PITTSFORD (WKBW) Fans in the stands. Players on the field. Football is officially back as the Buffalo Bills held their first practice of the 2014 training camp at St. John Fisher College.
Quarterback EJ Manuel, led the offense during drills. The second year starter says he's much more comfortable this time around.
"I feel a lot different. All the anxieties and things like that, really not knowing what to expect kinda went away being that it's my 2nd year in the system. Having familiar faces and coaches," Manuel said.
The team took the field for the first time this camp under the lights, the first of seven scheduled night practices during the month-long stay in Pittsford. Fourth overall pick Sammy Watkins now with his first training camp practice go-around under his belt.
"For the most part I know the plays, I just gotta get adjusted to the cornerbacks and the style of play. Once I get that I'll be moving pretty fast," Watkins said.
Some questions surround several positions as we kick off camp. Nigel Bradham replaced the injured Kiko Alonso running with the first team linebackers.
Rookie Seantrell Henderson lined up at starting left tackle with Cordy Glenn ill. But Henderson left with what looked to be a hip injury. Chris Hairston took Henderson's reps for the rest of practice.
One of the players not participating in this first practice of training camp 2014, Marcell Dareus. The legally troubled pro-bowler was put on the active/non-football injury list over the weekend. Head coach Doug Marrone explained why.
"He hasn't passed all the test to get him on the field. We're working on that. Getting him ready to go," Marrone said.
Below are full transcripts, courtesy of the Bills.
HC Doug Marrone
Sunday, July 20 2014
Q: Can you give us an update on Marcell Dareus?
A: At the present time he hasn't been able to pass all the tests to get him on the field, so we're working on that, trying to get him ready to go.
Q: Would these be considered conditioning tests or medical tests?
A: Conditioning tests.
Q: How disappointing is that given everyone was hoping for a fresh start from Marcell?
A: Well, he's not the only one, but obviously you want your players to come in ready to go. We're here for a long period of time so we'll make up for it.
Q: Are there any other players that did not pass the test?
A: Yep, there are a couple of players on the NFI [Non-Football Illness and Injury Lists]. I believe Alan Branch is on it, Marcell, Randell Johnson, and obviously Kiko Alonso.
Q: Does that basically mean he wasn't in shape and if that's the case, how troubling is that given the offseason that he had?
A: He'll be in shape ready to play.
Q: What do you think his time since the end of minicamp has done for him?
A: Yeah, I just think right now he needs to focus on getting himself ready, getting in shape, getting on the field and focusing on football.
Q: What are you expectations for the season with regards to where you'll be at the end of the year?
A: Obviously our goal is to be in the playoffs.
Q: Did Marcell have a reason as to why he wasn't in shape?
A: Sure, we have conversations about that but those conversations are between Marcell and I. If he wants to share those reasons with you he's more than welcome to.
Q: Earlier this week you told us about Cordy Glenn's status, what's the latest on that?
A: Well, it's a medical condition, and again, I've been advised to say he's not going to be out there practicing, and if he wants to comment further on that he can.
Q: How much fear do you have that he will be out for an extended period of time?
A: I take things for what they are, as of now he's not practicing, other than that I have no idea.
Q: Do you get that same feeling every year that it's a fresh start, a new year?
A: That's whats great about this game. Everyone's heading into camp, everyone's excited, everybody's fresh. We've done some things so far as a team, with meetings and what not, we had a walk through this morning, it was great and we have to keep that same type of enthusiasm going.
Q: Are there particular signs that make you more optimistic this year as opposed to last year?
A: Well, last year I didn't know a lot of the players, honestly. I had never really worked with any of them, you see them on film but it's not really the same. This year we have a background with the players and the players have done a good job, we're stronger, our training staff has done a good job, we're stronger and faster than we've been, I like where we are from a talent standpoint, we've just got to go out and execute.
Q: How are your expectations different for EJ [Manuel] coming into this year than they were for last year?
A: I have high expectations all the time, so I don't know if I would call them different. I'm excited, he looks good and confident, obviously it's a better situation, last year we were explaining what the offense is and not really the ins and outs of things, this year we're able to get more into the ins and outs of things, not just with EJ but with a lot of guys on the team with the system already being in place.
