Marcus Easley breathed a sigh of relief more than two years in the making this week when learning he had been promoted to the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster.
“It’s been a long road for me and I’m just grateful for this opportunity,” Easley said. “It’s definitely been a struggle, but on the practice squad I tried to carry the mentality of ‘get better.’ You’re still being evaluated, so I tried to take advantage of that every day.”
With receiver Stevie Johnson missing practice Wednesday because of a thigh bruise, promoting Easley is also a bit of an insurance policy for the Bills. But coach Chan Gailey made it clear it’s more about the job Easley has done.
“He’s played extremely well on the scout team. He deserves an opportunity to come up and see what he might be able to do. I don’t know if he’ll get active soon or not, but we’d like to give him a chance to have that opportunity at some point,” the coach said. “We’ll see how it goes and how he practices and we’ll let him get some reps and go from there.”
Easley’s story is well known to Bills fans. The former fourth-round draft pick in 2010 out of Connecticut missed the past two seasons on injured reserve because of a knee injury and heart ailment, respectively. He was cut by the Bills at the end of the preseason this year, but signed to the practice squad a day later.
“It was huge,” Easley said of his time on the development squad. “It was tremendous for me, because I really haven’t played too much football in the last two years. Just being able to come out here and practice, kind of figure out what a season’s like in taking care of your body, definitely helps. It helped me get back into playing shape.”
Easley, 25, weighs 217 pounds. He says his time on the practice squad has helped him get back a lot of his speed and explosiveness.
“I like to use my size and speed to my advantage. Hopefully, we can stretch the field a little bit when my opportunity does come,” he said.
The next step for Easley is being active Sunday. Gailey indicated that’s unlikely to happen in New England, but Easley’s at least one step closer. One thing working in his favor is his special teams acumen. Easley played on both the kick and punt coverage units in the preseason.
“Wherever I can fit in or wherever I can help this team out, I’m sure the coaches will put me in that position,” he said.
You watch him on the scout team every day and the stuff that he’s done, he’s really made some plays and runs hard every play,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “It’s good to see. I think we’re all happy for him because it’s been a long time coming for him with all of the injuries he’s had.”
The ongoing saga that is the Mario Williams wrist injury took another turn Wednesday when the defensive end said he in fact did suffer a “slight” tear of a ligament in his left wrist.
This came two days after Gailey dismissed an ESPN report saying that Williams had played the first seven games of the season with such an injury.
Asked specifically whether a ligament was torn, Williams said: “As far as I know. I don’t really know all the lingo. I just wanted to get it done, whatever needed to be done. I don’t know as far as exact terminology of it being torn. I’ve heard that myself, but I just know something was wrong.
Williams was then asked what Dr. Thomas Hunt, who performed the surgery, told him: “He said there was a slight tear or whatever. I don’t know the severity of it. But, obviously, it was something that caused me not being able to use it. You’d have to ask for the exact verbiage from the training staff.”
The Bills have denied a Buffalo News request to speak with team trainer Bud Carpenter regarding the injury, citing team policy.
The Bills filled out their 53-man roster by signing offensive tackle Thomas Welch and cornerback Crezdon Butler.
Welch was released by Philadelphia prior to the season. The 6-foot-7, 310-pounder out of Vanderbilt was a seventh-round draft choice of New England in 2010. He played five games with St. Louis in 2011 and another three with the Patriots, making one career start.
Butler was signed off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. He’s spent time on the 53-man rosters of the Cardinals and Redskins this season. The 6-1, 191-pounder was a former teammate of Bills C.J. Spiller and Chris Hairston at Clemson.
“Buddy’s [Bills GM Nix] always liked him. He’s a guy that we looked at a few weeks ago when Arizona let him go. We were trying to get him at that time but it didn’t work out. And now it worked out that we had a spot and we were able to get him,” Gailey said of Butler.