After a long layoff since January’s loss in the AFC Championship, the Buffalo Bills took to the field for the first mandatory practices of the season last week. Despite practicing only 2 out of the original 3 scheduled days, we still got to observe a lot of updates on the offseason training of veterans, impact rookies may have, and what roles may be up for grabs. In addition, we also got to see where several players were either returning from injury or dealing with new, unknown ailments.
DE Bryan Cox Jr. (left leg/foot)
Cox went down on Tuesday with a lower leg injury, requiring assistance to get off the field to a cart. Not much has been reported since the injury which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how it’s viewed.
The lack of an official report by the team indicates that it may not be season-ending such as an ACL, fracture, or Achilles. However, without video or further reporting, it is impossible to say what the specific injury entailed. This will be something to watch come training camp, but if this injury lingers, this could mean a quick exit for Cox with how deep the defensive line room has become this offseason.
S Josh Thomas (unknown)
Thomas, a practice squad player for most of the season last year, has been dealing with an unknown injury since OTA’s, showing up in a red jersey. Looking back at reports, he appeared in Week 8 and 10, but suffered no publicly reported injuries or observed injuries on the field.
Like Cox, he will be a name to watch come training camp to see if this is something that could prevent him from competing for a depth spot.
Recovering from injury
G Cody Ford (right meniscus tear)
Ford continues to work back from his right meniscus tear suffered in practice right before Thanksgiving, requiring surgery. He has been seen wearing a full length compression sleeve on the right leg while wearing a red jersey, indicating no-contact.
It has been almost 7 months since the surgery and while he is likely close to 100 percent, it was smart that he did not participate in meaningless practices. The compression stocking indicates to me that he was possibly still dealing with swelling in the knee as he worked back into shape. This is not cause for concern as this can be an expected response even this late into his rehab process.
Ford has been banged during his time in the league and will need a healthy season in Year 3 in order to warrant keeping him around past his rookie deal. If the team kept him at one position with consistent lineups on the line, this could allow Ford to play to his highest level.
RB Zack Moss (right ankle injury)
Moss continues to work back from his right ankle injury sustained in the Wild Card game against the Colts. This injury ultimately required a tightrope procedure shortly after.
Like Ford, he likely was close to 100 percent, but the training staff felt it was not worth it to push him during the two days. Tightrope procedures can typically be played on much sooner, but this is the offseason and getting back to full health is more important than mandatory minicamp. I have no concerns for his availability come late July.
WR Isaiah Hodgins (left shoulder)
Missing his entire rookie year due to a shoulder injury dating back to college, Hodgins finally got it repaired in December shortly after getting activated before reverting to IR. While it still has not been specified which injury he was dealing with, the fact that he was dealing with this dating back to college and attempting to play though it suggests that this was indeed a labrum tear.
Hodgins has since been cleared for full activity, further supporting the timeline for a labrum repair. He unfortunately does have a chance to re-tear the surgically repaired area, upwards of 26 percent, but his position as a wide receiver would be a smaller risk than that of an offensive lineman.
Other injuries to note
RB Antonio Williams (foot)
Williams injured his foot during running back drills in early June, but rebounded for a strong minicamp several weeks later. He didn’t appear to be limited at any point and due to Moss and Matt Brieda being limited, this allowed Williams to take more reps to possibly solidify a place for him on the team come September.
RB Matt Breida (unknown)
Coming off a hamstring strain during his time in Miami, Breida comes to Buffalo with no new publicly reported injuries, but it’s important to note that he was not wearing a red jersey according to what was reported.
Unless there is more information available, this is something to note but nothing more.
LB Matt Milano (left pectoral)
Milano was interviewed during camp and the health of his pectoral injury from last year was brought up. He came right out and said how he was 100 percent at the end of last season once he returned.
He was still observed wearing the shoulder harness despite being healthy, but this was likely more precautionary to get through the remainder of the season. It may have also been a diversion to opponents thinking he still wasn’t effective. Either way, it’s excellent that he did not require surgery or have any lingering issues.
Outside of Cox, there are no concerns heading into training camp. Having a healthy team coming into camp, not dealing with the NFI or PUP list will allow for positional battles to commence and see who is truly the best.
It is also important to note that the Bills added DT Eli Ankou to the roster on June 21st, bringing the total roster to 89 players. While Ankou has bounced around the league, he does bring several years of experience and depth to a position that needed serious upgrades following very public struggles in the playoffs against the Chiefs.
This is excellent to see the continuity of the team returning and healthy to hopefully take the next step towards reaching the Super Bowl. While it may be a long month until training camp starts, it is satisfying knowing the Bills are in a great position to maximize their chances for another deep playoff run in 2021.
Top Photo Credit: Buffalo Bills