Insiders: Who Will Tote The Rock In Buffalo?

New England has had competition from the AFC East in recent years, yet continued to win because teams either lacked a viable defense or a consistent offense. The Buffalo Bills thought they figured out one way to beat the Patriots — by running the ball. The only question is; Who will carry the load? Travis Henry wants out and Willis McGahee is making waves. What's next?

Who Will Tote The Rock In Buffalo?
By Staff

With Willis McGahee taking the word "voluntary" seriously and Travis Henry taking his vow never to play for the Bills again serious, too, the remaining running backs on the roster received more work than expected during the team's first week of organized team activity.

Backups Joe Burns, Shaud Williams, rookie Lionel Gates and recently signed Dallas Cowboy free agent ReShard Lee gleefully gobbled up the extra repetitions. Each is battling for the No. 2 job behind McGahee.

"With those guys missing, we're getting lot of extra reps, a lot of mental reps, and the coaches can work one-on-one with us and spend the extra time that we need," said Gates, a seventh-round pick out of Louisville. "Every time I get a rep, I do as much as I can."

Although he prefers to have every one of his players under contract take part in all four weeks of OTAs, coach Mike Mularkey wasn't too concerned than McGahee skipped some early work. It is only May, and this is a good time to study the other players.

"It certainly doesn't hurt to have more opportunities," Mularkey said. "You're seeing Shaud more, Lionel, Joe Burns ...they get more reps and more chances to evaluate them. It's going to pay off for one of them."

Meanwhile, the unresolved Henry situation remains a sideshow each time the Bills gather as a team, particularly when the media is around to ask questions.

During last week's NFL meetings in Washington, D.C., Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams said he liked the idea of adding Henry to his payroll. Henry starred at the University of Tennessee.

"We're interested in Henry," Adams confirmed. "He wants to get out of Buffalo. We think he has a lot of ability. We think he has four good years left. Because of where he went to college, I think he'd be real popular with the fans. I think he'd be a real good addition."

The Titans want to shore up their running back position behind Chris Brown and are willing to give a fifth-round pick to Buffalo.

But that's way too low for the Bills, who are more than willing to wait until summer training camp when teams unhappy with their running back situation or that suffer injuries at the position, may call and offer a lot more.

"I don't know exactly how deep it goes with Mr. Adams but I don't know if it's a matter of pulling the trigger, it's just are we hitting the right target?" Mularkey said when asked about the Titans' opinion that Buffalo doesn't really want to move Henry. "If it's the right target, the trigger will be pulled but obviously it hasn't yet."


--Rookie CB Eric King, a good-looking fifth-round pick out of Wake Forest, is practicing with pieces of tape on one side of his facemask and helmet. Just as some horses need blinders, so do young cornerbacks who tend to look at the quarterback too much and lose their man in coverage. The tape is coordinator Jerry Gray's idea. "He's trying to create a tunnel vision type sense. If he's got to do it that way and it works, it might be a new fad," coach Mike Mularkey said.

--The Bills are still angling for competition at kicker for Rian Lindell, who struggled with long kicks last season. Free agent rookie Justin Langan of Western Illinois is on the club's list of prospects, and he's expected to get a tryout in June. Langan booted a pair of 53-yard field goals in college. Buffalo has one other kicker under contract, Owen Pochman, so Langan will have to do something extra special for the Bills to bring him to training camp.


The signing of former Miami Dolphin guard Greg Jerman improves Buffalo's depth in the middle and gives the coaches another option in their short-yardage packages.

Last year, the Bills used DTs Justin Bannan and Sam Adams as short-yardage blockers because their line depth was so poor.

Jerman, 6-5, 310, played 11 games over the past three seasons for Miami, mostly at guard in short-yardage situations. He signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002 after starting 38 games at Baylor. He was active for only one game last season.

MEDICAL WATCH: Rookie TE Kevin Everett, who tore his left ACL in mini-camp last month, has begun his rehabilitation program after undergoing surgery. While recovering from ACL tears can take up to a year, the Bills aren't ruling out the possibility that Everett could return to play at some point this season.

"He had his surgery and he's here diligently working every day with our trainers," coach Mike Mularkey said. "I can't predict a date when he'll be back, but if he keeps doing what he's doing with his rehab, it may be sooner than we hope."

Of course, Everett can only salvage his rookie season if he's not placed on season-ending injured reserve, which does remain an option.

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