Bills Notebook: Owens ready to go

A smattering of Bills news 'n notes. T.O. is back, Cato June signs with Houston, Kawika Mitchell changes his number and more...

--WR Terrell Owens missed the first two weeks of the team's voluntary conditioning workouts. But in a move that will surely help his public relations, the veteran wide receiver surprised his new teammates and coaches and reported midway through Week 3. The Bills do not begin voluntary full-squad workouts (organized team activities) until May 18 and the team's mandatory mini-camp isn't until June 9. Owens said he wouldn't be taking part in voluntary work but his change of heart was welcomed news, not that Owens needs guidance on how to stay in shape. But it was nice to check in with strength and conditioning coach John Allaire. "A vet like that, basically, it comes down to communication," Allaire said.

Owens said previously he was looking forward to sitting down with position coach Tyke Tolbert and see what plans are in store.

"I'm going to get myself from coach Tolbert the plays down, get the system down, the routes, the system, all of that stuff," Owens said. "The sooner we can get that done, the better we'll be. It's all about communication when you're out there on the football field, anyway. I'm looking forward to the opportunity. Get ready."

--Free-agent linebacker Cato June, who visited with the Bills and had hoped to receive a contract offer, signed with Houston. June, 29, made the Pro Bowl in 2006 when he helped the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl with a career-best 142 tackles.

--LB Kawika Mitchell has changed his number from 59 to 55. The number became free when free agent Angelo Crowell signed with Tampa Bay. Mitchell wore 55 while with the New York Giants in 2007 when they won the Super Bowl. Mitchell is hoping there is karma left in the double digits.

--RB Marshawn Lynch is rebuilding his name through involvement in a worthwhile community project. Lynch and cornerback Terrence McGee have become major financial sponsors for Buffalo's Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament held each June on the streets of downtown.

"They are really doing something pretty historic for the Gus Macker," Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said of McGee and Lynch. "Not only are they devoting some of their time, but they are putting up their personal dollars to support this event. It shows the kind of commitment that Terrence McGee and Marshawn Lynch have to the community and to the youth of the community."

The Macker attracts more than 4,000 players and 40,000 spectators making it the largest hoops tournament of its kind in the country. All proceeds go to the Police Athletic League and Kids Escaping Drugs.

Said McGee: "It was a good way for me to do something that was going to help kids. I know drugs are a big thing in the U.S. Any time you can try to help kids, give them a brighter future and better chance to get off the streets, I'm there for you."

--Coach Dick Jauron said at league meetings he plans to use more of Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott as a safety tandem. Buffalo would switch Whitner from strong safety to free safety depending on the game plan last season and it worked effectively in combination with Scott, a bigger player than starting free safety Ko Simpson, when he moved to the strong spot.

"Donte has played well at both positions, strong and free. Bryan is a big physical safety and played well in the role he has," Jauron said. "I see it continuing to some degree. But everybody would figure into it."

--New York state and Erie County are struggling to make their budgets work in these difficult economic times but making things even more strenuous are financial commitments of taxpayer money made to the Bills. New York is raising taxes on numerous services and items and cutting aid to health care and education. Still, a $3 million annual payment to the Bills as part of its lease agreement was approved will be made on time, officials said. Meanwhile, Erie County is behind on nearly $3 million in stadium improvements it is obligated to fund annually at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills are being patient but have given no indication they will forgive the county or state of their financial promises.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You can still add quality football players through the summer and you have the draft coming up. There's a lot of work to be done, we're not done yet, and we're looking forward to having a very competitive roster when we got to camp at the end of July." -- Bills COO Russ Brandon during a radio interview on WHTK Rochester.

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