By JOHN WAWROW
Niagara Gazette — ORCHARD PARK — Grateful for the support he’s received from fans and teammates during his time of loss, Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is focused on preparing to play in Buffalo’s home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.
Dareus returned to practice Thursday after being excused to be with his family in Alabama to mourn the shooting death of his younger brother.
“I am focused,” he said, in a statement released by the team. “I know I have a lot of things going on off the field, but I am here and ready to play. I have 60 more brothers here and ready to support me as well.”
Dareus missed only one practice, on Wednesday, and arrived back in Buffalo around lunch-time Thursday in time for the team’s afternoon session. The Bills are coming off a season-opening 48-28 loss at the New York Jets. They play the Chiefs (0-1) on Sunday.
Dareus’ brother, Simeon Gilmore, was one of three people killed Sunday during a burglary in the Birmingham, Ala., suburb of Pelham. Authorities said 20-year-old Jon Staggs Jr. has been charged with capital murder and burglary.
Police have not released a possible motive.
“Right now is a tough time for me and my family, but thank you very much for the support because I truly really need it at this time,” Dareus said. “I can’t express how I’m feeling right now, but I will go out on the field and give it my all on Sunday.”
Selected third overall in the 2011 draft out of Alabama, Dareus has been a starter since his first game. In 2010, he was the defensive MVP in helping the Crimson Tide defeat Texas in the 2010 national championship game.
After playing on Sunday, Dareus intends to return home for a few days following the game.
Coach Chan Gailey said he can only imagine what Dareus is going through after having a brief conversation with the player.
“I could tell he’s hurting. But he’s strong,” Gailey said. “He felt the responsibility to be back here, knowing that he had responsibilities there. And I think everybody’s going to work to make sure that it all goes as smoothly as possible. It can’t go smooth, but as smoothly as possible.”
Dareus is known for having a playful and infectious personality that has made him a popular player among teammates. Numerous Bills — including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick — have expressed their condolences and support for Dareus this week.
“We all view each other as family because we’re together so much, so it’s a tough thing to have him going through that right now,” Fitzpatrick said. “What we can do is offer our support to him and his family.”
Earlier on Thursday, Dareus posted a note on his Twitter account thanking fans for their support. He also referred to his brother’s death as a reason to “get guns off the streets.”