PITTSFORD — Alex Carrington is not looking ahead to what is shaping up as a big step forward in his NFL career.
Carrington played 31 percent of the plays for the Buffalo Bills last season and blocked a team-record four kicks. This year he appears to have locked up a starting job on the defensive line. He looked good all spring and has carried his front-line playmaking into the first 10 days of training camp.
Carrington, however, isn’t making any “getcha popcorn ready” pronouncements about his emergence as a force on the Bills’ defense.
“I’m just playing right now, I’m not worried about anything,” Carrington said. “I’m just focused on camp. There’s a long way to go.”
Carrington, in his fourth season, is a stick-to-business kind of guy. His dad is a retired police officer. His mom is a health-care worker. He graduated from Arkansas State with a degree in psychology in December of his senior football season.
He is comfortable with responsibility.
“I’m not living for myself,” Carrington said. “Ever since I had my first kid, I try to stick to it. I’m not living for me anymore. That was over at 17.”
“My kids matured me a lot. They make you settle down a little bit. I had my first one in high school. I was really all about that coming up through college. I had another one when I was coming here in 2010.”
Carrington has two boys with his partner. Kalil will be 9 in a few days and Jaden is 2. For Carrington, growing up quickly has been a good way to deal with the fame of being a professional athlete.
“I can still do my own thing sometimes,” he said.
“But I always have to be conscious of decisions I make. Then being an NFL player kind of adds that little voice in the back of your head. Hey, do you really want to do that? … But I was always a pretty mature guy. My parents did a pretty good job, I would say.”
Carrington, a former third-round draft choice, seemed to mature as a player last year once he settled into an interior defensive tackle role. He had bounced inside and outside his first two years. He had two sacks and was a pretty effective interior pocket pusher against the pass.
“He’s kinda been moved around a lot,” said defensive tackle Kyle Williams. “Last year he kinda got settled in and got to play some and played well. I think this year it’ll be even better for him. He’s playing that big-end position for us. I think he’s gonna get to play a lot and I expect him to do really well.”
At 6-foot-5, 301 pounds, Carrington is ideally built to be a stout defensive end in coordinator Mike Pettine’s hybrid defense. Carrington is playing a lot of 4- and 5-technique spots. The 4-technique is head up over an offensive tackle. The 5-technique is over the outside shoulder of a tackle. But he also has shown enough quickness to get snaps at the 3-technique (over the outside shoulder of the guard), which is where Williams is most effective.
It was suspected that free-agent signee Alan Branch, a 325-pounder who came from Seattle and has 34 career starts, might push Carrington hard for a starting job. Carrington has played exclusively with the starters.
Carrington looked good in Monday night’s scrimmage. He made a stuff in the backfield on a shotgun handoff on a third-and-4 play. He stuffed Kendall Gaskins for a 2-yard loss on a first-and-goal play from the 2. He made a sack of quarterback Jeff Tuel to end a two-minute drive on the final play of the scrimmage.
“He’s had an outstanding camp,” said Bills coach Doug Marrone. “The one thing you have to work on during camp is the pad level quite a bit. We talk to the coaches about that. I think Alex Carrington has had the best pad level throughout the camp on both sides of the ball. He’s playing very well for us right now.”
Carrington thinks his knowledge of the game got better last year, with help from teammates like Kyle Williams and Mario Williams.
“I think I was becoming a better pro last year, I’ll say that,” he said. “I learned more about the game and how to approach it. Guys around me really helped me develop my game. I asked a lot of questions. Guys like Mario and Kyle. Trying to absorb that knowledge they put out and even just by watching film on them. I don’t know if a light went on, per se. But I feel much different as a professional athlete.”
Carrington also got notoriety last year due to his special-teams work. He blocked three field goals and an extra point.
That earned him the nickname “Megahand.” Teammates have been creative with other monikers.
“I’ve heard ‘Third Post,’ and ‘Blocktimus Prime,’ ” he said. “I’m fine with Megahand. It’s fun.”
It looks like “NFL starter” will be a more significant label for Carrington this season.
The Bills were off Tuesday. They are scheduled to practice from 8 to 11:10 a.m. today and Thursday at St. John Fisher College.