Reviewing the injuries at the special teams unit & what the 2019 version may look like.
Training camp is here! After nearly 8 months of waiting, the Bills break for training camp on Thursday & we are one step closer to having meaningful Sunday’s again. Today’s article marks the finale of the positional reviews for the 2018 season. Special teams bringing up the rear and rounding out the remaining Bills players on the roster.
First up is LS Reid Ferguson. The now veteran snapper has made a nice home for himself in Buffalo, appearing in every game the last 2 seasons while not missing a snap and avoiding injury. While there are not many stats for long snappers, he did accumulate 3 total tackles, 2 solo, 1 assisted. He will be coming back this season as the most consistent special teams player and look to improve on their performance from last season.
P Matt Darr appeared in 5 games this past season, punting the ball 20 times for 809 yards. He also did not suffer any injuries but his time with the team was solely due to the injuries and inconsistencies at a normally stable punter position. Darr has since moved onto the New York Jets for the 2019 season.
P Colton Schmidt had two stints with the team, winning the job coming out of training camp before getting cut in favor of Bojorquez. However, Schmidt did get re-signed to the team for 3 games after Bojorquez went down with injury. He was able to make 16 punts for 676 yards during his brief time in Buffalo and avoid injury. He is currently a free agent but unlikely to return to Buffalo this coming season.
P Cory Carter missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in the Browns preseason game. This was the result of a Browns player running into Carter’s leg after he got the punt off, he was unable to land safely on his plant leg, the knee hyperextended and the ACL tore. Carter spent all of last season on IR but the team appeared to like him enough to bring him back to compete for the starting job this season. To note, he was the only Bills player to suffer an ACL tear last season.
Moving onto P Corey Bojorquez, he suffered a torn labrum during the Tennessee Titans game in which he attempted a botched fake field goal. While he was attempting to throw the ball, he was tackled and the force of his fully flexed arm led to a labral tear. He was able to play several more games before being shut down and sent to IR. Bojorquez appeared in 8 games, totaling 45 punts for 2028 yards & 1 block. He appears to be fully healthy coming into this season and should have a healthy competition with P Cory Carter for the starting job.
Next man up is RB Taiwan Jones. While he is listed as a running back, his mark was made on special teams. He appeared in 6 games, mostly returning punts until he suffered some sort of neck injury against the Houston Texans. I have reviewed film countless times and was unable to identify what the injury was. Whatever he was diagnosed with, he was sent to IR for the season but has since signed with Houston to bolster their special teams in 2019. To note, he did suffer a rather gruesome gash on his head as the result of a muffed punt against the Chargers where he took a direct hit from a helmeted player. Thankfully, he did not suffer a concussion and as far as we know, no lasting issues with the head wound.
Finally, K Stephen Hauschka rounds out the special teams unit. He appeared in all 16 games finishing 22/28 for a 78.4% FG percentage completion which is an all time low for the veteran kicker. He also made 25/26 extra point kicks for a 96.2% completion. However, to provide context, Hauschka was not the same kicker after he got blindsided by Jets DE Henry Anderson after a blocked FG on the last play in the 2nd half of the first meeting with the Jets. I had originally thought he suffered a hip pointer injury which could make kicking very difficult & painful which certainly affected his effectiveness the rest of the season. Looking back, there is reasonable questions on whether the Bills should have brought a different kicker in while Hauschka healed. But, as Hauschka is a veteran, he has learned how to take care of his body and with time and rest, this should not affect him going into this season. However, if he starts to slip, they team may want to move in a younger direction.
Overall, I expect Hauschka & Ferguson to be on the 2019 Bills roster with a fierce battle at the punter position taking place. Technically, Hauschka does have competition with UDFA K Chase McLaughlin, but it would take a horrendous preseason for McLaughlin to unseat the veteran. This should be a much improved unit with new ST coach Heath Farwell taking the reins and improving the overall special teams units in order to overcome the shortcomings that cost the Bills games last season.
Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!
I sat down with Bills LS Reid Ferguson, discussing his preparation each week, off-season regimen, and injuries during his career.
