ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 27:Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills calls signals behind Eric Wood #70 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ralph Wilson Stadium on August 27, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Buffalo Bills training camp is now less than a week away, and when the players report on Thursday, the team will be fairly healthy. Despite several season-ending injuries in 2011, none are likely to keep any players from participating in some fashion at St. John Fisher.
The defense will greatly benefit from players returning from injury. Mario Williams should be full go returning from a torn pectoral muscle suffered while with the Houston Texans. Shawne Merriman, who would be a bonus addition to an already-improved (on paper) pass rush, participated in almost all of the mini-camp activities in June, and told BuffaloBills.com that he expects to be 100 percent healthy by camp. In a surprising turn of events, Kyle Williams did some on-field work at mini-camp coming off Achilles surgery. He is also expected to participate fully on the defensive line beginning next week.Torell Troup and Terrence McGee did not participate in June's mini-camps, but are both on track for a return at training camp after surgery. Troup said in May that he wasn't sure if he would be participating at the start of camp, but would be back at some point in the first couple of weeks. It's not clear if McGee is still suffering lingering effects from his leg injuries, but it will definitely hamper his ability to compete for the starting cornerback spot if that's the case.
On offense, several 2011 opening-day starters will be returning from trips to the Injured Reserve list in time for camp. Running back Fred Jackson has been cleared for some time and will be taking first-team reps. Starting center Eric Wood had set training camp as his goal to return from his knee injury, and all indications are that he is right on track. Receiver Donald Jones has been back from his ankle injury for the duration of the offseason, and will need to stay healthy to attempt to keep his spot. Stevie Johnson fought through a groin injury all of last season and had surgery this offseason. He was limited in mini-camp, but should take most of the starting reps in Pittsford. Erik Pears had hernia surgery which kept him from OTAs and mini-camp but was scheduled to be back by training camp, though there is no word yet from One Bills Drive.
The depth on offense is also healthy, as Marcus Easley's heart problem has apparently been corrected, allowing him to resume his football career. Tight end Lee Smith is also ready to return from his injury, and should have the inside track on a roster spot as a blocking specialist. Mike Caussin was placed on IR last year and will be back to compete for a spot on the tight end depth chart.
Rian Lindell returns from injury to shoulder the load (pun intended) on field goals and extra points. Chris White didn't get a lot of work at linebacker - and that hopefully won't change in 2012 - but he was solid in his special teams role a year ago.
The only season-ending injury from training camp a year ago was running back Bruce Hall. Hopefully the Bills can limit the injuries again in 2012 and start the year on the right foot.