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Bills set 15 training camp practices

The Bills will open training camp on Thursday, July 26, at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, the team announced.

The Bills will have 15 training camp practices open to the public. Four of them are night practices, which will run from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The schedule (all are 3 to 5:30 p.m., except when noted): July 26, July 27, July 28, July 29 (night), July 31, Aug. 1 (night), Aug. 2, Aug. 3, Aug. 4, Aug. 6, Aug. 7, Aug. 11 (night), Aug. 12, Aug. 13, Aug. 14 (night).

Meanwhile, the Bills also announced the signing of a free-agent wide receiver - Derek Session. He was one of the free-agent tryout players invited to the rookie minicamp a few weeks ago. Session, 6-1, 225, is an undrafted rookie from Maine who had 132 catches for 1,364 yards and five TDs in a 48-game college career. The Bills released lineman Paul Madsen.

---Mark Gaughan


Lights on for Merriman

Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman says via his twitter account he has been cleared to practice by doctors who checked out his Achlles tendon. He is expected to practice with the team at the second organized-team-activity workout on Thursday at One Bills Drive.

"Got the thumbs up can't wait to join my teammates in practice tomorrow," Merriman wrote.

In the Bills' best-case scenario, Merriman would give the Bills a New York Giants-like, multi-directional pass-rush cast, because he would be the third option behind Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. ... That's if he can stay healthy.

---Mark Gaughan

83 Ex-Bills in Concussion Litigation

There currently are 81 concussion-related lawsuits filed against the NFL, and they include 2,265 former players as of about a week ago.

There is a website - - that rounds up news on the lawsuits. That website includes a listing of all the plaintiffs in the cases. Based on a review of that list, The News counts 83 former Bills among the plaintiffs. Some played in Buffalo a long time, some only a matter of weeks.

There are lots of Hall-of-Famers who have joined in the suits, including Eric Dickerson, Joe DeLamielleure, Chris Doleman, Tony Dorsett, Fred Dean, Bob Lilly, Leroy Kelly and Art Monk, among others. Here are the ex-Bills who are included on the listing, according to the website:

Chidi Ahanotu, Ethan Albright, Gary Baldinger, Don Beebe, Rodney Bellinger, Curtis Brown, Bobby Burnett, Jeff Burris, Derrick Burroughs, Carl Byrum, Mario Clark, Tony Cline, Robert Coons, Paul Costa, Joe Cribbs, Matt Darby, Kenneth Davis, Joe DeLamielleure, Conrad Dobler, Kevin Everett, Joe Ferguson, Jay Foreman, Byron Franklin, Donnie Green, Drew Haddad, Dwight Harrison, Dale Hellestrae, J.D. Hill, Raion Hill.

And: Kelly Holcomb, Corey Hulsey, David Humm, Bill Hurley, Scott Hutchinson, Darrell Irvin, Harry Jacobs, Bruce Jarvis, James Jeffcoat, Ron Jessie, Jack Johnson, Rob Johnson, Trumaine Johnson, Trey Junkin, Rex Kern, Merv Krakau, Bill Laskey, Teddy Lehman, Mark Maddox, Shane Matthews, Ron McDole, Reggie McKenzie*, Seth McKinney, Ted McKnight, Aaron Merz, James Mueller, Ryan Neufeld.

And: Tom Nutten, Joe Panos, Robert Penchion, Lou Piccone, David Pool, Daryl Porter, Mike Pucillo, Constantin Ritzmann, Sam Rogers, Butch Rolle, Mike Schneck, Dennis Shaw, Daimon Shelton, John Skourpan, Fred Smerlas, Thomas Smith, Art Still, Anthony Thomas, Tavares Tillman, Richard Trapp, Maurice Tyler, Phil Villapiano, Dave Washington, David White, Art Whittington, Donald Wilson, Jeff Yeates. (*-Believed to be the ex-Bill by that name. There also is a James Williams among the litigants, but it is not know if he's the one of numerous NFLers named James Williams who played for the BIlls. A Bills draftee, Bernard Ford (third round, '88) is on the list, but he never got in a game with Buffalo.).

Here's a link to a Buffalo News story by reporter Henry Davis on the suit filed by Jacobs, the middle linebacker from the Bills' AFL championship teams.

---Mark Gaughan



Barnett, Peppers & Mario

Bills linebacker Nick Barnett was doing some elite training in March at the Athletes Performance Institute in Phoenix. The place has become famous among football fans because it’s one of the centers where top draft prospects go to get ready for the NFL Scouting Combine workouts. But veteran pro athletes in many sports also go there during their offseasons to get high-level speed and strength conditioning.

Barnett was there with Chicago Bears star pass rusher Julius Peppers when the NFL’s free-agency signing period opened.

“I was in Arizona,” Barnett said after Tuesday’s spring practice in Orchard Park. “It was me and Julius Peppers, and we were joking around. He said, ‘I think we’re gonna sign Mario Williams.’ I just said, ‘I don’t think so.’ Then I came in the next day and said, ‘Looks like we got him, bro.’ It was definitely exciting. If he comes in and does what he’s capable of doing and what he’s been doing, it makes us a better team just with that.”

