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Team Report - BUFFALO BILLS

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INSIDE SLANT

Marcell Dareus was back on campus Wednesday at St. John Fisher College, but the Buffalo Bills' Pro Bowl defensive tackle is not practicing with the team.

Dareus reported to training camp with the rest of his teammates Friday, then took part in the conditioning test Saturday which he failed and thus was not cleared to practice. He was excused from camp Sunday because he had to fly home to Alabama to make a court appearance Monday. He was arrested on May 5 during a traffic stop for having in his possession synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Dareus was entered into an intervention program, and if he completes it successfully, those charges will be dropped.

His return flight to Buffalo was cancelled Monday night and he did not get back to Rochester until Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, as the Bills went through a 2 1/2-hour practice, Dareus worked on the sidelines doing a variety of conditioning exercises including sprints, stationary bike and core work using a medicine ball and ropes.

"For any coach, as long as all your players are here and they're in camp, that's always a good thing," said coach Doug Marrone, who has maintained patience throughout all of Dareus' troubles which included two arrests in May, the second for street racing a few miles away from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Marrone did not know when Dareus would be ready to take the conditioning test that he needs to pass in order to practice.

"He'll be taking the test when our weight coaches think he's ready, and not putting him in any jeopardy," said Marrone.

Dareus has not spoken to the media since the end of the 2013 season. Upon his return, he released a statement through the team:

"After dealing with a personal matter in Alabama, I am excited to return to training camp to rejoin my teammates in our preparations for the 2014 season. Right now, my focus is on earning the trust of my teammates, coaches and the fans while continuing to improve as a football player. I have a passion for this game and I want to be here to help this organization achieve its goals. There are things I need to work on professionally and personally to make sure I can be accountable to myself, my family, this team and this community. My focus will remain on achieving that goal one day at a time. I want to thank the Bills organization, Coach Marrone and the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support."

To date, Dareus has missed all four practices in camp. This on top of missing most of the organized team activities in the spring. His last football work came in the mandatory mini-camp in mid-June which ended the offseason program. He has a lot of catching up to do, especially with a new defense being installed under new coordinator Jim Schwartz.

CAMP CALENDAR

Players reported: July 18

First practice: July 20

Aug. 13-14: Joint practices at Steelers camp

NOTES, QUOTES

--Although EJ Manuel and the offense has struggled in the early going at camp, especially the first two days in which the practices were conducted with full pads, allowing the defense to be more aggressive. Still, he is entrenched as the starting quarterback and the only way that changes is if he gets hurt.

As for the backup job, that is wide open and Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel are in a tight battle.

Coming into camp it was assumed that Lewis was the clear-cut No. 2, and Tuel would be fighting Dennis Dixon for the third-string job. However, Tuel made nice strides in the offseason, and that has convinced coach Doug Marrone to give him a more equitable share of the second-team reps.

"We have a battle for the second-team quarterback," said Marrone. "Jeff did a nice job in OTAs and he's earned himself some more reps."

--Another position where a battle wasn't really anticipated is transpiring at right guard.

When asked specifically if the right guard job was up for grabs, Marrone said simply, "Yes it is."

Holdover starter Kraig Urbik has not looked very good, and he's sharing first-team reps with, among others, Chris Hairston. Hairston, who sat out all of 2013, has played only tackle in the NFL, but the coaching staff experimented with him at both guard positions in the spring, and he played well enough to earn a look in camp.

"Wherever I can help this team, wherever I can make this team, it's something I've got to work on. Guard is very new to me. I'm learning a lot more about the game and the intricacies of playing guard," Hairston told the team's website. "(Kraig) Urbik is helping me out, (Eric) Wood is helping me out. The coaches are doing a real good job of really giving me some time and good teaching. A little bit of getting in with the ones and playing against good (players) is always good. It's helping me come along."

-- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has already created a buzz at camp with several big-time plays. Wednesday, he made a dazzling one-handed catch on a slant route after slipping coming out of his cut. On Monday, he made a couple sparkling plays that had the crowd roaring its approval.

"As a coach, you have expectations, but he's performed better than I would've expected," said Marrone. "I say that, because I don't think I've really ever appreciated the maturity of the kid. I think when you look at that you can understand why he's the way he is."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--TE Scott Chandler left practice Sunday with a groin injury, and the team is running out of replacement options. Chandler re-signed a two-year deal to return to the Bills in the offseason. Chandler is coming off a 2013 season in which he set career highs with 53 catches for 655 yards and two touchdowns. He has caught a pass in 32 consecutive games, most in franchise history among tight ends.

The Bills are running thin at the position. Tony Moeaki hurt his hamstring on Friday and Chris Gragg spent two days in the hospital being treated for heat-related cramps. He might not practice until the end of the week.

--DT Marcell Dareus returned to camp after a two-day absence to tend to his legal affairs, and he did conditioning work on the sidelines Wednesday. He still has to pass his conditioning test before he will be cleared to practice.

--DT Alan Branch is in the same situation as Dareus. He has yet to pass his conditioning test and is only able to do work on his own until he gets over that obstacle and is cleared.

--LT Cordy Glenn is doing light conditioning as he battles back from an undisclosed illness, and he is working his way toward taking the conditioning test.

--TE Chris Gragg suffered from heat-related cramps and has sat out the last two days of practice. He was hospitalized, and had not been released as of Wednesday morning.

--FB Evan Rodriguez was also hospitalized for heat-related cramps and he was released after missing two days of practice.

PERSONNEL TRACKER

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--FS Jim Leonhard (not tendered as UFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED

--WR Sammy Watkins (1/4): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--T Cyrus Kouandjio (2/44): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Preston Brown (3/73): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--CB Ross Cockrell (4/109): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--G Cyril Richardson (5/153): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Randell Johnson (7/221): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--T Seantrel Henderson (7/237): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--K Dan Carpenter: UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--TE Mike Caussin: Potential RFA; terms unknown.

--TE Scott Chandler; UFA; terms unknown.

--WR Chris Hogan: ERFA; $495,000/1 yr.

--OL Antoine McClain: ERFA; $495,000/1 yr.

--P Brian Moorman: Potential UFA; $955,000/1 yr.

--FB Frank Summers: ERFA; $570,000/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--WR Ramses Barden: FA; $1.475M/2 yrs.

--RB Bryce Brown (trade Eagles).

--RB Anthony Dixon: UFA 49ers; $3.5M/3 yrs, $750,000 SB.

--QB Dennis Dixon: FA; $1.475M/2 yrs.

--CB Corey Graham: UFA Ravens; $16M/4 yrs.

--LB Keith Rivers: UFA Giants; $4.05M/2 yrs, $1M SB.

--LB Brandon Spikes: UFA Patriots; $3M/1 yr, $900,000 SB.

--LB Stevenson Sylvester: Not tendered as UFA by Steelers; terms unknown.

--G Chris Williams: UFA Rams; $13.5M/4 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.

--WR Mike Williams (trade Buccaneers).

--DE Jarius Wynn: UFA Cowboys; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--S Jairus Byrd: UFA Saints; $54M/6 yrs, $11M SB/$27.9M guaranteed.

--DE Alex Carrington: UFA Rams; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--WR Stevie Johnson (traded 49ers).

--QB Kevin Kolb (released/failed physical).

--LB Arthur Moats: UFA Steelers; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.

--T Thomas Welch: Not tendered as RFA/Saints; terms unknown.

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