This is the 2021 Training Camp Preview for the Buffalo Bills Center/Guard room. This will outline every known injury from 2020 and outlook heading into 2021.
Note: These are all the players on the current roster either designated a guard or center.
Appeared in 12 games, 3 postseason games.
After being declared inactive for the first 4 games of the season, Boettger began seeing his playing time rapidly increase, eventually starting 10 games over the season and playoffs. In addition, he did not suffer any publicly reported injuries, helping to maintain some sort of consistency on the offensive line due to all the injuries.
Boettger is a perfect example of the Bills ability to develop players, having kept him around since 2018, seeing snaps in 6 games before breaking out in 2020. While he is not immune from injury, I have little concern as he has been able to stay healthy since entering the NFL.
Appeared in 14 games, 3 postseason contests.
Still one of the top centers in the league, Morse continues to push forward despite his extensive injury history which includes:
- Concussion, Week 8, missed 1 game.
- Left elbow injury, Week 14, missed 0 games.
Morse has now had 5 documented concussions since entering the league in 2015. He missed the Week 9 contest against Seattle due to the concussion and then interestingly did not play against the Cardinals the next week. It’s important to note that he was active, meaning he cleared the concussion protocol.
Head coach Sean McDermott took a lot of flak for his decision not to play Morse and at the time, I was critical of that decision only because if he was healthy, he should play. I understood keeping him as a reserve lineman during the game, especially going into a bye week, but the decision was very curious with his status as a starter.
Morse has two years left on his contract and his 2022 dead cap hit is only $3.75 million, compared to $10.6 million in 2021. I am concerned regarding his ability to stay healthy dealing with the concussions. He has not had a season without a concussion since 2017 and every time a player has a concussion, the risks to suffer another one increases.
It is his body and career, so I understand any decision that he makes, but I see a scenario where he plays in 2021 and the team either let’s him play out his contract in 2022 or cuts him after this season due to the injury history and age. I could also see where they draft a center in 2022, letting Morse groom him for the position.
They already appear to have Jon Feliciano as a steady backup and potentially Jack Anderson or Ryan Bates as options down the line. Either way, with 5 documented concussions, the Bills must have a plan in place for this season and next.
Appeared in 9 games, 3 postseason games.
Feliciano has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the past two seasons and still has played exceptionally well despite all the pain he was dealing with. Coming off a left rotator cuff repair originally suffered in the 2019 preseason, injuries immediately began within days of starting training camp in 2020. Injuries include:
- Right pectoral tear, preseason, missed 7 games.
- Back injury, Week 9, missed 0 games.
- Foot injury, Week 12, later revealed to be dealing with plantar fasciitis, missed 0 games.
- Right knee injury, Week 13, missed 0 games.
He has shown his toughness and his ability to play through injury, earning him the Ed Block Courage award as voted on by his teammates at the end of the season. This award exemplifies inspiration, courage, and sportsmanship. After what he dealt with over the past two seasons, I would consider him a worthy recipient.
Fortunately, the pectoral tear I am not worried about as he was able to get through the season without suffering any setbacks. I have not found literature that supports re-injury rates to the area, though it can’t be entirely ruled out. He would be best to not attempt to max out on the bench to limit his injury risk.
Details about the back and knee injury are vague but injuries to those areas are part of the positional demands. The foot injury was likely later revealed as plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the thick fibrous band that allows the foot to act as a lever to push off effectively during walking and running. It’s a very painful condition to deal with, especially in the morning. He did reveal that it cleared up after the season, though it could return at any time. This was likely due to ramping back up to full football activities and overuse from going 0-to-100 percent in terms of playing last season.
I have little concern for him entering this season because it’s been established that he will play through most injuries and it will take something significant to sideline him.
New to the roster:
A longshot to make the active roster out of camp, Anderson comes to the team as a 7th-round draft pick from the 2021 NFL draft. Besides a pair of shoulder injuries, one to each side in back-to-back years, Anderson comes in healthy following his junior season. I expect him to find a place on the practice squad and maybe the occasional snaps if called up to the active roster due to injury.
Gonzalez comes to Buffalo with no injury concerns after being cut by the Cardinals out of camp in 2020 and not catching on with a team. Also a long shot, his performance in training camp will determine whether he has a place somewhere in Buffalo or elsewhere.
Lamp has not been able to stay healthy since entering the league as a second round pick by the Chargers in 2017. A torn ACL with complications and a fibular fracture has defined his time in the league so far. He was able to stay healthy all last season, but how he performs and his health will determine his fate for 2021. I like the signing in that it’s low risk, high reward, but he will have to prove himself before he can make this roster.
A UDFA coming out of Fresno State, he comes to the Bills with few injuries, but he will have to have an incredible camp or benefit from the misfortune of others in order to stick around for 2021.
Appeared in 16 games, 3 postseason games.
Winters started in 9 games as an admiral replacement with the offensive line in constant flux due to injuries. He did what the Bills asked of him but he didn’t move the needle either thinking they found a diamond in the rough.
Injury wise, he suffered a leg contusion in the preseason, a right knee contusion against the Raiders that lingered during practice until Week 8, followed by a knee injury, side not specified, in Week 9. Considering all the offensive lineman the Bills drafted, it only makes sense Winters moves on in free agency, going out to the Cardinals to extend his career.
Appeared in 4 games.
Spain reported foot soreness during team warm-ups just prior to Week 5, his only reported injury. Shortly after, he left the Bills unhappy with details of the acrimonious split still not public. He was released and picked up by the Bengals, slogging through the remainder of a disappointing season.
2021 Injury Expectations
Besides Mitch Morse, the outlook is good for the guard position from an injury standpoint. My hope is that Morse does not suffer yet another concussion, but his history doesn’t bode well. The Bills have a contingency plan of at least Feliciano acting as a backup and ideally developing someone else in the wings, but having Morse healthy will be key for consistency along the offensive line, something they sorely lacked last season.
Most of the established players have some notable injury history, but have proven to be available when called upon. This will be an interesting group to watch in training camp, especially if others that are termed OL such as Cody Ford or Ryan Bates move over to guard to earn a roster spot.