As was widely reported at the time, the Bears were very interested in recruiting Williams. It’s worth reiterating that the Bills’ front office – Russ Brandon, Jim Overdorf and Buddy Nix – did a good job of lobbying Williams' agent that they were “all in” on the pursuit of the star defensive end and that he should make Buffalo his first visit. It obviously helped that Williams was intrigued by Buffalo and was not fixated on a “bright lights-big city” destination.

---Mark Gaughan


Chan on Merriman, Stevie

The organized team activity workouts officially are voluntary, but 88 of the 90 players on the team were in the building at One Bills Drive on Tuesday for the first day of practice.

Defensive end Shawne Merriman, rehabilitating from Achilles tendon surgery last fall, was at a doctor's appointment. The only other absent player was undrafted rookie safety Delano Howell, who is finishing up school requirements at Stanford.

Gailey on Merriman: “He was gone today. Today was the only day he could see the doctor to get final clearances on some stuff. He'll be back Thursday.

Will Merriman be on the field when he gets back? “I think so. It depends on whatwe hear from the doctors."

Receiver Stevie Johnson had groin surgery about a month ago. Gailey said he's not expecting him to practice until the end of July. 

“Training camp, training camp," Gailey said on Johnson's likely return date. "I don’t see him making minicamp. I’d love to say he would, but I don’t know if he will or not. We’ll see. ... You don’t ever want to rush it to the point where you have a chance of injuring a guy further. We’ll try to be smart about it, but if he can work we’ll work him. He needs it like everybody else. We all need it.”

Said Johnson: "I’m feeling good. They got me doing a lot of work in the pool and in my first day out here doing ladders and strides. Right now we’re a good five weeks and I don’t really feel too much in my groin. It’s just a little bit in my hamstrings. Once we get that out of the way then I’ll be full go."

Cornerback Terrence McGee and defensive tackle Kyle Williams worked in individual drills but not 11-on-11 sessions. Other players sitting out due to injury rehabilitation included: center Eric Wood, cornerback Chris Hill, safety Josh Nesbitt, tackle Erik Pears, tight end Mike Caussin, receiver Kamar Aiken, defensive tackle Torell Troup and defensive end Lionel Dotson.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills depth outlook at OTA

The Bills were talking about their improved depth after their first spring practice of the year at the fieldhouse in Orchard Park.

Said QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: "I think one of the biggest differences across the board for us this year, not only on the defensive side, but I think at every position, is there’s so much competition right now. Guys are competitive. That’s just the nature of the professional athlete. But you just see it every day here. There’s guys competing against other guys who are just as talented as they are. That’s been something that has slowly been changing since I’ve been here, is the talent level from top to bottom I feel like has gotten better and is going to continue to get a lot better because the better you are on defense, the more challenged you are on offense, and vice versa."

Coach Chan Gailey on Day One: “A lot of energy. A lot of quickness. We felt bigger on the field and it felt bigger on the field. It felt quick on the field. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but initial observations were good.”

Here's a look at how the depth sorted out by position on the practice field:

D-LINE: Working with the starting defensive line in individual drills were, left to right: Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay. On the second team were, left to right, Spencer Johnson, Dwan Edwards, Kellen Heard and Mark Anderson. On the third team were Kyle Moore, Jarron Gilbert, Alex Carrington, Robert Eddins and Jay Ross were rotating on the third team. When the 11-on-11 team drills took place, Kyle Williams sat out. On the first team were Mario Williams, Dareus, Edwards and Kelsay. On the second team were, left to right, Spencer Johnson, Heard, Carrington and Anderson.

DBs: First-round draft pick Stephon Gilmore worked largely with the starters at one cornerback. He looks fluid in coverage and in breaking on the ball. The other starter in individual drills was Terrence McGee, but he’s rehabilitating from knee surgery and he’s pointing toward training camp for full-go work. Leodis McKelvin started at the other corner. McKelvin, Gilmore and Aaron Williams rotated with the starting unit. Second-year man Justin Rogers saw plenty of action in the nickel defense. He had one of the best pass break-ups of the day on an out route for Donald Jones.

WR: Stevie Johnson was not practicing due to offseason groin surgery. Starting from the first snap at wideout were Donald Jones and Derek Hagan. There was a lot of rotating at receiver. Third-year man Marcus Easley remains the most physically imposing of the group, at 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 217 pounds. He showed strong hands in catching during the workout. Rookie T.J. Graham caught the ball well, too, although he couldn’t come down with a well-thrown long-ball from Fitzpatrick.

QBs: Just as expected the rotation went: Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Vince Young, Brad Smith.

O-LINE: Center Eric Wood is six months into his knee rehabilitation. He was not practicing. Neither was right tackle Erik Pears. The first-team offensive line was: left tackle Cordy Glenn, left guard Andy Levitre, center Colin Brown, right guard Kraig Urbik, right tackle Chris Hairston.

RBs: It’s obvious watching any Bills practice that Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are two of the more talented players on the team. They always look good. Tashard Choice, the former Georgia Techster and Dallas Cowboy, was No. 3. Backing up fullback Corey McIntyre was ex-Pitt Panther Dorin Dickerson, who’s more of a receiving-blitz-pickup fullback at 226 pounds.

