PITTSFORD, NY — This has been a somewhat frustrating training camp from the fans’ perspective, and there is no shortage of grumbling going on at St. John Fisher College, especially from people leaving disappointed with the experience.
It was bad enough that the Bills scheduled only 13 practices at Fisher, with the majority of them starting at the early alarm-clock time of 8:45. This constitutes their shortest stay here in the 18 years they’ve trained in Pittsford. Also, there was only one night practice scheduled, that on opening night back on July 30.
But what really has fans hot is the fact that coach Sean McDermott has taken the team over to the side field for much of the last three practices because he said the main grass field at the Polisseni Track and Field Complex is getting chewed up and wasn’t safe.
There is very limited viewing vantage points on that field, and it has left fans seated in the bleachers, or those enjoying the corporate hospitality areas, aggravated because there’s no football taking place.
“It’s just natural wear and tear on the field, that’s all,” said McDermott. “We’re trying to keep the practice in front of the fans, the grandstand if you will, as much as we can. I want the fans to have a great view and sightlines of our football team, that’s what they’re here for and we want to give them that. Just with the wear and tear on field one, if you will, over the course of time, it wears down a little bit and we just have to offset. It’s like crop rotation; you’ve got to move it around a little bit. We’ll be back on the other field in due time here, we just need to give it some rest so it can heal up.”
Kathy Fetes of Webster was one of many fans unhappy with the situation on Tuesday.
“Everyone would like to have a better chance to view them,” she said. “When you’re here on the little field, you can’t see them at all. There were so many people in the stands, and they realized most of the practice was going to be here, so they all had to move and there’s not a lot of places to see them here.”
The Bills don’t practice at Fisher again until Sunday afternoon, and they finish with morning sessions Monday and Tuesday. With a week to rest, you would assume the main field will be ready to go.
Together again: It was pretty easy for Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to remember the last time he played catch with his newest teammate, wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
“Warming up for the Super Bowl,” Taylor said, referring to Super Bowl 47 on Feb. 3, 2013 at the Superdome in New Orleans where the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in a 34-31 thriller. “I’d warm him up to get him ready for games, and that was the last time we ended up connecting on a pass. So, it was great to get back out there and throw to him.”
Boldin signed a one-year contract Monday to join the Bills, and he made his St. John Fisher College debut Tuesday morning wearing his familiar No. 81 jersey as the man who was previously wearing that number, Andre Holmes, had no problem giving it up and switching to the inverse 18.
Taylor was clearly fired up to get an all-time great like Boldin into this Buffalo offense that was sorely lacking for veteran leadership and potential production at wide receiver. Only eight men in NFL history have caught more passes than Boldin’s 1,076, and though he’ll be 37 in October, Boldin is still playing at an above-average level.
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“In the little bit of time I had with him today and some time we spent after practice and working with him, he’s still a great route runner, a guy who has strong hands and he displayed that in a couple of the one-on-one periods and the team periods,” said Taylor. “He’s a natural catcher in traffic. Definitely excited to have him be a part of this team. I know what he brings leadership-wise and as far as a player, he brings a lot to the table.”
McDermott said that while Boldin has done most of his work in recent years lined up in the slot, particularly last season in Detroit, he’s not going to pigeon-hole him into any specific role just yet.
“I don’t want to put any type of parameters on it at this time,” said McDermott. “We’ll move him around and put him in position, just like the other players, to be successful. It’s where he can help us — and if it’s outside, it’s outside, and certainly if it’s in the slot, it’s in the slot.”
Let’s get it started: The preseason schedule opens Thursday night for the Bills when they host the Minnesota Vikings. McDermott said it will be business as usual for the starters in the first game, they’ll play probably a quarter at most.
These games aren’t for the starters anyway, they’re for the depth players who are trying to make the team, and McDermott said he’s eagerly awaiting the first game to see how his players react.
“When the lights come on, it’s a little bit different, which is part of the reason why we went down to Buffalo last week, so we could get a dry run and also so the players could get a dry run,” McDermott said of last week’s practice at New Era Field. “We’ve got quite a number of young players on this roster who have never played in a game before, so this will be their first time. We do get a lot off of the evaluation in games. You come to find out things that you never knew before. Just like when you go from the spring, where it’s just helmets, to full pads. There’s a difference, some things come out. That’ll be part of the evaluation and what we’re anxious to see come Thursday night.”