Tight end Scott Chandler can feel the chemistry developing between himself and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.
Evidence came in the form of a 33-yard touchdown pass between the pair during a Week Three loss to the New York Jets, the Bills’ only time reaching the end zone in the game.
Chandler has been targeted six times by Manuel in each of the first three games, and his five catches against the Jets was a season high.
Chandler missed all of the team’s spring practices and was in and out at the start of training camp as the Bills eased him back following surgery in January to repair the anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“When I really started to ramp up was when EJ hurt his knee, so we really didn’t get to work much together in preseason,” Chandler said. “It’s really just been these first three weeks. I think last week was a big step for us.”
Chandler, 28, made an impressive recovery from his torn ACL, rehabbing it in almost exactly nine months from the Jan. 10 surgery to the Sept. 8 season opener.
“The first thing is you have to tell yourself, there’s no other option – I’m going to be out there. And then once you get that mind-set, it’s just, ‘all right, here’s the work that needs to be done to get there.’ It becomes about managing the injury to get the best out of yourself,” Chandler said.
The seventh-year pro had been through one other major rehab in his career, when he suffered a toe injury in his second season, but said getting back from ACL surgery has thus far been his biggest physical challenge, describing it as “grueling and intensive.”
“But, you know, it’s one of those things: It’s part of the game. A lot of guys have been through it. And I think if you start to think you’re up against something big, you kind of get down on yourself, so you’ve just got to persevere through it,” he said.
Chandler’s surgery was performed by Dr. Leslie Bisson, and he started his rehab in his home state of Iowa with physical therapist Paul Pursley before continuing it with the Bills’ athletic training staff.
Chandler played in 57 snaps against the Patriots in the opener, then 71 against Carolina and another 77 against the Jets in Week Three. That represents 92 percent of the Bills’ 224 offensive snaps thus far.
“I’m trying to figure out the best way to manage it with weekly reps. Just like there’s no way to simulate a training camp in the offseason, there’s no way to really simulate playing 70-plus plays in a game,” he said. “You get sore at the beginning of the week and you just kind of try and manage it so you’re ready to go on Sunday.”
Defensive end Mario Williams (ankle), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hamstring) and guard Kraig Urbik (knee) all returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday for the Bills.
Safety Jairus Byrd (feet) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day. Sitting out practice were kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), receiver Marquise Goodwin (hand) and cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Ron Brooks (foot).
The Bills have selected Lucy Candelario as their recipient of the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.
The NFL and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation have partnered for the third time, recognizing the contributions of Hispanic leaders in each NFL market. Candelario will be honored at Sunday’s game.
A Buffalo native, Candelario has served as executive director of West Side Community Service for the past 18 years and recently became the executive director of the Belle Center. She is also a board member of the West Buffalo Charter School and is involved with the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network and the Community Action Organization.