The Buffalo Bills returned from their bye week Monday refreshed, refocused and for the most part, healthy.
“I think everybody was able to get away from it for a couple of days. Hopefully it’s a break that we all took advantage of and now we’re back, ready to start working on the Texans,” defensive end Chris Kelsay said.
Four players missed Monday’s practice, the most noteworthy of those being star defensive end Mario Williams.
He worked out in the team’s weight room inside the fieldhouse, however, and said before practice he fully expects to play Sunday in Houston against his former team. Williams had arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist a week ago, and has been pleased by the results, saying his range of motion has greatly improved and he’s able to once again work out.
“It’s feeling way better,” Williams said, speaking with reporters for the first time since having the surgery. “After the procedure it’s definitely feeling better than what it was before.”
Williams had the procedure done in Alabama after huddling with the Bills’ medical staff.
“Dealing with the training staff every day and talking about ways to get better and get me feeling better and getting back to working out and being able to use my hand, we felt like it was the best decision to kind of clean it out,” he said.
Williams, who will wear a cast over the wrist, said the only discomfort he currently has is from the incision.
“By doing it, it’s just going to get me in a position to be able to work out and use my other hand more adequately,” he said. “I think that was the biggest thing as far as me feeling comfortable and just being able to get better. We’re kind of at a dead point, kind of at a standstill, so there really was no other choice.”
Williams’ injury first came to light after the Bills’ season opener in New York. He expected the injury to heal in four to six weeks, but the improvement never came.
“I’m a hands-on person,” he said. “Everything I do is with my hands. Not being able to do that, just mentally, has been frustrating. I felt like I was stagnant. That’s why I’m very excited about being able to clean it out and am optimistic.”
Williams has endured heavy criticism throughout the season from fans who have felt he hasn’t lived up to the six-year contract he signed in March worth potentially $100 million. That made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
Williams’ 3.5 sacks tied him for 38th in the NFL heading into Monday night’s game between San Francisco and Arizona.
“This isn’t me. I’ve said that before. I’ve never had something where it’s lingered this long. Either it’s season-ending or it goes over in a week,” he said.
“And this, like I said, it’s been almost nine weeks now and that’s just been tough. But it’s part of it. You get injured, everybody gets injured. I think the biggest thing for me is just being able to rebound the second part of the season and get after it.”
The Bills also hope to be at full strength along the offensive line against the Texans. Right guard Kraig Urbik practiced fully Monday and made it clear he’ll be in the lineup, saying, “I’m playing on Sunday no matter what.”
Urbik has missed the last three games, as has rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn, who likewise was able to practice Monday.
“I was very encouraged with what he did on the field [Monday],” coach Chan Gailey said.
“We’ll see how he is [today]. This was the first time he’s really worked, so we’ll see how he is [today], but I was encouraged by what happened [Monday].”
Left guard Andy Levitre was also able to practice fully after having an injection in his knee over the bye week.
Joining Williams as non-participants Monday were cornerback Terrence McGee (knee), defensive end Mark Anderson (knee) and right guard Chad Rinehart (ankle).
Anderson, who has missed the last two games following knee surgery, has an outside chance to play against Houston, with Gailey saying if he’s not able to practice by Thursday he’ll be held out another week.
The news on McGee is potentially more troubling. He has now missed two straight practices since the team’s game Oct. 21 against the Tennessee Titans.
It’s been a season-long struggle for the veteran cornerback in coming back from offseason surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon.
McGee played in a season-high 37 snaps against Arizona in Week Six, but managed just 15 against the Titans.
“He struggled to get back completely from that last game so we’re giving him as much rest as we can possibly give him to see where he is,” Gailey said.
The coach didn’t disagree when told it sounded like he was concerned.
“There is [concern],” he said. “I mean, there is. If it takes longer and longer for a guy to come back every time, then it has to be a problem for him and for us. It’s tough on him because I know what kind of competitor he is.
“He’s worked so hard to get back. He wants to and the thing about him is he can’t go half-speed. That’s the thing about him, he can’t go through the motions and then play hard on Sunday. He pushes himself in practice. So that’s part of it.”
The Bills have the option of activating rookie cornerback Ron Brooks from the injured reserve/designated to return list this week, so they have some measure of insurance in case McGee is unable to play.
If Brooks is activated, he’s likely to take the roster spot of Rinehart, who’s expected to go on injured reserve sometime this week after suffering a long-term injury against Tennessee in Week Seven.