PITTSFORD – Brad Smith’s best maneuver to make the Buffalo Bills’ opening-day roster had nothing to do with running pass routes.
Smith signed a revised contract July 26, and while that fact has been reported for weeks, the new numbers hadn’t been filed with the league until Thursday.
NFL Players Association documents shows Smith’s new deal will save the Bills $2.85 million in base salary.
He had been scheduled to make $2.75 million this year and $3 million next year, numbers that would take some serious in-field convincing for the Bills to keep him. Although Smith provides stellar core-four special-teams support, his role as a receiver is pedestrian. But his base salaries are now $1.625 million this year and $1.4 million next year.
Smith’s team-friendly deal also calls for a roster bonus of $500,000 this year and $250,000 next year and $75,000 in incentives each year.
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson suffered a hamstring injury late in practice Friday at St. John Fisher College. Initial indications are it’s a strained muscle.
The Bills’ top receiver pulled up on a pass route across the middle of the end zone and immediately grabbed the back of his left thigh. He went to the ground, got up after about a minute and was helped into the locker room by trainers.
“Everyone saw Stevie at the end with that hamstring,” said coach Doug Marrone. “He’s going to get evaluated and it’s always tough when those situations happen for the players.”
Asked how disconcerting it was to see one of his top players go down, Marrone said: “I would say it’d be a major concern when we talk about it during the season. But right now a veteran player that’s proven himself. We’ll just see what the doctors say, and it is what it is and we’ll deal with it.
“I look at it as an opportunity to give those younger guys more reps.”
Starting along with Johnson in the two-receiver set Friday was T.J. Graham. Rookie Robert Woods was No. 3.
Also leaving practice early was tight end Mike Caussin, with a sore hip. Cornerback Justin Rogers (hamstring) and receiver Kevin Elliott sat out. Elliott had his right shoulder in a sling.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, coming back from offseason heel surgery, saw his first snaps of 11-on-11 team drills. On the second play of the day, Williams knifed through the offensive line and made a “sack” of quarterback Kevin Kolb.
“He looked very good out there today,” Marrone said.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett gave Kevin Kolb a leaping chest bump after Kolb hit Woods for a TD at the end of a two-minute drill.
“I want some pictures to see how high he’s getting,” Kolb said of Hackett. “Yeah, that’s one thing he brings, he brings some energy. We’re out there having fun. Touchdowns are fun, so we’ll keep doing them.”
Marrone on Hackett’s enthusiasm: “I think when you talk to players about passion and excitement and you don’t do that yourself, and you’re not a good example of that, I think it’s very difficult to get that out of players.”
Hackett huddled the offense after the first 20-play sequence to tell them to pick up their production. The Bills’ defense had sacks on all five passing plays in the first sequence (there were 15 runs and five passes in the stretch). After Kyle Williams’ sack, Marcus Dowtin and Corbin Bryant each had one. One was a jailbreak of about six defenders. The other came on a blitz.
Left tackle Cordy Glenn has had his hands full with edge rusher Jerry Hughes. Hughes beat him for a would-be sack on the second play of the second team segment. Then Hughes beat Erik Pears off the other side for a sack on the next play.
Doug Legursky took the first-team snaps at left guard. The second-team line was Sam Young, Colin Brown, David Snow, Keith Williams and Tony Hills or Thomas Welch. The third team line was Zebrie Sanders, Zack Chibane, Ryan Turnley, Antoine Caldwell and Hutch Eckerson.
Rian Lindell and Dustin Hopkins each went 6 for 10 on field-goal tries. Hopkins’ misses were from 43, 51, 44 and 49 yards. Lindell’s misses were from 49, 52, 47 and 50 yards.
Tickets are available for the night practices Aug. 14 and Aug. 20 at ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-754-3000. The night practices Monday and Friday are sold out.
News Sports Reporter Tim Graham contributed to this report.