PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Buffalo Bills are hoping to build on last year's 5-2 start as training camp opens at St. John Fisher for the 2012 season. They added some big pieces in the offseason, with their goal: To end what is now the NFL's longest current playoff drought, at twelve years.
"Despite the record, Coach (Chan) Gailey taught us to go into games and expect to win," receiver Stevie Johnson said after the team's first morning walkthrough on Thursday. "He's no longer at the stage of teaching us that we have to expect to win, he doesn't have to say that anymore, we already feel that."
"It''s going to start from practice number one," added QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. "Even though it's basic today, the tempo which we're running things, the confidence I have in my receivers, making sure we're all on the same page."
Defense is the team's strength and with the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, as well as new Coordinator Dave Wannstedt, the Bills say they're ready for the next step.
Cornerback Terrence McGee has been with the team awhile ans has waited for this opportunity. "It's my tenth year and I've been with guys like London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes, (Antoine) Winfield, (Nate) Clements, we've had great teams, but never made it to the playoffs. You still have to go out there and compete."
"It's sweet, you look around these guys are huge," adds Johnson. "Before they came you still see the big guys, a lot of athleticism, but now you got guys were are established. You have that depth.. it's a good feeling to be somewhat stacked like this."
Injuries and inexperience were the Bills' enemies in 2011, limiting them to just one win in their last nine games.
"To see all those guys back on the field offensively and defensively is a great thing and that's the goal, to get out of training camp with our health, be 100% for that first game," says Fitzpatrick. "You're going to have to deal with some adversity along the way, but it's nice right now to have everybody in and everybody healthy."
Consistency will be the key this year, which shouldn't be a problem on defense. Chris Kelsay, Shawne Merriamn, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Kelvin Sheppard, Nick Barnett, Leodis McKelvin and Jarius Byrd are all back, while first round draft pick Stephon Gilmore was also added to bolster the backfield.
The question is on offense, with Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen waiting in the wings if Fitzpatrick falters under center. In the backfield, Fred Jackson is healthy and hopes to once again form an effective combo with C.J. Spiller. Donald Jones, Derek Hagan, David Nelson and third round draft pick T.J. Graham will all compete for the number two receiver spot behind Johnson. Second round draft pick Cordy Glenn hopes to bolster Buffalo's offensive line, which includes Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rhinehart and Michael Jasper.
The Bills will be at Fisher until their first preseason game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, August 9th against Washington. They'll return for a few days, then break camp August 14th. The Bills will visit Minnesota August 17th, then return home against Pittsburgh on the 25th. The final preseason game is August 30th at Detroit. Buffalo opens the regular season September 9th at the Jets.