Q: Other guys who had offseason surgeries who may have been limited in the spring, is everyone full go and healthy at this point?
A: I think most of them are, but we're going to be smart about it, especially with a couple guys, but everyone has been cleared.
Q: What is your reaction to Kiko Alonso's injury, how much of a setback is that and how do you plan on filling that position?
A: You're always disappointed when a player that puts in a lot of work like Kiko has and has performed very well for you isn't able to get out there, but in the same sense, someone else is going to get an opportunity to get on the field. We have a couple of guys we're going to look at, Nigel Bradham has had a good camp, Preston Brown, Randell Johnson, maybe some of the other young guys or free agents will be able to do something so we have people at that position.
Q: Can you speak to things you saw at the end of minicamp and heading into training camp from Seantrel Henderson?
A: I think he'll have a chance to compete. It's a long process, there's a lot of things that have to happen still, but the good part is that we're here, we're working, we're the first one's in camp, I'm excited about that, and we're going to do a lot of work. I've even gotten some questions about where everyone is, but we haven't even taken a snap yet. We've got some time and it's going to be a lot of fun.
QB EJ Manuel
Sunday, July 21, 2014
Q: How does it feel to be back at training camp?
A: It feels great. I'm very excited to get one day under our belts. It's crazy because I think we've been here for two days and have been having a bunch of meetings and all this kind of stuff. We've been really preparing for this practice since last Wednesday, so it's good to get out here and get our blood flowing.
Q: Do you feel any different with this being your second training camp?
A: Yeah, I feel a lot different. All the anxiety and things like that of just really not knowing what to expect kind of went away being that it's my second year in the system and having familiar faces, familiar coaches and things like that. It was awesome today. It felt good.
Q: Can you talk about throwing to Sammy Watkins?
A: It felt good. You really just want to get it in a spot for him to catch it and get some yards after the catch. That's the biggest thing about a receiver like Sammy. I think Robert Woods, and really all those guys, are very good once they catch the ball. It's our responsibility as quarterbacks to give them a catchable ball and let them do the rest.
Q: Has the process of cutting back the playbook started yet?
A: I don't think so. I think we're used to having a huge installation. We installed for about three and a half hours last night, so I think were used to that now and it's kind of good that he did it during OTAs and minicamp. That way, once we get into training camp there's not a surprise factor. We already know what we're supposed to do. It's more so a review of what we need to do, so I thought we were pretty clean today.
Q: How does it feel out there with all of those weapons?
A: It feels great. A lot of guys don't notice that we have Bryce Brown and [Anthony] Dixon from San Francisco. To add two backs like that, at running back, along with C.J. [Spiller] and Fred [Jackson], it doesn't any better. I really think we're loaded offensively at the skill positions. Each day we've got to just continue to mesh and get better.
Q: Is there a different feeling going into this camp as the starter?
A: I don't think so. I think I just go in wanting to work hard and each day get better. Not necessarily taking a day back. I feel like that's backtracking. I can't say it's a huge difference. I try to approach every single day just to get better.
Q: Can you speak on your confidence level this year compared to last year?
A: Confidence is very high. I'm excited, like I said, to get back out here. We have tons of weapons on offense. Our defense is still solid. I look forward to seeing what type of product we put forth in two weeks against the New York Giants.
Q: Would you agree with Coach Marrone that you need to take a step forward this year?
A: Yeah, definitely. You always want to progress from year to year. You don't want to be the same guy you were as a rookie and I think my teammates can all account for that, just as far as how I talk to this. Obviously, that's not me trying to necessarily be a dictator or anything like that, but I think it's maturing in the offense and maturing as a man in the NFL. Going into my second year, I feel a lot more confident just enunciating and making plays.
OT Cyrus Kouandjio
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Q: What are your expectations for competing with Cordy Glenn at lineman?
A: That's not really the attitude around here. The attitude is let's all get better and let's help everyone else get better and how the chips fall, that's how they fall. We're not trying to go out for people's pride. We're trying to have fun.
Q: Do these fans remind you of the passion of Alabama fans?