I had the fortune to sit down with Bills LS Reid Ferguson last month to ask him some questions regarding his origins as a long snapper, his injuries, preparation and recovery after each week, off-season training, and some fun questions at the end. If you haven’t figured out already from his other media appearances, Reid is a well-spoken, down to earth person who enjoys many things outside of football and does a lot of charity work including advocating for diabetes. Reid was gracious enough to give me some of his time to share his thoughts for everyone.
Give the readers a brief background on where you’re from, education, and how you became a long snapper.
Reid Ferguson Age: 25 Hometown: Buford, GA Position: Long Snapper College: LSU Degree: Sports Business & Sociology ‘15 Bills Jersey: #69
In 8th grade, the guy ahead of me got hurt, I was playing DE and TE, the center and snapper got hurt, I wasn’t playing much on defense or tight end, I really wasn’t playing at all, my Dad said, the guy got hurt, why don’t we give it a shot, see if it’s a way to get you snaps on the field.
My dad did the same thing playing baseball, telling me to try catcher, I played the position, I wasn’t very good, but I understand where your dad was coming from saying that.
In your high school/collegiate/pro football career, have you had the misfortune to deal with any serious injuries?
I have been able to avoid serious injury for the most part. I have been fortunate to also avoid any concussions.
Any moderate/nagging ones you had to work through?
My thumb, senior night in high school, I was playing offensive line and went for a block, the thumb went back and the muscle pulled off the bone on my non-dominant hand. I was out for 4 games, had to have surgery with a pin inserted to stabilize the fracture but I was able to come back and snap in the semi-final and state championship game later that season.
Other than that, I haven’t had any nagging injuries during my time with the Bills, I haven’t missed any games, nothing even notable, just sore after a game. I’m definitely fortunate. It’s silly for me to think that I can go an entire career without something happening, but as you get older, it’s something you just gotta work to prevent more than anything, if it happens, it happens. Every coach tells you the same thing, if you played scared, you’re going to get hurt; Gotta play fast.
Did you learn anything about your body or yourself during your thumb injury?
It was a long time ago, It was only 4 weeks, I just remember it going by pretty fast and remember it sucking knowing I couldn’t be out there playing in the playoffs even knowing that I could run and everything.
In your NFL career, how do you manage injuries if they do occur during the season?
Cryotherapy has been a big addition to my recovery process. Now that the facility has one, I do it almost every day. That helps me in recovery, but also, I feel that it helps me sleep better. I don’t have any problems sleeping; it gives me a deeper sleep. I wake up feeling better the next day. It helps a lot, especially after a night game. The chiropractor also helps out a lot in regards to treatment. I’ll see the team chiropractor on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s before the game. Just minor adjustments. During training camp, when we’re hitting it, going really hard every day, I use the NormaTec boots every day to help flush the legs a little bit in between a lift and practice or post-practice. I also stay hydrated, I try to drink as much water as I can.
The cryotherapy makes the biggest difference and then sleep, resting. A lot of guys my age that play in the league, I think don’t rest as much as they should. I think they underestimate that early in their careers. I think I’m a little ahead of the game. Just trying to get an adequate amount of sleep, got to fit it in where you can.
Author’s note on Cryotherapy and NormaTec boots:
Cryotherapy is generally known as using cold temperatures to aid in injury management and recovery. The general mechanism of cold is to reduce inflammation and pain in an injured area. Cold therapy promotes blood vessel constriction which reduces the inflammation response that is a protective measure of the body following injury. If this phase can be shortened, then return to function can occur sooner.
With cryotherapy tanks, an individual is placed into a standing tank for 2-3 minutes where subzero cool air is passed over the skin for several minutes, dropping the temperature of the skin temporarily to achieve a systemic cold response. This cuts down on time spent recovering by addressing the entire body at once and reduces the risk of frostbite under proper supervision. To read more, click here.
NormaTec or pneumatic compression boots are air-filled compression sleeves that assist with milking out excess fluid in a joint/limb. These are commonly seen in lymphedema patients but are incredibly useful for athletes as well.
