ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills calls signals behind Eric Wood #70 against the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Things are progressing very slowly for Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood, but for the first time since training camp opened last Thursday, the fourth-year center took snaps with the first-team offense in full-team work.
Granted, he took only two snaps, per WGR 550, but those marked another step forward for Wood, recovering from his second major leg surgery in three years (the latest one for a torn ACL). The Bills are purposely bringing Wood back into the fold slowly, ensuring that he'll be fully ready for their September 9 season opener against the New York Jets. Wood had been participating in individual drills since the start of camp.
While Wood has been sitting out of team work, the Bills have been playing right guard Kraig Urbik in the pivot with the ones, allowing top reserve guard Chad Rinehart to get first-team work in Urbik's stead. When Wood was injured last season, the Bills scrambled a bit to replace him; that likely won't be the case in the event that Wood goes down this year, as the team appears to have a couple of backup plans in place.
Still, entering his fourth season, the pressure is on Wood not only to stay healthy - he has not played a full 16-game season yet in the NFL - but to make strides and become the true anchor of Buffalo's offensive line. When he's been healthy, he's been the clear leader of the group up front, but he's only briefly flirted with becoming a true top-notch center.
Buffalo would like to lock up both Urbik and left guard Andy Levitre this off-season. Wood's contract ends after the 2013 season. How healthy he is in 2012 - and how well he performs - will help determine whether or not the Bills are as eager to retain his services as they are with the guards on either side of him.