SportsBlast: Bills begin off-season conditioning

April 23, 2012 Updated Apr 23, 2012 at 7:12 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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April 23, 2012 Updated Apr 23, 2012 at 7:12 PM EDT

Orchard Park (WKBW.com/Bills) The Buffalo Bills hit the field on Monday for the start of the teams month long voluntary off-season conditioning program. The Bills enjoyed good attendance for the first session. Eyewitness Sports Director Jeff Russo has more in this edition of SportsBlast 7.0. The full transcript of player interviews is below.



QB RYAN FITZPATRICK



On what he wants to accomplish on the first day back:



Just getting everybody back in and seeing what kind of shape everybody’s in. Really catching up with guys, seeing how their offseason was. A lot of the guys had different surgeries and injuries that they had to heal up from. Some of it is just seeing how they’re doing. We’ll get in, we’ll have a team meeting and get to talk to the guys some more, interact with the coaches. It’s really one of those deals where we’ve got the new guys so getting a chance to speak with Mario (Williams) and some of the other guys and everybody just getting acquainted with each other.



On what his reaction was to the team signing DE Mario Williams:



I was in Costa Rica for a wedding and there was only internet access in the lobby, so with the three day ordeal that it was every 20 minutes I was walking down to the lobby looking at my phone. Finally when it happened obviously I was pretty excited about it. I got a lot of calls and texts and things. We’re glad that he’s here.



On GM Buddy Nix’s statement that this team needs to start being relevant and if he agrees:



Yeah. That’s the message I think that has clearly gotten across to the players through some of the stuff that we’ve done this offseason and even through what happened last year with the first half of the season and then what happened in the second half of the season. That wasn’t where we were supposed to be. The performance that we put on the last eight games, we need to be better than that obviously. We need to be ahead of where we were last year. This year it’s sustainability. It’s doing that but being consistent and doing it all year long. I think there’s been a message that’s been sent that we’re ready to do it right now.



On how important it is to have so many teammates at voluntary workouts even though they don’t have to be:



It’s really important and guys want to get back. Guys want to be able to be here. At the end of the day we’re all friends and we’re all family so to get in here and to see the people you haven’t seen since the end of the season, that’s big. Again that’s another morale boost. That’s kind of what gets you going. It’s fun to be back in Arizona and working out with a few people but to get back here and to be working out with my guys, it pushes you that much harder.



On some of the mock drafts picking left tackle for the Bills with the 10th overall pick in the draft:



We’re players. I know that we’re going to get a good guy at number 10. I don’t know who it’s going to be. I know it’s going to be someone that’s going to be able to come in and play right away and hopefully be a big contributor. That’s what we’re looking forward to.



On how big of a deal re-signing WR Stevie Johnson to a new contract was for him personally:



That was huge for us. He’s been the go-to guy here for the last two years. We have really been able to build a great relationship, one that I think we’re just scratching the surface of in terms of his potential. He’s been a guy that the last two years has really proven himself. I felt like the contract was something he deserves and obviously the front office did as well. I’m a pretty conservative guy so shaving something into the side of my head I was trying to express how happy I was. So hopefully that got that point across.



RB Fred Jackson



On the importance of this team to Buffalo and the high hopes from the fans at this time of the year:



Just talking to a bunch of fans around town they let us know how excited they are about things. We sense that. We know that and at the same time we feel the exact same way. We felt like that the organization has done some things that give us a great opportunity to win some football games. We’re putting a lot of expectations on ourselves and hopefully we can make things happen this year.



On if the contract talks are progressing:



Like I said, it’s just not the time. They have the draft coming up this week and that’s what they’re focusing on. I’ll just continue to be patient and see what happens. It’s like I said all along, I think something will get done. Buddy said they want to get something done so I’ll just continue to put faith on that.



On how impressed he is that almost every player is here today:



It’s with the high expectations that we’re kind of putting on ourselves this year. That has a lot to say about that with everybody wanting to be here and trying to get better as a team.



On RB C.J. Spiller taking positive steps last season:



That’s what we expect from C.J (Spiller). He’s a playmaker and we expect him to go out and make plays. I can’t say that I was surprised by him taking advantage of the opportunity that he got. Hopefully he’ll continue to progress and help us get better as a team.



