Kiko Alonso did not miss a single defensive snap last season, so it’s no surprise he is reluctant to acknowledge that he was physically hindered late in the season.
Nevertheless, the Buffalo Bills’ star linebacker had arthroscopic surgery on his hip in January. It’s clear he was playing through some discomfort down the stretch.
“I don’t know, I don’t even like to say I was less than 100 percent,” Alonso said after the Bills’ spring practice Friday. “I was 100 percent for December.”
That means he was 100 percent by December standards in the NFL.
“Definitely, everyone’s hurting in December,” Alonso said. “You’ve just got to push through it. That’s part of the game.”
Alonso looks like he’s running around just fine in positional drills with the rest of the linebackers during the first week of spring practice. The Bills are holding him out of offense-vs.-defense drills as a precaution, although he got in a couple snaps of team drills this week. Alonso says he will be fully ready for training camp in July.
“It’s been nice to get that time off and relax,” Alonso said. “Now it’s time to get back to work. I feel great. I’ve had a great rehab, and I’m just trying to get stronger.”
The second-round draft pick out of the University of Oregon finished third in the NFL in tackles in 2013 with 159. He had four interceptions and two sacks. He made the NFL’s all-rookie team. He almost won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, finishing second to the New York Jets’ Sheldon Richardson. (Alonso got 19 votes to Richardson’s 23.)
There’s no doubt Alonso slowed down a bit late in the year, as did the entire Bills’ defense. His big-impact plays decreased. He dealt with a sore shoulder along with the hip injury, although he said the shoulder was not a big problem and did not require surgery.
“It was more the hip,” he said.
There’s reason to think Alonso can have just as good, or maybe even a better season in 2014.
He shifts from middle linebacker in Mike Pettine’s 3-4 defense to weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 scheme of new defensive chief Jim Schwartz. This year, Alonso has big linebacker Brandon Spikes, the free-agent signee from New England, playing next to him. Spikes figures to be in the middle of traffic a bit more than Alonso. That should allow Alonso even more opportunity to run and chase, which is his strength.
“I think I’m going to be doing a lot of similar stuff,” Alonso said. “I’m just excited to move to the outside in this new scheme. It’s a great scheme, obviously. Coach Schwartz is a great coach.”
Alonso played all 1,145 of the Bills’ defensive plays last season. The Bills hope their defense will not be on the field quite so much this year.
Alonso is not planning on taking any plays off.
“That was definitely a good thing for me, just because I hate coming off the field,” he said. “If the defense is on the field, I want to be on the field.”