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Pollock: Rookie camp gives Bills look at longshots

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Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 12:01 pm

ORCHARD PARK — There’s a chance, other than the seven draft choices, that none of them will make the Bills’ roster.

But this past weekend, the other 23 players Buffalo’s personnel department and coaching staff invited to the Ralph Wilson Fieldhouse for rookie mini-camp workouts that ended Monday, are longshots.

The breakdown was interesting with only one quarterback (Ohio State’s Kenny Guiton getting a tryout), throwing to six wideouts, including first-round-draft choice Sammy Watkins.

There were five offensive linemen, that included second-rounder Cyrus Kuoandjio and Seantrel Henderson (seventh round), both tackles, plus fifth-rounder Cyril Richardson, a guard.

On defense, there were six linebackers, including Preston Brown and Randell Johnson, taken in the third and seventh rounds, respectively.

Seven defensive backs were invited, one of them cornerback Ross Cockrell, taken in the fourth round.

There were also four defensive linemen and a punter.

Of those players, besides the draft picks, four others were invited to try out,  eight had previously been in an NFL training camp and 11 were free agent rookies.

THE PLAYERS Buffalo selected in the draft are virtual locks either for the active roster, practice squad or, worst case, injured reserve.

The other 23?

According to coach Doug Marrone, some might have a chance.

When asked if he saw players he might like to keep around, the second-year head man admitted, “I did, I talked to Doug (Whaley, general manager) about that and I’m sure there will be an announcement coming.”

Given the limited number of players, the rookie camp was more geared toward drills to assess their skills and conditioning.

Marrone conceded the goal was “to make sure that they’re conditioned enough where we don’t put them out there and put them in jeopardy of getting injured.

“It’s such an important time that if you do get injured, it’s very difficult to make up ... especially in the beginning.”

ANOTHER ADVANTAGE for the players is that the whole coaching staff is in place ... over 20 of them. So while the ratio of coaches to players isn’t exactly 1-to-1, it’s darn close.

“Our goal is to make sure that they understand that here they have the one-on-ones and here they can ask questions,” Marrone said.  “There are a lot of things you have to do in this environment to help them. 

“When I was a player and came into this league, the veteran players would always tell the younger guys, ‘Don’t ask any questions in this meeting.’ What we have to do as coaches is understand that the veteran players are going to do that, but there’s a time where you may break the meeting 10 minutes early so the veteran players can go, but the younger players are going to be able to ask (questions).”

He added,  “When it’s really working well, you have the communication where the veteran players are also coaching the younger players.  A lot of times in my past I’ve used it as a technique. I would put an older (offensive lineman) with a younger guy and when the younger guy made a mistake I would yell at the older guy.”

OF THE rookie mini-camp Marrone concluded, “It was a good weekend. We accomplished what we set out to do, making sure that they learn ... and train the players to get them ready for when the veteran players come back.

“This is the end of the rookie minicamp and next the players will be back in working out the next couple of days. Then it will really step up the following week ...  we’ll hit the OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and see how the rookies here today transition into those.”

But first he wants them to take a break.

“I’d like for them to go home to get away for a little bit. It’s important just because of everything that goes on. They’ve been training; they’re not knowing where they’re going. They really haven’t spent a lot of time (with the team), so I talked to them about making sure they go home, see their parents, get off their feet and relax.”

(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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