Heading into training camp last summer, Chris Hairston was viewed as the favorite to become the new starting right tackle for the Buffalo Bills - despite having missed all of the team's spring workouts due to injury. He ultimately missed the entirety of the 2013 season, Erik Pears started all 16 games at right tackle, and according to head coach Doug Marrone, Hairston still needs medical clearance to return to action in Buffalo heading into 2014.
Doug Marrone says T Chris Hairston still needs to pass a physical before Bills know if he can compete for RT job.— Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham) March 25, 2014
Marrone update on Chris Hairston :"We"re going through process with doctors...if he's cleared and can play I'm excited"— John Murphy (@JohnMurphyShow) March 25, 2014
Hairston had struggled with foot and lower leg injuries in each of his first two pro seasons, including late in the 2012 season, when he was placed on IR and ultimately had surgery to remove a loose piece of bone.
From there, the story gets murkier; after missing spring workouts, Hairston began training camp on PUP and was spotted in street clothes at several practices, but was placed on the Reserve/Non Football Illness list prior to the season. The nature of what landed him on that list has never come to light, though it did prompt this tweet from Hairston days after the team announced he'd miss the season.
Hairston has told fans on Twitter in recent weeks that he is "full go" for this spring, but as Marrone points out, the Bills still need him to pass a team physical. If he does, he has a chance to pick up where he left off in 2012 - as the team's starting right tackle, bookending Cordy Glenn. But knowing that he'd missed seven games in his first two seasons, even before last season's issues, the Bills would be wise to make multiple contingency plans at the position.