The Buffalo Bills were among three teams beginning voluntary offseason workouts on Monday, and just about everyone involved is excited for this coming season. New head coach Rex Ryan and several star players spoke to the media and expressed optimism about a fresh start in 2015. Ryan in particular didn't hide his bravado, saying, "I expect to win. I expect to win big. I expect to do that right now."
Although it's going to be a tough order competing with the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC East, Ryan has never been short on confidence, even when he was the coach of subpar New York Jets teams. He also said that he expects all of Buffalo's players to be ready for training camp, which is significant given the offseason hip surgery from second-year receiver Sammy Watkins.
There was no initial recovery timetable for Watkins following the surgery. The wideout dealt with the hip issue throughout his rookie season and missed some time due to it, but it looks like he'll be ready for training camp when that rolls around. Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Williams, Dan Carpenter and Anthony Dixon were among the players not cleared for full participation Monday.
Ryan also talked about the signing of tight end Charles Clay, joking that he calls him Cassius Clay "with the money we gave him." Clay signed a five-year, $38 million offer sheet this offseason, a deal the Miami Dolphins had the right to match but ultimately declined due to its high value.
Another new face on the roster is running back LeSean McCoy, who came to Buffalo in a blockbuster trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. McCoy said that he's "looking forward to a big year," according to the Bills' official Twitter account, while another key offseason addition, Percy Harvin, called signing with the Bills a "no-brainer for me."
Ryan, who reunited with Harvin after the wide receiver was traded to the Jets last season, praised Harvin's competitiveness and work ethic and referred to him as a "matchup nightmare" who goes so hard in practice that "you have to protect him from himself."
Despite Harvin's history of injuries and and off-the-field incidents, a different player was the most controversial signing for the Bills this offseason: offensive lineman Richie Incognito.
Incognito, notable for being out of the league for a season following the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, called the past year "humbling," and said that he is grateful for the opportunity with the Bills. Ryan said at the press conference that he needed to see sincerity from Incognito before signing him, and he's glad Incognito is now a Bill.
"Doesn't matter how we got here," the coach said. "It's what we do collectively now."
Ryan didn't offer up any thoughts on the quarterback competition, but EJ Manuel seemed happy to move on from former head coach Doug Marrone:
EJ Manuel wouldn't say Doug Marrone's departure was best thing that could have happened to him. Just said, "God works in mysterious ways."— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) April 6, 2015
While Ryan was pleased with the number of players who turned out for the voluntary workout, there were still a few key players missing, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore and pass rusher Jerry Hughes. Both have great excuses, however -- Hughes is getting married over the weekend and Gilmore recently became a father.
Buffalo finished the 2014 season with a 9-7 record, better than many expected but still three games back of the Patriots. Ryan had success with the Jets in his first few seasons with the team, and this Bills team has many weapons on offense and a tough defense. The AFC East should be, at the very least, an interesting division to watch next season.
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