Niagara Gazette


April 23, 2012

Bills upbeat in return to work


Defensive end Mario Williams was happy to finally begin putting faces to the names of his new Buffalo Bills teammates. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had no complaints trading in his golf clubs and 100-degree temperatures back home in Arizona for a 30-degree day in Buffalo.

And Shawne Merriman was so upbeat over reporting for the first day of the Bills' voluntary conditioning program Monday that not even a freak snowstorm could put a chill into his mood.

"I'm so excited, I'm going to go out and make snow angels," Merriman said.

That Merriman can even kid about making snow angels is encouraging news. After injuries limited him to playing eight games over the past two seasons, the "Lights Out" linebacker said his rehab from surgery to repair a nagging right Achilles tendon injury has him on track to be ready for training camp.

"Absolutely, that's everyone's target, including mine," Merriman said. "I'm excited seeing the guys, and how excited everybody is to get back here and start working."

The Bills are back in town together for the first time since cleaning out their lockers in early January following a disappointing 6-10 season in which they lost eight of their last nine games to miss the playoffs for a 12th straight season.

Yet, the mood was distinctly upbeat. The players are buoyed by an eventful offseason in which the front-office raised expectations by delivering on its vow to retain talent — receiver Stevie Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler were both re-signed — and add to it by signing Williams and fellow defensive end Mark Anderson in free agency last month.

"There's a lot of excitement in this building right now," Fitzpatrick said. "That's the message I think that's clearly gotten across to the players through some of the stuff we've done this offseason."

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