During strenuous activity, lactic acid builds up as glucose, which is fuel in the body, oxidizes down into pyruvate which turns into lactate. Lactate levels rise faster than the body can process it and begins to settle in the muscles. The presence of lactic acid acts as a protective measure of the body to prevent overworking and tissue breakdown. While this is an important function of the body, minimizing buildup reduces soreness after activity and will allow for a more effective and quicker recovery via the use of the boots.
The purpose of the NormaTec boots is to move excess fluid out in a uniform manner. The sleeve increases in pressure distally or furthest from the body and alternates increasing pressure as it moves up the leg. This is similar to squeezing the bottom of the toothpaste tube, working all the excess towards the top. The pneumatic compression works lactic acid and wastes out of the muscles and back into the circulatory system to be processed and filtered out of the body. To read more, click here.
Between the NormaTec boots and cryotherapy, these are designed to reduce the body’s response to strenuous activity and aid in recovery to maximize future function.
How do you prepare for your job each week knowing that you do not have a long snapping coach or is there resources for you to work through difficulties you experience?
Each special teams coach is a little different, some know more than others. It really depends on the relationship between the kicker and the coach or the punter and the coach and how much they want to get information from the coach. If the specialist doesn’t want information from the coach, they usually make it known. The coach may watch film, but not be overly aggressive and teach or fix problems. It all just depends, some specialists like feedback wherever they can get it, they like having two, three, four pairs of eyes on their craft. Someone may see something that they’re not catching. Most special teams coaches aren’t familiar with how we operate, they’re more familiar with kickers and punters. A lot of the work comes on our own. I would say it’s more of a player by player preference.
You have gotten to this level, you know what you need to do, it’s more of a figure it out by yourself. You also went to the Chris Rubio long snapping camps, have you ever contacted him for advice?
He still does camps around the country and does private lessons, but he lives out in Idaho, so he’s hard to get to. I’ve reached out to former snappers and current snappers to get tips here or there. Asking guys after games, like what do you do with your feet when getting ready for a field goal snap. Do you scoot your feet up a little? If you extend your arms out a little further, you can get more pull on the ball? Things like that. Every guy is willing to help each other out.
Now that you have finished your 3rd pro season, how have you shaped your off-season program? i.e. what do you focus on, how do you keep in shape? What services do you seek out?
Usually, after the season, I take 2-3 weeks off and just chill. After that, I start getting back into working out twice a week with CrossFit because it’s something different for a couple weeks. During training camp and the regular season, we’re up here doing similar workouts, so it breaks it up in the offseason. During this time, I won’t be snapping until late February. Then, I’ll start snapping once a week for 2 weeks, ramping that up. Once March hits, I’ll increase my workouts to 3 times a week and incorporating some running. I’ll then progress my snapping to 1-2 times a week and begin focusing on getting my weights back up, working on agility drills, and then that’ll take me into 3-4 days a week. I always take the weekends off, Saturday’s and Sunday’s. I’m a big believer in that.
As for recovery, I still do cryo 1x/week at home as it can be expensive and I’ll go to the Chiropractor every couple weeks. I also used to work as a Chiropractic Assistant in the spring of 2017 back home and got affiliated with my chiropractor that way and as a part of my recovery process. I also do incorporate Yoga sometimes. I do a lot of stretching on my own at my house. That’s a huge part of my job, staying as flexible as I can be. Makes a huge difference.
Do you try to avoid high-level activities in the offseason like long distance biking, mountain climbing, distance running?
Yea, I try to avoid that for the most part. So I work out Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Take Wednesday as an off day. So when I was back home, my girlfriend came in and I did an active recovery day, took a hike up Stone Mountain, mile up, mile down, nothing too strenuous. Just something to get out and enjoy.
Even though you are not out on the field as much as your teammates, how do you stay focused mentally and physically, ready for when you are called upon?
That’s a good question. It’s not easy, but it’s not super hard. It is important to be locked into the situation to the game, whatever may be happening like a pick 6 where we would have to run out there and execute. You have to always stay ready. There are definitely lulls in the game that you feel. From a routine standpoint, every time we get the ball on offense, I do two punt snaps to get the rhythm back. Every time we cross the 50-yard line, I start getting in some short snaps for field goals. I’ve been doing that for a long time.
