Niagara Gazette

June 16, 2009

BILLS: Fine finds comfort in second year

By Jonah Bronstein

ORCHARD PARK — Even though Derek Fine had somewhat of a head start, he still has some catching up to do.

While fellow tight end Derek Schouman sat out a handful of spring practices at the end of May, Fine got some extra time to work with the first team. But as the offseason program wore on, quarterback Trent Edwards said he grew more comfortable with Schouman.

“I think he’s progressed really well through these last couple practices and I think he’s going to be a big part of our pass game,” Edwards said. “Derek (Fine) and John (Stupar) and those guys are going to need to step up as well as Shawn (Nelson). But I am really feeling more and more comfortable with Schouman.”

Fine, drafted in the fourth round last year out of Kansas, sat out the first six games of his rookie season after having thumb surgery.

“I only got to play half of the season last year, so a lot of the relationships I developed on the field were kind of last-minute,” Fine said.

Over the final 10 games, Fine caught 10 passes for 94 yards. He scored a touchdown in a November loss to the Jets.

Fine said the offseason program has made him more comfortable with the offensive system and his teammates.

The Bills also drafted a tight end, Shawn Nelson, in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Nelson missed some of the voluntary spring practices, and spent some time practicing with the wide receivers.

Fine caught 46 passes for 394 yards in his senior season at Kansas. The year before, he received the Gale Sayers Award as the team’s most courageous player.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, Fine is taller and considerably heavier than Schouman, which could help him come training camp, when full-contact practices commence.

“For me, blocking is just kind of a want-to thing,” Fine said. “It’s more of an attitude thing than a talent thing. So that’s just part of my game. I enjoy doing it and that’s what keeps me out here on the field with the Bills and gives me a job. I’m not really worried about that part. That’s kind of what I was brought here to do and that’s kind of what I excelled at last year, so there’s a lot of other parts of my game that I concentrated on.”

Fine said he hopes to continue competing for a starting position at training camp, but will accept a backup role if that’s what the team asks of him.

“Derek (Schouman) is such a good player and such a good leader and he’s one of the smartest football players I’ve been around,” Fine said. “He’s just like having another quarterback on the field, so it’s not really so much a competition or an out-for-blood-type thing.

“We’re here to win. We’re here to win games, and that’s the whole point of this thing, and whoever ends up winning the job, may it go to the best man, and that’s what will happen.”

Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at jonah.bronstein@niagara-gazette.com