June OTAs, minicamp set
The Bills have scheduled 11 days of organized team activities followed by a mandatory minicamp in June. While there is no contact and players do not pad up, the practices are very productive, allowing the team to hit the ground running come July and the start of summer training camp. Installation of plays, experimenting with personnel and personnel evaluation takes place.
"The OTAs are the final prep for training camp, the first lengthy introduction of our schemes to our drafted players, and the first introduction of our drafted players and our college free agents to our veteran players," coach Dick Jauron said. "All of these give our young players a much, much better chance to compete, to contribute, and to fit in to our football team in the 2009 season."
No. 1 pick Aaron Maybin, a defensive end out of Penn State, didn't sound overwhelmed practicing with Bills veterans for the first time. Things are faster, though. "A little bit, nothing too serious," he said. "Football is football, we're all just out here having fun and trying to get better."
Brown takes some heat
Buffalo mayor Byron Brown is taking criticism for giving wide receiver Terrell Owens a key to the city. Many feel such an honor should be reserved for people who have actually contributed to the city's well being, but Brown said giving a key to a professional athlete of Owens' national stature was a chance for the economically challenged city to promote itself.
The mayor had fun, too. In giving Owens his key, he attached two provisions: he equal the 10 TDs he caught for the Cowboys last year and that he get the Bills to the playoffs, or the city's symbolic locks will be changed and the key will be useless. Said Owens: "The 10 touchdowns won't be a problem. With the help of my teammates, the playoffs shouldn't be a problem, either."
Mitchell changes number
LB Kawika Mitchell switched numbers from 59 to 55. He has worn both in his career and said he likes them both. "The only difference is, I think I had two good productive years in both numbers, but one I got to win a Super Bowl in it, so I think that makes it a little more special to me," he said of No. 55, which he wore with the New York Giants.
Lynch appeals suspension
As expected, running back Marshawn Lynch has filed an appeal of his three-game suspension to start the season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. There is no telling when Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear the appeal. Goodell suspended Lynch after the player pled guilty to reduced gun possession charges less than a year after Lynch's involvement in a hit-and-run accident.
Lynch's appeal is disappointing in the eyes of his critics considering he had vowed publicly to change his ways and show accountability. Apparently, that accountability only extends to suspensions he agrees with. The Bills aren't expecting a successful appeal by Lynch; they went out and signed free agent Dominic Rhodes and handed Fred Jackson a four-year contract extension.
Quarterback Trent Edwards and wide receiver Lee Evans took part in batting practice before a recent Toronto Blue Jays game, and Edwards threw out the first pitch. Edwards smacked two home runs in BP and Evans consistently made contact, hitting several line drives.
"I wasn't surprised," Edwards said of his home run power. "I played a lot when I was growing up. I played whiffle ball with my mom in the front yard, so that helps. This is obviously a little different, but the pitcher did a great job. It's all about pitching and finding the sweet spot on the bat."
The Bills host the New York Jets on Dec. 3 in Toronto, the second of five regular-season games scheduled for Toronto through 2012.
Whitner heading back to court
Strong safety Donte Whitner is due back in a Cleveland courtroom on June 19 to fight charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest outside a Cleveland bar on April 11. A judge granted Whitner and his attorney more time to review evidence. Whitner said a videotape of the incident has surfaced that will help his case.