LATROBE, Pa. – Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley seemed incredulous at the idea of trading top rusher C.J. Spiller.
“We have not been contacted by any team about C.J. Spiller,” Whaley said before Wednesday’s joint practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Vincent College. “These rumors are news to me.”
Then again, Whaley struck a similar tone about receiver Stevie Johnson before sending him to the San Francisco 49ers a few months ago.
Media speculation has had Spiller on the trade block for a few weeks.
He’s entering the final year of his contract. The Bills acquired running backs Anthony Dixon in free agency and Bryce Brown in a trade. They recently re-signed Fred Jackson.
“It’s exciting, I guess, for you guys because it gives you something to fill the newspaper with,” Whaley said. “But, again, no one ... I’ll tell you guys, and you know I’m a straight shooter. We have not been contacted by any teams.
“I can probably see where people see our depth at running back and try to connect the dots with teams that don’t have depth, but, again, nobody has talked to us.”
Talk about a Johnson trade percolated shortly after the 2013 season ended.
Asked about a possible Johnson trade at the wrap-up conference, Whaley said he was “amazed” and “taken aback by the question.”
The Bills traded Johnson in May.
As expected, things got physical in a hurry between the Bills and Steelers during their afternoon practice session. Conducting 11-on-11 drills on opposite ends of the same field, the first dustup involved Bills fullback Evan Rodriguez.
Bills coach Doug Marrone rushed into the fracas to pull Rodriguez out.
“None of us really have a tolerance for it. We’ve come out here to get some great work done,” Marrone said before the workout. “Both Coach Tomlin and I have spoken to each other quite a bit, we’ve spoken to our players quite a bit and our team and our coaches. It’s not part of the game. We’re not looking for that.”
Nevertheless, the practice was easily the Bills’ most physical of camp. The first 11-on-11 session featured live tackling.
“For this being my first time going against another team in practice, I thought it was really good for us, especially the offense,” Bills quarterback EJ Manuel said. “To play against a different group of guys for two days, they gave us a bunch of different looks and things like that, so we were chomping down on the film last night and preparing for them. I was proud of the way we came out and competed today. I’m sure the defense did a great job, too.”
The trip to Latrobe brought back fond memories for Marrone.
Marrone was with the Steelers as a player in 1991, under legendary coach Chuck Noll. The Bills and Steelers practiced on Chuck Noll Field.
“I was always intrigued about how intelligent he was about everything, not just the sport of football. Not being a very good football player and being on the look team, I’ll never forget Coach Noll used to jump in,” Marrone said. “I remember one practice he played the defensive end and I was playing the defensive tackle giving our offense a look during a walkthrough. I remember him explaining to me about a TE twist and an ET twist and how it came about and how the names were Exit and Texas.
“I remember him explaining that to me. I thought it was pretty cool for him to talk to a guy that probably wasn’t going to make the roster and give me a bit of a history lesson.”
Not practicing for the Bills on Wednesday were: Tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), Jonathan Meeks (neck), Ty Powell (medical) and Chris Williams (lower back).
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who has sat out about the last two weeks of the team portion of practice, returned to work.