Niagara Gazette

Bills

August 11, 2011

Wilson starting with same focus

PITTSFORD — Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson, “The Senator” to some, or “The Mayor,” as teammate Andra Davis teasingly referred to him as Thursday, is in a unique position this summer — incumbent.

Having entered the NFL as a wide receiver, and entered the last six training camps as a backup in the defensive backfield, Wilson is now established as the Bills’ starting strong safety after the free agency departure of former first-round draft choice Donte Whitner.

Wilson, 30, has started 26 games over the past four seasons, mostly as an injury replacement, though it should be noted that when Perry Fewell took over as interim head coach toward the end of the 2009 season, the former defensive coordinator moved Wilson into the starting lineup in favor of a healthy Whitner. He’s also been a locker room leader for several seasons, voted special teams captain by his teammates and served as the team’s NFLPA representative during the lockout.

But this is the first time Wilson has began the season atop the depth chart. He also has the security of signing a contract extension in March, reportedly worth $7 million over three years. Still, Wilson walks onto the practice field each day with the same mindset he had when he was just trying to prove himself worthy of a spot on the team.

“I just come in and try to work diligently, day in and day out,” Wilson said. “I don’t assume anything because I know, in this business, it’s what have you done for me lately. I try to come out and get better at something every day and work on building confidence in the system as well as trust with the other 10 guys I’m on the field with. One day at a time.”

Some have shared Fewell’s belief that Wilson earned the right to start over Whitner long before. The website ProFootballFocus.com graded Wilson as a top 5 safety during the 2009 season, when he made 103 tackles and intercepted four passes while not allowing a touchdown, according to the site. Whitner has graded out poorly over the years, particularly in coverage.

•••

Roscoe Parrish will miss Saturday’s preseason opener after re-injuring his hamstring Wednesday night.

“He tweaked the same thing that he sat out for a couple of days,” coach Chan Gailey said. “We are going to hold him out and not take any chances until we get him well.”

Once healthy, Parrish is hoping to build on the breakout season he was having before breaking his wrist in November.

“With Chan Gailey coming in, it gave me a rebirth of my career and that was a good thing for me,” he said. “I just take advantage of my opportunities and I just came out and continued to work hard.”

•••

Most of the Bills’ injured players returned to the practice field this week, notably starting cornerback Drayton Florence (ankle), who was expected to miss Saturday’s game in Chicago, and starting left tackle Demetrius Bell (shoulder).

Rookie linebacker Kelvin Shepard (leg) and second-year receiver Marcus Easley (knee) returned to practice Wednesday. Shepard had missed all of camp thus far, and Easley was hurt on the first day. Gailey said both players will see limited action Saturday.

Defensive tackle Torrell Troup practiced with a large cast on his hand after cracking a bone in his hand. Gailey said Wednesday that Troup would miss the preseason opener, but on Thursday said “I’m more convinced that we will play him than we will not play him at this point.”

The only players sitting out on Thursday were Parrish, tight end Shawn Nelson (leg), cornerback Justin Rogers (ankle) and linebacker Robert Eddins (unknown).

•••

Easley is trying to make up for lost time after being on injured reserve all of last season and missing out on offseason team work due to the labor strife.

“As eager as I was to get back and then getting hurt on the first day back was definitely a setback,” he said. “One thing about time is you can never get it back. I know I didn’t have much time this training camp. I’ve just tried to make the most of the reps that I’ve had and try to do my part, and eliminate the mental errors and hopefully stay on top of my assignments.”

“There are some nuances of the position he still needs to learn,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “The only way he can learn them is by going out and playing. He’s definitely a guy that has put in the time by studying the playbook and getting out to Arizona to practice with me. Whenever I was throwing, he was there. He has definitely put in the time and effort. Now, it is a matter of getting on the field, especially in these preseason games, showcasing what he can do and learning the game through repetition rather than on paper.”

Fellow receiver Donald Jones (calf) is also back practicing after missing a week. A special teamer last season, Jones is trying to prove his worth on offense in his second training camp.

“We really see him as a legitimate receiver,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve really liked what Donald has done so far. He is going to be a very big part of our offense this year.”

•••

The grass turf at Chicago’s Soldier Field was in poor condition last Friday, forcing the Bears to cancel practice, but Bills GM Buddy Nix isn’t concerned about it heading into Saturday’s game.

“We’ve been in constant contact with them and we really think it’s really been blown out of proportion a little bit,” Nix said during an interview on 103.3 The Edge. “We’ve been assured and we’ve had it checked. The league is going to look at it to make sure it’s safe and in good shape, so that’s what we expect.”

Said Gailey, “I’m much more worried about how we play than I am about that.”

Tonawanda News sports editor Brandon Koch contributed to this report. Contact Niagara Gazette sports editor Jonah Bronstein at 282-2311, ext. 2264

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