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Thanks to nearly perfect attendance, and excellent performance in the practices, the OTAs (Optional Team Activities) and the mandatory minicamp have come to a close one day early. Coach Jauron decided to forego the final day of the minicamp, stating both of those reasons.
And indeed, the Bills have had some excellent attendance and performance on the field. The offense has been implementing lots of new looks, and working a lot on red-zone plays. The defense has also been making some stellar plays and trying to keep in “football shape”.
Things are very promising at One Bills Drive!
But then there are the dark clouds.
In the past couple weeks, legal troubles and contract squabbles have darkened the otherwise very positive vibe emanating from the Bills headquarters. You’ve read it here, the Bills have a lot of pieces in place for a very good season in 2008. Unfortunately, at least two players (probably more) have been in the news in the wrong way lately.
Lynch is still being somewhat evasive in his dealings with the authorities regarding the hit-and-run incident involving his vehicle. A grand jury is being assembled. Players are being subpoenaed. It’s just not what a team wants to be in the news for. Not at all.
Jason Peters, the Bills Pro Bowl LT, wants more money. Apparently, though there are 3 years left on his contract, he’d rather make more money right now… so he did not attend any of the OTAs or the mandatory minicamp. He will be fined at least $10,000 by the NFL. Obviously the Bills would like Peters to have joined the team for the OTAs and the minicamp, but most of the players feel he will be fine once he reports to training camp. QB Trent Edwards thinks Peters can just show up for week one of the regular season and pick up where he left off. That might be a stretch.
Not too long ago, rookie WR James Hardy was also in the news in a negative light. He was rumored to have brandished a handgun in an argument with his father. Both deny the incident occurred as alleged. But, the message boards were buzzing, and the “reputation” Hardy already brings to the Bills as a bit of “trouble” was perpetuated, whether the claims were well-founded or not.
All this obviously brings up the question of character. People are beginning to wonder if this Bills team is a squeaky clean as your typical Dick Jauron team. From some appearances, it is not. Lynch and Hardy are expected to be big contributors to the Bills this season, but how can they if they are in trouble with the law? Peters and Evans, two Pro Bowl players, and critical pieces of the Bills offense, are working on re-negotiating contracts. (Evans is doing so much more peaceably, and with some more apparent progress.)
The waters are a bit troubled at One Bills Drive.
Overall, coming off the off-season workouts… the Bills are in good shape. Personally, I believe the Marshawn Lynch event (which is rumored to also involve rookies James Hardy and Steve Johnson, and second year player Christian Gaddis) will eventually go away. The alleged infraction is a misdemeanor, and for first time offenders generally does not carry stiff penalties. Peters will be signed. Evans will be signed.
But are these incidents “signs” of things to come? We can hope not.
Football starts in earnest at the end of next month. We’re only a handful of weeks away now. The pads will be on, football will be in the air. Hopefully it will be a bit “cleaner”, more peaceful air.