Inside Bills Report

It's back to basics for the Buffalo Bills.<BR><BR> After enduring only one double-session practice as a full team in training camp last summer under Gregg Williams, the Bills will have 11 two-a-days under rookie head coach Mike Mularkey.<BR><BR> Practices started Aug. 1 at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. The Bills will train here until Aug. 26.<BR><BR>

Williams started off tough, scheduling 14 doubles in 2001, then backed off dramatically. Mularkey may eventually do the same.

"I know it hasn't been like this in years past, but I'd rather start at this level, and if we need to cut back, fine," said the former Vikings and Steelers tight end. "You can't start (low) and then say, 'We don't have enough practices, we're not hitting hard enough.' None of the two-a-days are back to back. ... It's not as grueling as it sounds."

Mularkey was hoping he'd a have a full roster to open camp with. First-round picks Lee Evans and J.P. Losman were unsigned on the eve of the player's reporting date, the only players not under contract.

"We're talking every day. We have two players who want to be in camp on time," GM Tom Donahoe said.

The Bills' rookie pool, a little more than $4 million, is being stretched since they have two first-rounders to sign. With six players drafted between the 10 and 21 spots signed by other teams, Buffalo does have parameters to work with regarding Evans, the 13th pick, and Losman, the 22nd.

Meanwhile, Donahoe denied reports that the Dolphins - reeling from the retirement of Ricky Williams - have inquired about the chances of trading for running back Travis Henry.

If they did, "It would be a short conversation," Donahoe snapped.

Donahoe is famous for throwing water on potential hot stories, but in this instance, it appears he's being truthful.

The Bills may have two big-name running backs - Henry and second-year man Willis McGahee - but until McGahee proves he's all the way back from a severe knee injury, Donahoe is in no position to deal one of them away.

Maybe in 2005 but not 2004.

CAMP CALENDAR: St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y. Players report on July 31 with the first practice scheduled for Aug. 1. Camp breaks on Aug. 26. Team hosts scrimmage against Cleveland Browns on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. There are two night practices scheduled for Aug. 4 and Aug. 11 at 6:30.



NOTES, QUOTES

--Alex Van Pelt, the Bills' longtime backup quarterback who is moving into the team's radio broadcast booth, is in training, doing mock broadcasts. "I've been doing a lot of practice, trying to get a feel for the process," Van Pelt said. "I've been around this game a long time. I know the ins and outs of football. I've seen some of the best play and you get a great view from the sidelines." Now it's from the press box.

--Ever wonder what positions on a football team are most similar in terms of athleticism? Rusty Jones, the Bills director of physical development, divides the team into three groups when devising conditioning and weight-lifting programs: offensive and defensive linemen; linebackers, tight ends and running backs; wide receivers, quarterbacks, defensive backs, kickers and punters. "This team is in great shape," Jones told the Bills' website. "With the improvements in technology and training programs in the past few years, this team has really taken advantage of that."

--RB Willis McGahee, the second-year "rookie," has set a modest goal for the season as he works his way back from major knee surgery. "I'd accomplish a lot by scoring a touchdown. That's good enough for me."

--Ex-Bills' fullback Sam Gash, 35, was cut by the New Orleans Saints, likely bringing to an end his 12-year NFL career. Gash was a solid player for Buffalo, on the field and in the locker room, but was badly misused last season by coordinator Kevin Gilbride. One formation used frequently had the 242-pound Gash, one of the best blockers ever, split out at wide receiver. And people wonder why Buffalo finished 30th in offense and didn't score a TD in seven games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is as good as a team that I've been on, but that doesn't mean anything. Last year, we started out strong and then stumbled. At this point, looking at the guys around me, I feel really, really optimistic about our chances." - QB Drew Bledsoe on the start of his third Bills' training camp.



STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

EXPECTED BATTLES:

--Ryan Denney vs. Chris Kelsay for starting LDE - Denney won the job last year but Kelsay is no longer a rookie learning the ropes. He's got way more upside as a pass rusher. Even GM Tom Donahoe has stated Denney may never reach double digits in sacks.

--Ross Tucker vs. Mike Pucillo vs. Marques Sullivan for starting LG - Sullivan, a former starter, is clearly No. 3 in the race. Basically, he needs to get a little hungrier.

--Izell Reese vs. Coy Wire for starting FS - Wire, the former starter at strong safety until last season's 11th-hour signing of Lawyer Milloy, will get a look at the free safety job. He's a big hitter, but his range and hands are under question.

INJURY REPORT: The Bills don't plan to ease RB Willis McGahee (knee) into training camp drills. "No, we're going ahead like everybody is healthy," coach Mike Mularkey said.

McGahee has had no setbacks in his recovery from major knee surgery and even shed his brace during off-season drills. He will be monitored closely, of course, once the hitting begins. Asked if McGahee was 80, 90 or 100 percent back, Mularkey said: "That question to me has got to be answered when we get the

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