LBs: Middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was flanked by Nick Barnett on the weak side and Kirk Morrison on the strong side. Working with the second team were middle man Scott McKillop, flanked by outside men Nigel Bradham and Danny Batten. Arthur Moats and Bryan Scott, a hybrid safety-linebacker, got a good amount of work in sub packages.

---Mark Gaughan


Gronk Nation going strong

Williamsville North High School graduate Chris Gronkowski was acquired by the Denver Broncos today in a trade from the Indianapolis Colts. It's a great move for Gronkowski, a fullback who came out of the University of Arizona in 2010. Gronkowksi is the only fullback on the Denver roster at the moment, and he joins a team that is one of the favorites to win the AFC. The Broncos, of course, added quarterback Peyton Manning in March.

The move increases the chances that a Gronkowski might make the Super Bowl for a second straight year. (Chris Gronkowski wasn't going to get there with the rebuilding Colts.) Younger brother Rob Gronkowski is the All-Pro tight end for the New England Patriots. If Rob had been fully healthy instead of laboring with a high-ankle sprain, the Pats might have beaten the Giants in the Super Bowl in February. Rob Gronkowski attended Williamsville North but then transferred to a Pittsburgh-area high school for his senior season before moving onto Arizona. Chris Gronkowski played for Dallas in 2010. He appeared in seven games for the Colts last season. Denver traded cornerback Cassius Vaughn to get him.

The Gronkowskis will be bidding to have three brothers in the NFL for a third season this year. Dan Gronkowski, who also starred at North, signed with the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 23. He will battle for a backup tight end job with the Browns.

---Mark Gaughan

Clowney tweets HIV-free test


Bills receiver David Clowney posted a tweet on Tuesday stating he got a negative test for AIDS. "Got My HIV results back!!! Thank God for keeping my body healthy and safe" said Clowney. And he posted a photo of the test (above).

This prompted various reactions. One follower tweeted: "I applaud @DavidClowney for tweeting his HIV results. It raises awareness. Everyone needs to get tested."

In apparent response to critics of his tweet, Clowney posted: "Some people are Ridiculously stupid ... And can't see the bigger picture about things that are important in this world." And: "Everyone should get tested!! ... Don't wait till HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to find out if you have it or not!!" And: "I'm never the type to let things get to me. But it bothers the hell out of me to know people make jokes about AIDS and HIV!!"

Clowney was signed by the Bills right after last season ended, on Jan. 5. in He has 22 catches for 341 yards in three NFL seasons, mostly with the Jets. He's a speedster, and he's bidding to earn playing time among a group of contenders for the outside receiver position opposite Stevie Johnson. Clowney also has used twitter to promote his foundation. He's running a youth football camp and charity weekend in Delray, Fla., June 7-10.

---Mark Gaughan

Kids Day set for Pitt game

The Bills have set their annual Kids Day promotion for the second home preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game is 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Tickets for children age 14 and under are $15. Kids Day festivities begin at 3:30 p.m. They include youth-themed tailgating, a gameday giveaway, interactive games, face painting, the Jills cheerleaders, Billy Buffalo, stage performances by artist Glenn Colton and Jeff Musial of Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics, as well as post-game fireworks.

---Mark Gaughan

NFL OKs Bills-Toronto extension

The Buffalo Bills got approval from the NFL today to strike a deal to extend their series of games in Toronto.

A contract between the Bills and Rogers Communications still must be finalized, but it's expected the Bills will agree to make a regular-season appearance in Toronto for five more years, through 2017. Both the Bills and Rogers Communications have repeatedly said over the past year they would like an extension of their current five-year deal, which runs out at the end of this season.

"The International Committee’s decision to approve the continuation of our games in Toronto is a crucial step in our ongoing efforts to regionalize our franchise," said Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon in a statement. "As we have stated on many occasions, the regionalization process remains vital to keeping our franchise strong in Western New York. We are continuing our discussions with Rogers Communications on a new deal and remain optimistic that we can come to an agreement in the near future.”

The decision came in a vote of the NFL’s International Committee during the league’s three-day spring owners meetings in Atlanta.

Mary Owen, Bills executive vice president of strategic planning, is the Bills' point person in striking the extension. She is on the nine-member NFL International Committee. She serves on the panel along with team owners Clark Hunt (Kansas City), Jeffrey Lurie (Philadelphia), Rita LeBlanc (New Orleans), George McCaskey (Chicago) and John York (San Francisco), plus Tampa Bay co-chairman Joel Glazer, Pittsburgh president Art Rooney, and San Diego president Dean Spanos.

This season’s game in the Rogers Centre pits the Bills against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 16.

Rogers agreed to pay a $78 million fee for the first five years of the series, which averaged out to roughly twice what the Bills gross from a sold-out game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills have grown their Canadian fan base since the start of the series. Southern Ontario has crept past Rochester in the Bills’ regionalization effort, accounting for a bit more than 15 percent of the fans at games in Orchard Park.

---Mark Gaughan



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