Prioleau: 'I'm no stranger to competition'

At first it didn't seem like a very good sign for Pierson Prioleau. The Bills signed Izell Reese last week to compete with Prioleau at free safety, and then on Monday, they opened their voluntary off-season workout program with Prioleau absent.

Uh-oh. That's one strike against Prioleau, I thought. If there's someone who needs to be up in Buffalo for the voluntary workouts, it's certainly the guy who's going to be involved in one of the Bills' more interesting training camp battles. Prioleau simply has got to be at those workouts if he wants to be the starter.

I reasoned that maybe his absence was a minor form of protest against the Reese signing. That would be ridiculous, though. Prioleau knows his role in the defense and on the team.

And besides, that wasn't the Pierson Prioleau I knew – the guy is upbeat and doesn't sulk when he's thrown a challenge. He figures why should he expend his energy on that stuff he can't control?

So I had to get to the bottom of his absence.

"Where are you?" I asked him over the phone.

"I'm in Virginia."

"What's your off-season been like? Are you working out? Say, speaking of workouts, didn't the off-season workouts start in Orchard Park Monday?"

Prioleau told me that he had an extra week because he and his wife Alicia had their five-and-a-half-month-old son Pierson Jalen Prioleau, or P.J., recently christened and they had a family celebration planned.

See, he had a perfectly acceptable explanation.

Prioleau said that he's been actively working out in Radford, Va., where his off-season home is. He added that he's been studying his game tapes at Virginia Tech and also Buffalo and San Francisco. He usually does that in the off-season, but he pointed out that this off-season he was doing it much sooner than he used to.

"I'm trying to improve my vision and range of flowing sideline to sideline," Prioleau said. "I intend to get my hands on more balls this season. So when I watch the tape, I can remember what I was seeing as I played on the field. But watching it from afar, I can notice things that maybe I hadn't seen, or maybe I thought I saw, but weren't really happening out there. Film study helps you to not be easily fooled."

Early in the off-season Prioleau concentrates on conditioning and flexibility. He'll work on the strength training a little later as the Bills get closer to training camp.

Between now and then, Prioleau will have to meet his opponent, Reese, whom he doesn't know personally. He also hasn't had much contact with the Bills other than talking to Coy Wire once about his off-season in Orchard Park. No one told Prioleau that the team was looking for another free safety to compete with him. Generally, Prioleau keeps to himself and doesn't seem part of Buffalo's inner circle. But that doesn't bother him much.

As for Reese, Prioleau's ready to battle.

"I'm no stranger to competition," he said, pointing out that ever since San Francisco cut him in 2001, he's had to battle for jobs – including getting a tryout with the Bills two seasons ago after he spent the first 10 weeks of 2001 sitting in his Virginia home unemployed, wondering what happened to his NFL career.

He added, "Last year I competed with (Travares) Tillman and (Tony) Driver, who's still with us, and now Izell. The way I see it is that it just should motivate players to get better. I'm looking forward to it. I'm pushing myself to work hard so I can try to maintain that spot."

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