Wednesday marked the beginning of mandatory minicamp for the Buffalo Bills but the team's All-Pro left tackle was still absent from the huddle. Jason Peters, in his fifth season, has not been present at the team's 13 optional OTA sessions, and was again missing when the mandatory sessions began.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron was surprised by his absence.
"I thought Jason would be at our mandatory minicamp, but it's a decision he's made and he'll be fined," Jauron said.
Peters, who earned his first Pro Bowl roster spot last season, is believed to be holding out for a new contract with the team. The Bills signed Peters to a five-year contract extension two seasons ago, before he really blossomed into an elite tackle. Currently, Peters is the third highest paid offensive lineman, behind Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker, both who were signed last season by the team.
The Bills front office shelled out big-time dough for Dockery and Walker, as they will make $7 million and $5 million, respectively, next season. Peters is scheduled to make $3.3 million in 2008.
Peters began his journey with the Bills in 2004, when he was signed as an un-drafted free agent out of Arkansas. He was cut before the 2004 season but was later re-signed to the practice squad, and then to the active roster in November of 2004. Since then, Peters exploded with talent as he worked his way up from special teams to a starting role. He was converted from playing tight end to become a left tackle, and the switch paid off. Peters has become one of the league's best linemen in an extraordinarily short period of time, and his hard work is evident in every game.
Last season, Peters was an absolute force for the Bills line as they allowed the fewest sacks for the team (26), than in the past 25 years. He also helped pave the way for rookie RB Marshawn Lynch, who turned in a 1,100-yard season.
Peters' teammates aren't too worried about his absence. QB Trent Edwards said, "I think if Jason Peters shows up for the Seattle game for this year I think he can have another Pro Bowl season."
For skipping mandatory mini-camps, players can be fined in a lump sum of no more than just over $8,000. If his holdout continues into training camp, Peters can be fined for more than $14,000 a day.
In addition to Peters' contract situation, the Bills will be looking at a possible extension for WR Lee Evans, whose contract expires at the end of the season. The front office has also been kept busy the past month with a slew of off-field player run-ins with the law- most notably RB Marshawn Lynch's alleged hit-and-run accident last week. It should be interesting to see if Dick Jauron can keep his team focused heading into training camp this summer, and help guide them to a season that will end the franchise's eight-year playoff drought.