A: They're up there, to tell you the truth, it's different up here. It's different up here. They're a lot more into it. I like all the dressing. That's the NFL I guess. That's NFL football.
Q: Was day one everything you expected?
A: Yeah. I'm glad I had fun, to be honest with you. Usually in practice, especially in high school and college, you always win and it gets boring. Every rep has a life of its own and that's the fun part. I'm glad I'm out here having fun again.
LB Brandon Spikes
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Q: Talk to us about being here at St. John Fisher.
A: It's good. The fans are great. I'm not used to that, so it was good to see the fans come out and show us love. I feel like defensively we need to build from here. It's day one and we have a long way to go.
Q: Does setting a tone for the defense begin here?
A: Absolutely. Like I said, it's the first day. It's small steps and we have to pay attention to detail. Our whole goal is to get better each and every day and take advantage of these two weeks before we play our first game. We want to come out and play well and play at a high level.
Q: What is different about camp here compared to New England?
A: It's great. It's open. It's normally a little different. It's closed there. It was good to see the fans come out. It's a great fan base (here).
Q: Does it make it more fun?
A: Absolutely. You get to go out and run around. Like I said, it's been awhile and it's just fun to get out here. Overall, it was great day.
WR Sammy Watkins
Sunday, July 20 2014
Q: How did you feel out there?
A: I felt pretty good, the offense started out on a good note. The wide receivers came out ready to go today, the offense went great today.
Q: Did it feel good to get back with EJ [Manuel] after having the time off between OTAs and now?
A: It was good. For the most part we connected when we needed to. We still have a lot of things to fix, but we were clicking today. He knew what I was doing, I knew what he was thinking and that just comes from having reps together.
Q: Based on the cheers out there you were clearly the fan favorite today, did you realize that and what does that mean to you?
A: It means a lot. I came from a big Division I school in Clemson so we need our fans. That's what moved me and it's great to hear the fans calling my name out and being active while we're practicing.
Q: There might be a little added pressure being traded up for in the draft, do you feel that at all?
A: Not at all, we've got a great team and I've got a great wide receiver core helping me out. A great quarterback, so there's not really any pressure. I just have to come out here and have fun and keep doing what I've been doing, perfecting my craft.
Q: Do you look forward to going through tape and breaking everything down from the day before?
A: Everyday it's critical for us to do things the right way. Even though you caught the ball, it doesn't necessarily mean you executed the play correctly and that can become a problem between you and the quarterback. We definitely like to break everything down and critique things and we take it very seriously. We take pride in what we do and work with our coaches to do it correctly.
Q: How much has experiencing this night been on your mind for the past month?
A: It feels great. I've been waiting for a whole month now back at home training and trying to stay in shape. Coming in and seeing close to 5,000 people here, we've got great fans and that motivated me to come out and have a great day, practice hard and not to put anything bad on tape.
Q: Were there any surprises out here today? Maybe a change in speed from minicamp or rookie camp?
A: Not at all. I think OTAs set me up pretty well. I got to understand the speed of the game and grasp the fact that I'm going to make plays, but sometimes the defense is going to be in the right position and it's not going to work. I'm practicing against some great cornerbacks, so I need to take the good with the bad and just keep working.
Q: You mentioned the cornerbacks. How does it feel to go up against your own guys?
A: We're out here competing, that's what it is out here. We're all pushing for one common goal and that's a championship. We have to work each other and we're all friends. We all have to get better and it's all love, but at the end of the day we've got to compete.
Q: Do you sense a rivalry growing between the offense and the defense?
A: Yes, we've got to pick it up every day. It's a challenge every day to come out and beat them. Every day it's a challenge for them to come out and beat us. That's just us coming together as a team and making each other better.
Q: Do you feel you're at the point where you can just go out and play, or is your head still kind of swimming?
A: Just a little bit. For the most part I know the plays, I just have to get adjusted to the cornerbacks and their style of play. I think once I get things, it will start coming pretty quickly.
Q: Do you feel like you can make an impact right away?
A: Of course. With our offense, we've got a lot of explosive guys, so for me it's just about coming in right away and trying to make plays. Don't try and be Superman, but play my role and everything will work out.