PITTSFORD — If you doubted things would be different for the Buffalo Bills under new coach Doug Marrone, Sunday and Monday should have provided ample proof to the contrary.
One day after his team had dismantled the Colts, 44-20, in the preseason opener at Indianapolis, it practiced during the afternoon at St. John Fisher.
NFL teams, traditionally, don’t have that sort of workout the day after a game ... instead focusing on film study, weightlifting and conditioning maintenance exercises.
Not Marrone’s Bills.
It wasn’t the typical training camp practice, however, all but those with minor physical ailments — and Buffalo has been fortunate so far in this summer of major injuries to a number of pro football players — took part in the 1-hour and 45-minute session.
Still, practicing the day after a game was a first for the 80-some players who participated. And, in Marrone’s mind, necessary, as the Bills return to action only five days after winning at Indianapolis, hosting Minnesota on Friday night after taking Thursday off.
“I THINK it was important,” he said after Monday’s workout. “We were on a short week.
“We got ourselves off to a good start (with the win at Indy, but) we still have a lot of work to do. I said that yesterday (and) I told that to the team. Today, they came out and worked extremely hard, so they’re hungry to get better. We’re hungry to get better just as a team.”
Marrone added, “We’re in a critical point — maybe critical isn’t the right word — but we’re in a window of really in the evaluation process to get the players ready.
“(With) a short week we came back and it might’ve looked (like) a practice, but we tagged off every drill (and) wanted to get them running around. Normally after a game, you come back, they do heavy lifting and heavy running to flush their body out. The players did a good job of that. We may be practicing and it might be called a practice, but we’re being smart about it with the players.”
OF COURSE, in his first meeting with the collective Bills’ media since Buffalo scored a franchise-record pre-season point total, there were follow-up questions about Buffalo’s feel-good victory.
Most centered on the play of quarterback EJ Manuel, the rookie first-round draft choice who played the entire first half against the Colts, hitting 16-of-21 passes, though for a modest 107 yards, with no interceptions. He also had a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson capping a near-perfect two-minute drive as Manuel took Buffalo 92 yards in 10 plays during a span of 96 seconds.
“I was very pleased,” Marrone said of his QB’s play. “We were looking for certain things ... the intangibles. We know that he has the ability to do it, so we were looking for the reaction. “You saw him settle into the game and then start to do some really good things.
“There are a lot of things that we need to work on ... we tried to get a couple of vertical passes early. It wasn’t a thing that we were really trying to protect him but we had two vertical shots early on and we just couldn’t get outside the pocket, we got a little bit of pressure.”
He recalled, “(Rookie wide receiver) Robert Woods ran a stop-and-go and won and we just couldn’t get the protection to get (Manuel) out there. I’m happy with the way he’s played and I was happy with the way Jeff (Tuel, the other rookie QB) played.
“It’s just consistency and progress. Those are the things we want to see and those are the things that both of those players have been doing.”
MARRONE was also asked about the play of rookie inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, Buffalo’s other second-rounder besides Woods, who has impressed with his speed during camp and logged three tackles against the Colts while also saving a touchdown, tearing a potential scoring reception out of the tight end’s hands.
“You see a player that’s progressing,” the former Syracuse coach said. “The play he makes in the end zone is one heck of a play. You see him making tackles, (even on the) sidelines, see him playing special teams, playing quite a bit.
“His ceiling is high and our expectations of him are high.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)