On what he expects to be different about the team’s defense this season:



More stops. There’s the one guy that really stands is Mario (Williams). He’s going to be big for us on third down getting teams off the field. You have guys that will continue to put pressure on the quarterbacks and allow our secondary to make more plays. We expect to get the ball and have more opportunities as an offense. I think we’re looking forward to that and hopefully we can get some things turned around this season.



LT Chris Hairston



On the Bills losing LT Demetrius Bell and having not being anybody new in:



It’s just the beginning stages. We still have the draft to take care of to make additions to this team to help us win. As long as I can do what I can do to help this team win that’s what I’m worried about. I’m not really worried about who they bring in or what they want to put on my shoulders. I’m just ready for anything.



On GM Buddy Nix saying he has confidence with him at left tackle and that they can win with him:



That gives me a big shot of confidence to know I came out and did well enough to have him say those words but that doesn’t put anything in stone. This league is ever changing, the roster’s ever changing, and things aren’t set in stone. I just have to do my best to what I can do to solidify myself in a position and that begins now being back working as hard as I can -- working hard for this camp.



On how would he react to the Bills drafting a left tackle:



It’s a part of the business. It happens every year at every position. I came in and there was a tackle here before me. Years and years have gone by with tackles being drafted. You just have to come in a work and do what I can do. I can only control what I can and that has nothing to do with upper management. I just play here. I’m ready to do what I can to make myself a player.



On this being his first full off season since being in the league:



I think it will not only benefit me but the entire second-year class coming in. Being without that last year really set a lot of people back. You can say it caused injuries here and there but you know having this full off season to bond with the guys actually become more of a team member. Being able to be here for a while and really immerse myself in the offense and get ready to train like a pro.



DE Mario Williams



On if he has gotten a chance to talk and meet most of him new teammates:



I think I saw just about everybody, maybe one guy or so. I talked to about everybody. It was good to finally put a name with a face. You hear guy’s names all the time, but you don’t necessarily get to see them. It’s good to finally see them.



On this week meaning more to him and the other new guys:



I think it means a lot to everybody. We know what we have in front of us. We know what we need to do to get the job done and get to work. I don’t care if you’re a first day guy or a guy who’s been here since Day One, things need to change around here and that’s what we’re going after.



On appreciating what his signing has done for the expectations for this franchise:



For the simple fact of anytime that you can change the morale of a group. I was at Target yesterday and it was funny because everybody was coming up to me. One guy was shaking and said, “Mario, I just want you to know we’re on your back.” He was so nervous and all I could do was kind of laugh. It was funny, but not that way, to get that warm reception from everybody. I definitely understand that. That’s why like I said it’s a big deal for everybody being here for today and getting work done. We’ve got a long way to go. We definitely need every day to get after.



On if he’s sensed the strong chemistry that this team already has in the locker room:



Everybody’s in there talking and interacting; talking about how their family is and how things are going back home. It’s definitely the type of group I want to be around.



On if he welcomes all the expectations that he’s been given:



I do, but at the same time, believe me I’ve been away from football a while, too. I’m extremely anxious to get out there. That’s the way I see it. I just see it and going out there and working. Everybody can say this or that and not understand the situation. Believe me, it was when I first got out and got drafted. Once you hunker down you realize you’ve got to play football. You’ve got to focus on that, make it happen and things get a lot easier. That’s pretty much my mindset of focusing on football. Going out there, trying to produce on the field, help my team and do what we need to do to win.



On helping to bring a Houston team to the playoffs and carrying that here in Buffalo:



Just the simple fact of being the first pick in a whole new organization, top to bottom we were new faces. Obviously it was new to me but in general for that franchise from coaches to the general manager and all that. To kind of be able to come in there and see what happens from the bottom to the top and get to the playoffs is being on the way you need to go. I’ve definitely seen progress. I definitely know what’s there. I know what we had when I was there and I know what we have here. Last year was an example of what they did. It’s definitely here. You just have to do the right things longer. The way they started off here last year you’ve just got to keep that going. It shows that there’s something there. You just want to keep that going. We’ve got to figure out what that was.



DE Shawne Merriman



On how he feels after surgery:



I’m doing well. Just training and rehabbing during the offseason. This is my first real offseason in a long time because I wasn’t able to train, so it’s been going well so far.



