Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was back on the practice field Thursday after spending the past several days in Alabama to be with his family in the wake of the slaying of his 19-year-old brother.
Dareus arrived back at the team facility at midday and was a full participant in practice as the Bills get ready to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Simeon Gilmore, one of Dareus' six siblings, was one of three people found shot to death Sunday in a home in Pelham, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham. A suspect has been arrested and charged with capital murder and burglary.
"I got back here today and received warm greetings from all the players," Dareus said in a statement released by the team after practice. "I got caught up with everything and got acclimated with the game plan. I am focused. I know I have a lot of things going on off the field, but I am here and ready to play. I have 60 more brothers here and ready to support me as well."
Bills coach Chan Gailey said he met with Dareus before practice.
"Just the short period of time we had a conversation, I could tell he's hurting, but he's being strong," Gailey said. "I thought one of our players stated it very well. There's 60 family members here, too. Sixty brothers here that care for him. They just want to help him get through it. He felt the responsibility to be back here, knowing he had responsibilities there."
Dareus said he would go back to Alabama early next week.
"I plan to work hard here on the field, but I will continue to keep in contact with my family back home and make sure everyone is OK down there," he said. "I am ready to continue to prepare for this week's game with my family here. Then I will go home and be with my family.
"Thank you for all the support," Dareus said. "Right now is a tough time for me and my family. But thank you very much for the support because I truly really need it at this time. I can't express how I am feeling right now, but I will go out on the field and give it my all on Sunday."
Dave Hojnowski has retired from his position as Bills equipment manager, the team said. Hojnowski's departure from the team was reported incorrectly in Thursday's editions of The News.
Hojnowski spent 35 seasons with the Bills, the longest of anyone on the team's support staff that is in the locker room every day. He began working full-time with the team in 1977 and was one of the longest-tenured employees in the organization. Hojnowski is a certified member of the Athletic Equipment Managers Association.
Kansas City's best cornerback, Brandon Flowers, was a full participant in practice Thursday for the first time since July 31. Flowers has been hampered by a bruised heel. Two other Chiefs starters - nose tackle Anthony Toribio and free safety Kendrick Lewis - remained limited in practice due to ankle injuries.
Gailey said Erik Pears and Chris Hairston probably would continue to alternate at right tackle. Pears missed almost all of preseason with a sore groin but returned to action against the Jets last week.
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Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Erie County Sheriff's office are working together for a third straight season to encourage fans to use a designated driver at the game. MADD will have booths at Gates 3 and 5 at the stadium every game. Fans who go there and commit to be a designated driver can receive a bracelet and a coupon for two free soft drinks in the stadium.
The Chiefs are one of the few teams in the NFL that play a traditional, two-gap 3-4 defense, with a nose tackle head-up on the center and the offensive guards uncovered by defenders in many downs against regular offensive personnel (two backs and two receivers).
"There are a lot of teams that do some variations of 3-4, but they're one of the only ones that have a true nose over the center," Bills guard Kraig Urbik said. "The guards are uncovered. But when they get in the nickel, which is a lot of the time, then it changes."
"They have a lot of big guys up front and a lot of talent up front," Urbik said.
The Chiefs have first-round picks at five of their front-seven positions - Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe and Derrick Johnson.
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Fans who watched Monday night's game between San Diego and Oakland saw the Raiders lose in part because they lost their long snapper to injury. Raiders backup long snapper Travis Goethel attempted three snaps. He rolled two of them back to punter Shane Lechler, causing him to get sacked, and a Lechler punt was blocked on a third Goethel snap.
Fans of 31 other teams began to wonder who their backup snapper is.
"You just hope it never gets to that point," Bills punter Brian Moorman said.
If anything were to happen to Bills long snapper Garrison Sanborn, then center Eric Wood would handle the job.
"Long snappers are a lot like offensive linemen," Wood said. "The less you hear about them the better it is. Garrison does a great job for us. He's really consistent. We'd really be hurting if he went down for sure."
Wood never has long snapped in a game - high school, college or pro. He didn't start tinkering with it until the NFL scouting combine, when he was entering the 2009 draft. Wood practices being the long snapper about once a week and did so Wednesday.
Moorman and Sanborn sounded confident Wood would be effective in a jam.
"He's good," Sanborn said. "He'll get it back there if he needs to. I know he doesn't want to because he'd just rather play center and let me snap. We'd be fine if we needed to."