Buffalo Bills: Recapping Latest Buzz Heading into Training Camp
Don't look now, but the Buffalo Bills will report to training camp in 11 days. That's less than two weeks!
With training camp just around the corner, let's sort out the latest storylines surrounding the Bills. What's going on with the sale process? Why are players no longer on the Bills still concerned with the Bills? We'll dig into all that and more in the coming slides.
A Lost Legend
By now you've probably heard the news that Kiko Alonso is out for the year with an ACL injury.
It's a tough loss for the Bills, but it is by no means a reason to write the season off. There are still plenty of reasons to be excited about the Bills heading into training camp and beyond.
The Bills still have established playmakers throughout the defense, and new ones could emerge this season. Stephon Gilmore could establish himself as one of the league's top corners, and Jerry Hughes is looking to build on his 10-sack season from last year.
And the Bills even have some rookies who could come in and break out like Alonso did last year. Per Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, Bills coaches were extremely impressed with third-round pick Preston Brown, who could help replace Alonso this year.
Does the loss of Alonso hurt the Bills defense? No question. But if the unit builds on the momentum from last year and finds a committee to replace what Alonso did, the Bills defense should be able to have another successful season.
Jim Kelly Making Progress
While continuing his battle with cancer, Bills legend Jim Kelly is out of the hospital and slowly getting back to his regular life.
Per Anna Stolzenburg of BuffaloBills.com, Kelly said he will be able to attend the entirety of his five-day football camp, which started Wednesday. This comes just a few weeks after Kelly made an unexpected visit to Bills minicamp and addressed the team.
Part of Kelly's message to the team was to "make this your team" and that he was ready for some Bills games in January.
While he can't do anything to help the Bills on the field, just being able to see one of the all-time greats battling for his life has to inspire the players. That he is determined to still be so involved with the team and the community is a testament to Kelly's greatness.
And he may be able to help the team a little more off the field...
Sale Process Moving Along
The sale process of the Bills keeps rolling along, and Kelly's name has come up lately.
Tim Graham at The Buffalo News reported that the Bills have made their financial books available to potential bidders. Graham's report confirmed that Terry Pegula, Tom Golisano, the Jon Bon Jovi group and Donald Trump are believed to have been given access to the Bills' financials.
So where does Kelly fit into all that? Well, Graham also said in a separate report that Jeffrey Gundlach is looking into bidding on the team and that he has contacted Kelly about forming a group. Gundlach is a Western New York Native, and per Graham, he "expressed interest" in buying the Bills three years ago.
Gundlach is the CEO of DoubleLine Capital, which is an investment firm based in Los Angeles that manages $50 billion in assets. Graham said a DoubleLine spokesman wouldn't comment on Gundlach's interest in the Bills.
Pegula and his wife are also making moves that reflect their serious interest in buying the team. Again thanks to Graham, the Pegulas have hired Steve Greenberg to oversee their involvement in the process. Greenberg is the managing director of Allen & Company and has helped facilitate the sale of several MLB and NBA teams.
Already the owners of the Buffalo Sabres, the Pegulas would almost assuredly keep the Bills in Western New York if they buy the team. Graham said they have a "strong desire to have the Buffalo Bills remain a centerpiece" of the area, via a statement they released through the Sabres.
Considering the rate the process is going, the Bills could have new owners before next season is over.
Donte Whitner Stirring the Pot
Donte Whitner is a former Buffalo Bill. The operative word here is former.
Whitner is heading into his first season with the Cleveland Browns, his third NFL team since being drafted by the Bills in the first round in 2006. You'd think Whitner would be concerned with getting to know his new teammates and learning Mike Pettine's complicated defense.
However, Whitner spent his July 4 weekend in a Twitter war with Bills fans. It started when Sammy Watkins told Ohio.com he was excited to play the Browns this year. That led to Whitner telling Watkins to be quiet and then making jokes about the Bills being relocated.
Naturally, Bills fans didn't appreciate the joke. Even former players were irked, as former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley and his wife got involved (beware of possible NSFW language when following that link). Eventually, Whitner made a comment about Talley's daughter, which set Talley off and led to Whitner challenging Talley to a boxing match.
A boxing match. Come on now. I guess you can't expect anything less from someone who considered changing his name to "Hitner." Watkins responded admirably, saying the "game is played on the field." That's a rookie sounding savvier than a veteran.
Whitner's comments likely won't rile up any other current players, and I'm sure Doug Marrone has forbidden any of them to get involved further with Whitner on Twitter. But who knows what could happen on the field in Week 13 when the Browns come to Buffalo.
Chances are there will be more excitement in that game than the 6-3 rock fight from 2009.
Players to Watch in Camp
As part of the "camp countdown" series on BuffaloBills.com, Chris Brown mentioned five training camp sleepers to keep an eye on.
One of them was defensive tackle Stefan Charles. Brown said Charles "doesn't allow many to move him off his spot." With the potential of Marcell Dareus being suspended for his offseason transgressions, the Bills will be looking to work in some depth on the interior of the defensive line.
Some position battles will also be sorted out during training camp. Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks will battle for the safety spot opposite Aaron Williams. Nickell Robey, Corey Graham and rookie Ross Cockrell will vie for the nickel corner spot. And some offensive line gigs, most notably right tackle, will also be up for grabs.
Having positional battles is good for the Bills. It means there are a lot of young talented players on the roster who will still have an impact even if they don't start. There is still plenty of work to do, but the Bills are well on their way to having a playoff-caliber squad.