On being ready to go my minicamps and for training camp:



Absolutely. That’s everyone’s target, including mine. It’s hard to see what percentage I am right now. I’ll be in here working out probably with little restrictions if any at all. I‘m just glad to be back, excited to see the guys and walking through the building again, after walking through a bit of snow first. But just seeing the guys and how excited everyone is to get back in here and just start working.



On when he was able to start working out after surgery:



It was a few months ago. It’s been about two months now since I’ve been hitting the gym hard. The rehab was great. And early on it was just about rest and giving it a little bit of time. I think that’s why we agreed to have the surgery done when I did so I can be ready when it’s time to go.



On what he envisions his role being in the new defensive scheme:



I talked to Coach Wannstedt already and it was a great conversation because the new guys we brought in with Mario (Williams) and Mark (Anderson), those guys being in here. People put too much into trying to figure it out. Whatever you do you can play football and it’s up to the coaches. Let the coaches go out and decide where they need the guys at. As long as everybody has the same mind frame and know that that’s the case we’ll be good, because no matter what happens and you can play football and go attribute to the team, coach is going to find something for you to be.



On showing people that he’s still “Shawne Merriman” now that he’s back healthy:



For me, I have so much self motivation. Nobody really has to kick me in my butt to keep me going. I wake up for it. I love and I’m anxious to get back up on top. I am, period. There’s no other way to put that other than me getting ready for the season. Being excited to be around these guys and put something together, and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re putting something great together and I’m just happy to be a part of that.



On being on a defense with DEs Mario Williams and Mark Anderson:



Just having those guys to what we already have here you can’t even put into words. I think that the question along the season will be who plays or where I am going to play? That’s the least of my worries. If we all can play football, we all can contribute to the team. Wherever they need any of us at we need to go out and play. If you have certain guys rotating, you have certain guys in this position whatever. I would love to be a coach in that situation because it’s a good problem to have. As long as we’re all contributing like that, this season will be a very good season.



NT KYLE WILLIAMS



On how he feels after his surgery:



I’m pretty much doing everything. There are a few things that I guess changed direction-wise that we’re not really diving headfirst into yet. I just have to give it a little more time. It feels good, running good. Doing all my lifting and things like I normally would do. I’m looking forward. It’s exciting.



On what it feels like to not have to wear a walking boot anymore:



I’d go from a big hole in the back of my shoe to only wearing flip flops in the middle of winter. It’s been an uncomfortable time. It’s nice when I get up in the morning and I can walk normally. Things are looking up for sure.



On if he can remember the last time his foot felt this good:



I’m not ready to say it feels perfect but it definitely feels better. I know that it’s felt better than it has and I know I’m going this way rather than this way. I’m excited about what’s in front of me.



On the new additions added on defense:



Who did we add? (laughing) I’m excited. I think he’s (Mario Williams) going to help a lot and Mark’s (Anderson) going to help a lot. You put (Chris) Kelsay back in the room and he’ll put his hand back on the ground and Marcell (Dareus) getting another year. We had a meeting this morning and we had like 15 guys in our room. There’s a bunch of guys in there with guys that have shown that they can play. We’ll have lots of competition and lots of guys pushing one another. Hopefully I can push Marcell, Marcell can push somebody, Mario will push me, Mario will push Mark and I can push them. And hopefully we get to where we think this thing could go. If you look at it just written down that looks pretty good. There are a lot of things that go into being pretty good and it happens down there in the weight room and it happens down here on the practice field. I just think all those names listed they’re not scared of either place. I’m excited of where it can go.



On having four down linemen once again:



I think for me, what I was doing in our old defense really wasn’t that difference from what I had been doing. I really had played more 3-4 techniques starting that year. I had played mostly shade or two-eye in my first few years. I got some three technique movement work but not much. In the last defense with George (Edwards) is when I really started to move around and started to get on guards kind of finding matchups and different things like that. I think that’s what we’re going to do now is they’re going to ask me to move around, put my hand on the ground and go. I think coming back with my foot and hopefully going to be 100% will allow me to do what I do best which is attack and get after guys. I’m definitely excited about it. I think the good thing is we have a whole lineup of guys and a whole room full of guys that I think that’s what they’re built for. They’re designed to get down, get off the ball and attack guys. Just speaking for me personally I’m excited about it. I’m excited that getting healthy in the defense we’ve got going and the players we’ve got. I’m excited about what we could do.

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