What is one part of your lifting routine that people would be surprised that you focus on for the specifics of long snapping?
I do a lot of ankle movements, stretching, and neck strength, I focus a lot of my neck. I focus on lats (latissimus dorsi). Being able to pull the ball through. I also focus on ankles, Achilles having to bend down so much, that’s huge for me.
Can you elaborate on the neck strengthening?
I do weighted, resistive movements, holds directionally, press ups against holds. This is part of the fine tuning; secondary stuff to help me get ready.
Do you ever do bridging for neck strengthening?
Like you see in wrestling, front bridges, back bridges. Touch your ears, nose, back of the head. You should ask Coach McDermott about that. He knows a thing or two about that.
Moving on, do you take anything into preference/consideration with your helmet or cleat selection? Or just what fits your comfort level?
They press us to use a helmet that’s above a certain grade. I’ve been using the same helmet for a couple years. It’s a solid helmet. Cleats wise, I use what’s most comfortable. Nike stopped making the cleats that I liked, so I switched to Under Armour. As for shoulder pads, pretty much stay the same as they’re specially made for snappers. There are no pads near the armpits to get the full range of motion.
That’s it for the main questions, now I have some general questions to wrap up the interview.
It’s been brought up in the past that you work with your brother with Type 1 Diabetes. When was he diagnosed?
I have to think about this one, about 2010-2011, I think he’s had it for about 8-9 years.
He’s obviously been able to transition to high school to college football to play at a D1 level with his condition.
Yea, he’s crushed it, I’m extremely proud of him to be able to do that, it’s not easy.
In the past, you’ve done some advocating for diabetes in Washington D.C., tell me more about that.
We did that last offseason, and then the past 2 years, I have done the “My Cause, My Cleats” for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. During the advocating, we were focusing on more research and funding for that trip. I also go to do hospital visits, charities, fundraisers with my brother around Atlanta and just trying to stay involved. I’ve done most of my advocating for Type 1 Diabetes due to my brother Blake, but both of my grandmas have Type 2, so it’s definitely on the radar.
You have a dog named Buck, he’s a Goldendoodle. Tell me about him.
He’s 8 months old. He’s been a good companion and doesn’t bark much. He’s pretty low maintenance.
Any favorite places you like taking him?
There have been some parks back home in Atlanta, but the weather has been so bad up here in May, I don’t want to take him anywhere where it’s going to get super muddy. I want to take him over to Knox Farm in East Aurora sometime when it dries up. That’s where I have been recommended to go.
I also recommend Chestnut Ridge Park if you like hiking, plus it has the paved trails to avoid the mud.
You enjoy soccer, you mentioned that Chelsea is your favorite team. How did you end up becoming a fan?
They had a couple players that I liked watching when I first started following, and it’s kind of just stuck with me. I started watching 2013-2014, that’s when I got hooked.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Buffalo?
Ooooo, Pearl Street, love Pearl Street.
What’s your favorite dish?
The pizza is really good. I also like the roast beef sandwich is really delicious.
Have you had the six cheese bow-tie pasta?
No, is it good?
It’s excellent, had it at banquets and my wedding reception, it’s worth trying next time you go there.
Is there anything that I didn’t cover that you want the readers to know or anything that I didn’t ask?
Nothing comes to mind, I believe that I covered everything that pertains to me.
I would like to thank Reid for taking the time to sit down with me and discussing his life in the NFL. Next time you’re watching a Bills game, focus on the special teams play including long snapping. There is far more complexity that goes into the position than one may initially think and there is a reason that long snapping is a special teams necessity.
If you liked this interview and want to support Reid, you can follow him on Twitter @SnapFlow69. You can support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation by donating anytime at the link for JDRF. You can also donate during the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign during the NFL season when Reid dons a pair of cleats advocating for JDRF.
Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!
Assessing the latest Bills injuries following the win over the Detroit Lions.
