The Buffalo Bills reported (on a voluntary basis) to Orchard Park on Monday for the team's first Organized Team Activities of the 2009 football season. Not surprisingly, the event was highlighted by the arrival and first practice of high-profile Bills WR Terrell Owens.
You're going to read about Owens everywhere for a while, so there isn't any need to give more than a perfunctory review of T.O.'s first day in a Bills uniform. He caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from QB Trent Edwards in his first practice. He sported nifty spandex pants, ran around a little bit, did some basic drills, used the word "verbiage" (he's a smart cat, that T.O.), and then talked to the media. Is it exciting to have T.O. in town on a voluntary basis? Certainly - even if VH1 is perhaps in part responsible for his presence. He said all the right things, and on the first day of OTAs, you're not going to get much more than that.
There were other interesting developments to emerge from the day's festivities, however. T.O. is the talk of the town - and rightly so - but let's save the hype discussions for a rainy day, shall we? For today, there's football to talk, too.
Bills bring energy to a boring OTA practice
Perhaps fueled by Owens' presence, perhaps fueled by less on-field distraction than this time last year, or perhaps fueled by the mere fact of putting a helmet on, Buffalo hit the practice field energized on Monday, reports Chris Brown. Considering that the entire team save four players - including rookies S Jairus Byrd and K Danny Urrego as well as veterans RB Dominic Rhodes and FB Corey McIntyre - were present, that's as strong a sign as signs can get this time of the year.
Case in point - DE Chris Kelsay got his first 'would be' sack of the year. That's a rarity; either Buffalo's new right tackle, Brad Butler, struggled in his first day making a position switched, or Kelsay was all sorts of amped. (This paragraph exists entirely for Kurupt.)
Take a gander at Brown's day one report for all of the big plays you typically hear about this time of year. From the sounds of it, there were some good battles between receivers and defensive backs - highlighted, of course, by the Owens versus Terrence McGee matchup.
Brown, for one, speculates that the renewed energy has something to do with the absence of a holdout from a certain estranged and traded left tackle:
Not having a major cog on your offense or defense holding out does a lot to remove distraction. There just seemed to be a breath of fresh air about this team when they showed up for OTAs Monday.
Did Edwards have Jason Peters in mind when he made that comment? Probably not, but it doesn’t change the fact that the team was held hostage by Peters last offseason, and it affected the team, and not positively, when he wasn’t the same player on the field in 2008.
Mark Gaughan on the lineups
The biggest "surprise" - if anything can be considered a surprise this time of year - in the lineups, according to Mark Gaughan, was the absence of a single rookie in the "starting lineup." Widely considered the two rookies with the best chance at starting, first-round guard Eric Wood and second-round guard Andy Levitre both saw time predominantly with the second unit; veterans Kirk Chambers and Seth McKinney held down first-line duties.
Not surprisingly, Langston Walker lined up at left tackle, with Butler manning the right side. Free agent addition Geoff Hangartner got every first-team rep at center. Walker seemed confident in his switch to the left side:
“I’m a team player. They asked me to do it early and I’m doing it, no arguments,” said Walker. “I’m not worried. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I’ll do it until they continue to ask me to.”
DE Aaron Maybin, the No. 11 overall pick in the draft, was sprinkled in with the second unit defensive line. Aaron Schobel - a bit of a surprise participant who proclaimed himself '100 percent' - and Kelsay were the starting ends.
Nothing else in the lineups was particularly noteworthy. A lot will change over the next four months; this is just the starting point.
Much has been made about the Bills' reported switch to the no-huddle offense this off-season; whether it's true or not remains to be seen, but Gaughan reports that it was "sprinkled" in throughout 11-on-11 drills.
One other note - the following five players did not participate as they continue various rehabs from their respective injuries and off-season surgeries: WR James Hardy, WR C.J. Hawthorne, DT Marcus Stroud, LB John DiGiorgio and CB Ashton Youboty.