Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone had just finished practice Sunday and was on his way to the lectern to address the media.
Marrone stopped first, though, when he saw running back C.J. Spiller. The two shared a hug – a simple, but appropriate gesture after the week Spiller has had.
Spiller returned to the team Sunday from Lake Butler, Fla., where he had been with family. Spiller’s step-grandfather, Hubert Allen Jr., went on a shooting spree Aug. 24 that left two people dead and another two wounded before killing himself.
“It was very emotional. If anyone in here has ever lost someone close to them – I’m sure they have – a grandparent or whatever, then you have a feel for the emotions of what I was going through,” Spiller said.
Spiller called the Bills a “first-class” organization, thanking Marrone, President Russ Brandon and General Manager Doug Whaley for their continued support.
“It speaks volumes to the type of organization we have here,” he said. “I was texting those guys, checking up on them and they were checking up on me. I was letting them know I was doing pretty good. So I ... just want to thank everybody for the privacy for the most part for our family, as we were grieving.”
Spiller said fellow running back Fred Jackson and their position coach, Tyrone Wheatley, also have helped in the healing process.
“The whole staff and the players, it’s been great support,” he said.
Spiller is expected to return to practice today. He said getting back to work will be its own form of therapy.
“I understand that it is a tragic event that took place and it’s going to take a while to cope with it, but at the same time, I can’t forget the task and the goal and the dreams that we have as a team and as an organization,” he said. “I want to be a part of that, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that I’m ready to go.”
Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd took part in practice. Marrone said Byrd did “a couple things” during the team portion of practice, but that they were “still working his way back in to get him in a position where he can help us.”
Byrd missed Thursday’s preseason finale against Detroit to get a second opinion on a foot injury. The team’s official website tweeted after practice that Byrd was dealing with plantar fasciitis, and that he was working “as much as my body can endure” to return to the lineup.
Marrone was asked whether the injury occurred before or after Byrd reported to the team.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “He passed our physical when he came in.”
The coach was also asked if Byrd had gotten a clean bill of health since he was participating in at least a portion of practice.
“I think the definition of ‘clean bill of health’ is very difficult, I really do,” he said. “I think that when a player’s working his way back, obviously, some people will view that as a clean bill of health. I think I see that, but there is a point where, you know obviously, a player has to feel good about coming back from whatever it may be, soreness or whatever. And I think he’s transitioning back into that type of role.”
Marrone said guard Doug Legursky, who suffered a knee injury Thursday in the team’s preseason finale, is not a candidate to go on the injured reserve-designated to return list.
That means the team feels Legursky has a good chance to return within the first eight weeks of the season. Marrone did say, however, that Legursky’s injury will require “some time” to heal.
Legursky, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Spiller were the only three players not to participate in any portion of practice Sunday.
The Bills claimed cornerback Brandon Burton off waivers Sunday from the Minnesota Vikings, adding him to their 53-man roster.
Burton, 24, is a former fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2011. He played in 14 games over the last two seasons with the team, including one start, before being released Saturday. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder played at Utah.
The Bills also started filling out their practice squad, signing offensive lineman Mark Asper, quarterback Thad Lewis, receiver Tommy Streeter and defensive ends Jamie Blatnick and Izaan Cross.
The team still has three open spots on its practice squad and two on the 53-man roster.