Sunday was certainly a nail biter! The Bills managed to squeak out a win over the lowly Lions 14-13 to move to 5-9 on the season. However, the win didn’t come without sacrifice as injuries continue to mount and will force the team to shuffle the roster around in order to get to the end of the season. Today’s post will assess the injuries sustained and what they mean going forward into Week 16.
The most serious injury of the day happened to RB Marcus Murphy (elbow) who suffered a dislocated elbow late in the 2nd quarter. Murphy ran up the middle and as he began going down, he planted his left arm on the turf and Lions LB Jarrad Davis came in and hit his elbow with enough force that it gave way and dislocated. As expected, he appeared to be in significant pain but was able to walk to the locker room with the assistance of the training staff. After the game, it was reported that the elbow had to be reduced or in other words, put back in place on the field by Ian Rappaport. As a result on the injury, his day was done. While the elbow itself is rather stable, it can dislocate just as any other joint and will still take 1-4 weeks for him to return to full function per most guidelines. My assessment is that it takes the better part of a month for him to regain full function without any associating fractures. If you recall, CB Phillip Gaines sustained the same injury earlier in the season, missing one game. However, Murphy would require greater use of his elbow to cradle the football and fend off defenders which would necessitate a longer recovery. Murphy has since been moved to IR which is the smartest move at this point as there is nothing to play for and he would not be able to return to 100% by the end of the season. He will be able to make a full recovery for OTA’s and have no lingering issues.
Another injury that appeared to be rather serious initially was WR Isaiah McKenzie (calf). The shifty wide out went down suddenly with no contact during a punt return midway through the 3rd quarter. Initial fears were an ACL tear or Achilles due to suddenly going down without contact. An Achilles tear was especially concerning when McKenzie began pointing to his right calf, eventually requiring a cart to get off the field. However, almost miraculously, he was able to return in the 4th quarter and finish out the game. This alone indicates he avoided serious injury with his ability to return. While riding on the cart, it was observed that he had his feet in full dorsiflexion by training staff. Thoughts later by @ProFootballDoc Dr. David Chao, speculated that he may have had a muscle cramp which required stretching and IV to recover. This appeared to be the case as there was no specific mechanism for injury or tell tale signs upon video review. The severity of the injury was magnified due to the presence of the cart which certainly altered my thought process at the time. As expected, McKenzie was still clearly not 100% during his return but was able to be available dealing with some residual pain and soreness. Believe it or not, this is an injury that he should not miss any time with and should finish out the season.
LB Tremaine Edmunds (back) required a quick assessment from training staff after getting blindsided by OL Frank Ragnow early in the 3rd quarter. Walking off the field, Edmunds appeared to be walking gingerly and motioning to his back. Edmunds was able to return to the game next defensive series and did not appear to be laboring through the rest of the game. This is not an injury that I expect him to miss any time or even find his way onto the injury report.
RB Keith Ford suffered what appears to be a left ankle injury late in the 3rd quarter which forced the team to go to FB Patrick DiMarco and at times, empty backfields, briefly before Ford was able to return early in the 4th quarter. The ankle injury that he sustained isn’t conclusive but may have been a typical inversion sprain or contusion that was taped up and allowed him to return. This is not an injury that should sideline him for any duration of time. He should play next week as the Bills have been running 3 running backs all season and with Murphy out, Ford moves up.
FB Patrick DiMarco (thigh/knee) and LB Corey Thompson (left leg) suffered what appears to be hard hits to the left thigh/knee area for both players when trying to run back up field towards the ball carrier on a punt return early in the 4th quarter. DiMarco got tangled up with LS Reid Ferguson who was knocked out of the way by DB Quadre Diggs, forcing Ferguson into DiMarco for some friendly fire. As for Thompson, he got tied up with S Tavon Wilson and went down injuring his left leg in the process. Both were able to return later in the game without any residual effects. No concerns for the rest of the season.
