The Buffalo Bills are less than a week away from their season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they come into the game with a nearly healthy roster.
Head coach Sean McDermott, speaking at his weekly press conference Tuesday, offered some positive updates about players who had been injured in the preseason. For one thing, DT Star Lotulelei (calf) will be starting the week of practice as a “limited” participant. However, McDermott says he’s “trending in the right direction” toward playing, an optimistic point of view from a coach who usually holds back from opining about player availability. McDermott also expects receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie to be “full go” for the game, a couple weeks removed from injuring his shoulder in practice.
Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips recently returned to practicing after injuring his knee in the second preseason game. Though there were initial concerns, because the injury was on the same knee where he tore his ACL, Phillips should be able to play this week. The same goes for nickelback Taron Johnson (hand). McDermott expects Johnson to play this week, although if he still has a club cast on his hand, it’ll be challenging to haul in another pick-six. Cornerbacks Dane Jackson (stinger) and Levi Wallace (hip) are practicing this week, and have a good chance to play as well.
Safety Jaquan Johnson (knee) missed the end of the preseason with his injury, but returned to practice last week. If he couldn’t play, the Bills can promote Josh Thomas from their practice squad for the game. Tight end Tommy Sweeney (foot) also seems close to action. Rookie tackle Spencer Brown (knee) was also practicing last week, wearing braces on his legs, so he seems likely to be active this week.
As far as long-term injuries go, rookie returner/receiver Marquez Stevenson (concussion) is the only player from the 53-man roster on injured reserve right now. He won’t be able to play for the first three games of the season, but under the NFL’s current rules, the team can activate him to play from Week 4 onward.
All in all, the Bills did a fairly good job weathering the storm of injuries from their summer games and practices. A number of key players were bruised up in August, but they’re returning to health just in time for the season to start.