When the Buffalo Bills made their roster-day cutdowns on Tuesday, one of their corresponding moves was to place All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White on the Inactive/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
The move was not unexpected as White, who tore his ACL during Buffalo’s win over the New Orleans Saints last Thanksgiving, hadn’t been spotted at a Bills practice in more than a month leading up to cutdown day. He was considered questionable to be ready for the Bills’ season opener September 8 at the Los Angeles Rams.
As Buffalo’s offseason played out, head coach Sean McDermott mentioned that White’s recovery was “on track,” while refusing to provide a specific timetable for when White would return to the playing field.
Now, White can continue with his recovery—without worrying about getting up to speed and rushing back before his knee is fully recovered.
While some fans might be worried about how White’s rehab process is progressing, Bills general manager Brandon Beane tried to reassure the fans during a session with the media. He stressed that White didn’t suffer any setbacks with his knee during his rehab, and that the team is banking on White once again anchoring Buffalo’s cornerbacks.
“Tre’s in a good spot,” Beane told reporters. “He’s really working hard. It’s still going to be a long season. I think he’ll play a considerable number of games.”
The team and fans alike are eager to welcome White back into the mix, especially considering the lack of experienced cornerbacks on Buffalo’s roster—the only veterans who have played for the Bills are Dane Jackson (22 career games with eight starts), Taron Johnson (55 games, 35 starts), Siran Neal (64 games, one start), and Cam Lewis (12 games, three starts). Rookies Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford will make their NFL debuts this fall.
“Once he gets full clearance to go play and the ACL and the knee is ready to roll, you’re still susceptible as a football player to other things,” Beane said. “Not playing, whether it’s pulls, strains. There is a callousing up. Then a mental component, too. When you come back from an injury that has been this long, the last thing you want to do is do it again. …There will be no ramp-up, preseason, or scrimmage against anybody. When he gets out there, it’s going to be for real.”
White’s PUP designation has him sidelined for at least the first four weeks of the season, with the soonest White can return to action being in Week 5 when the Bills host the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 9. (That’s when he can return to practice, though, so don’t expect him to jump from no practice to game-ready immediately.)
Despite the lack of proven talent in the cornerback room, Beane said the Bills are going to play it safe with their star cornerback, and that the team won’t rush him back onto the field until he’s fully ready to compete. Even if that means White’s time on the PUP list lingers longer than the minimum four weeks.
For perspective: if White makes his triumphant return to the team after Buffalo’s bye in Week 6, it would mark 10.5 months between his surgery and his return to action. That’s not slow. Again, Beane pointed to a lot of variables that would be considered before White got back on the field.
“I don’t want to say he’s 100% playing Week 5, which is the first time he could be out there,” Beane said. “But we’ll put a good plan in place. I know he’s got another doctor’s visit scheduled here upcoming. I think that will give us a good idea. I think we’re closing in on a timeline for him internally. Not that we’re going to, for competitive reasons, announce that. And I don’t have it yet. …We’ll start trying to get him ready as soon as he’s able.”
The cautious approach is the right approach for a team with Super Bowl aspirations—one that will need its All-Pro cornerback to be fully healthy in order to have a chance at winning it all for the first time in franchise history.