The Bills have since moved Murphy to IR and signed WR Victor Bolden from the 49ers practice squad to fill his roster spot and attempt to find another WR for potentially next year. The Bills should be able to get to the finish line with this roster barring any further injuries, hopefully finishing on a high note by beating both the Patriots and Dolphins. These past few weeks are the fears we all have as injuries can certainly derail a season. While this season is essentially done, it still is terrible to see guys who have worked hard all season end their year prematurely and not on their terms. Regardless, all these injuries still allow the players to come back at full health next season as they march towards a Super Bowl championship.
Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!
Evaluating the injuries (or lack thereof) of the 2017 Bills special team unit.
I hope everyone continues to enjoy the summer as we inch closer and closer towards training camp on July 26th! Today’s post wraps up the positional injury reviews for the 2017 season. Today’s article may be the briefest due to an overall lack of injuries, however without the special teams unit, the Bills struggle mightily! This article will review the kicker, punter, and long snapper positions.
First up is LS Reid Ferguson. The talented long snapper finished his first season after spending the 2016 season on the practice squad. Ferguson was able to take over the incumbent LS Garrison Sanborn last season who moved onto the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While there is no official statistics for a long snapper, the body of work for a long snapper is evident with the effectiveness of the kicker and punter. Though a long snapper is only on the field for field goals and punts, they are still at risk for injury just as much as any other player. During punt returns, they still have to go block and tackle the returner. Unfortunately, special team plays like this can cause serious injury such as last year to the Bears and Jaguars. Thankfully, Ferguson avoided injury and is looking to build off a strong 2017 season. If you don’t hear his name again this season, this just means he’s doing his job very well.
Moving to the next position, P Colton Schmidt arrives on the list. The 4th year pro has been a steady presence in the backfield on 4th down after some inconsistency following the release of longtime punter and fan favorite Brian Moorman. Schmidt had 79 punts with an average of 44.7 yards/punt with a season long of 60 yards. Out of those 79 punts, he was able to place 28 inside the 20, good for a 35% rate. Along with Ferguson, Schmidt avoided injury this season and appears to continue his productive career in 2018.
Finally, we round out this article with K Steven Hauschka. The 10th year pro continues to make his mark in Buffalo after stops in Baltimore, Denver, and Seattle where he had his greatest success culminating in 2 Super Bowl appearances with one championship. Hauschka found his way to Buffalo and continued his high level of play in which he was 29/33 in FG’s made, going perfect at 20-29, 30-39, and going 7/9 at both 40-49 and 50-59. This was good for a 87.9% FG completion and was perfect on extra points. The veteran kicker was the only special teams player to suffer an injury this past season. Hauschka suffered a right hip injury following the Saints game which caused him to miss some practice that week but did not cause him to miss any games. Reading further into his injury, it did not appear to be anything more than a possible muscle strain as he was able to play through the discomfort and it did not land him on the injury report the rest of the season. As he is right footed with regards to kicking, the ability to swing his kicking leg through effectively pain free is vital to his ability to perform.
While the NFL has at times been criticized for making the game “soft” through rule changes, these changes are the reason the Bills special team players were able to remain healthy with penalties. Each position has been afforded special rules to ensure their safety. Rules for punter/kicker, and long snapper can be found here. Overall, these rules make the game safer and allow these world class athletes perform their craft avoiding serious injury.
Competing for roster spots are K Tyler Davis and P Cory Carter going into the 2018 season. While I do not believe that they will seriously threaten the above mentioned roster spots, other teams will be watching in the event they are not satisfied with their special team games. Both of these players may find their way onto the practice squad, however I believe that the front office would rather place other positional players on the practice squad for greater depth. Look for this special teams unit to be incredibly effective going into the 2018 season and help keep the Bills in games if the offense fails to move the ball.
This wraps up the 2017 season positional injury reviews. I hope you enjoyed looking back at this memorable season and reflect on how valuable healthy starters are along with effective depth is to a team. This series also demonstrated how the Bills avoided serious injuries this year which led to proper player development rather than inserting players who are not ready or are ill suited for the position/scheme.
Continue to check back at Banged Up Bills on Facebook and on Twitter @BangedUpBills. Look for the latest injury news coming out of training camp, general injury explanations, and anything else that can be reported on. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!