’s like riding a bike out there. You don’t officially stop riding it, but you have to fine tune things. You can workout all you want in the off season, but it’s nothing like playing football.
On being ready to play:
One of my goals was to come out here and do everything. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I’m willing to put in that work to do it.
QB Tyler Thigpen
PM Practice – July 30, 2011
On why he chose to sign with Buffalo:
I felt like it was a great opportunity. I spoke with Chan (Gailey) the first day I could, on Monday, when they lifted the lockout when it was over with at 7:00pm. I just felt like it was a great opportunity out here already knowing the system. I got a look at the playbook yesterday, first meeting, it felt like second nature to me. I was in it for a year and a half with Chan (in Kansas City) before he chose to step down as offensive coordinator in 2009. It’s real simple cause you can only run a curl one way but you can call it so many different ways. It’s definitely an advantage for me coming in here knowing the offense already.
On how his game has improved since working with Coach Gailey in Kansas City:
Definitely, I think fundamentally. The coaches in Miami did a really good job with me fundamentally. Also from the mental aspect, I feel like I learned football and the way the game’s played being around Chad Pennington and Chad Henne. Those two guys are great studies of the game. Being able to sit there and follow behind those guys, learn the way they study film, the way they game plan each and every week. I definitely feel like I’m a better football player, I know the game. It was my second year with Chan and I really didn’t feel like I had that much coaching going in that year with Chan. No disrespect to any of those coaches but when I got to Miami, QB coach David Lee did a really good job of helping me understand the game. I give a lot of credit to Pennington and Henne, too. Those guys helped me out a lot.
On his success in Kansas City:
I give a lot of credit to the players on offense. I feel offensively me and the other players did a good job as well when we had a lot of guys injured here and there and we had to piece those guys together. For the most part offensively, I feel like Chan was able to put us in the right place. We had our running backs making plays for us. For the most part, when you put up so many points on offense and the defense can’t stop the opposing team, what good is that going to do at the end of the day? We go back and forth and that one time they stop you on offense, but our defense can’t stop them that one time, they’re going to outscore you.
On his development as a player:
I definitely feel like I’ve developed fundamentally. I feel like I’ve definitely become a lot more accurate. That’s one of the things as a quarterback, you have to be accurate. At the end of the day it’s about moving the ball as an offense and scoring touchdowns. I think footwork is the biggest thing for me as a quarterback in my game. As long as my feet are right I pretty much feel like I can make any throw.
Cornerback Aaron Williams
PM Practice - July 30, 2011
On participating in his first practice:
It feels great. I was a little nervous. You’re always nervous the first day. I think I did a good job, but could have done a lot better. It was a good practice overall.
On making a big play calming the nerves:
The first hit and the first play definitely calm the nerves. Once I got into that first contact and the first one-on-ones with NFL receivers, I calmed down. Now, I can just be myself and have fun.
On weighing in at 203 pounds and his size helping in the NFL:
I think my size is an advantage. Two-hundred-three pounds is a pretty good weight. I feel I should be in the 198-200 area. I felt I did well playing at 203, but I could lose some pounds. My size definitely helps me out against the big receivers and playing against the run.
On physically matching up with receivers on the day:
I did a pretty good job. I feel like I could have done a lot of things better that I can fix by watching the film and improving my technique. I come from Texas and often played against big receivers. It helped me get to the point I’m at now.
On the hot weather at practice:
I wish it were like this in Texas. Back home it is real humid and hot. It’s over 100 degrees. This is actually kind of cold for me (jokingly).