For the first time in the 2014 season, the Buffalo Bills hit the practice field on Monday to begin preparations for a meaningful game. Their first practice leading up to Sunday's season opener against the Chicago Bears began with the return of several key players to the lineup.
No name was bigger among the returnees than rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins, he of 43 snaps played and two rib injuries in his first pro preseason. The second of those rib injuries came on August 28, and while it sounds like the injury is more serious than it was the first time around, Watkins is clearly expecting to play this weekend in Chicago, as well.
Sammy Watkins' first two words when asked whether he believes he'll play Sunday were "of course." As he talked, though, that became "hopes."— Jay Skurski (@JaySkurski) September 1, 2014
Even if Watkins plays, it's sounding like he won't be 100 percent, and that the Bills are already talking over a receiver rotation for Week 1.
Sammy Watkins: "If I need to take a breather, take two or three plays off from being it, that’s what I’m going to do."— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) September 1, 2014
Three other starters that missed the Bills' preseason finale against Detroit last Thursday returned to practice on Monday, as well: tight end Scott Chandler, left guard Chris Williams, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, whose presence will be of vital importance against the Bears' enormous trio of receivers on Sunday.
Only one player was not present for the practice: blocking tight end Lee Smith, who also missed the preseason finale after injuring his toe on August 23 against Tampa Bay. Rookie linebacker Randell Johnson was in attendance, but was only seen working with trainers on the sidelines; he twisted an ankle in practice last week and missed the Detroit game, as well.
The Bills are not required to provide information on the extent to which a player participates in practice until Wednesday and Thursday, and therefore refused to comment on as much regarding Watkins on Monday. The official injury report for Week 1 will be released this Friday.