PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — A couple of days after one of their most heated practices of training camp, the Buffalo Bills will welcome the opportunity to practice against somebody else this week.
The Bills will soon head to Latrobe, Pa., for a pair of joint practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday and Thursday. That will be followed by a preseason game between the teams in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“We’re looking forward to going in against an organization that is a physical team, that is a tough team, a team that has won in the past,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I think we’re excited about being able to compete with them.”
The trip appears to be coming at a good time for Buffalo.
Buffalo’s last scheduled practice before the trip on Tuesday morning was canceled due to rain.
Tempers were heating up at the team’s Sunday afternoon practice, which was the second practice in back-to-back days after Buffalo’s preseason game against Carolina on Friday.
Early in the session, an unusual scene unfolded when around 20 players on offense and defense — led by running back Fred Jackson and safety Aaron Williams — converged around midfield to exchange words. The sides were participating in completely separate drills.
No punches were thrown, but several players had to be restrained.
It was an indication that the grind of training camp had set in.
“You get tired of looking at the same faces,” said Jackson, who considers Williams one of his best friends on the team. “You’re going up against the same guys and things are going to get a little chippy, a little chirpy, and that’s part of it. That’s training camp. That’s what training camp is about. We gnaw that stuff out once we get to the season; we know we just have to get through everything together and we’re going to be who we have to rely on.”
Jackson, Buffalo’s team leader on offense, has mixed feelings about the trip to Pittsburgh.
The 33-year-old running back recognizes the value in practicing against another team, but isn’t looking forward to the additional increase in intensity at this stage of the preseason.
“Not at all,” Jackson said when asked if he was looking forward to the trip.
“It’s just going to be two days of games, it’s going to be a game on Wednesday and a game on Thursday and then on Friday we get a day off and then a game on Saturday. But it is what it is.
“We’ve got to do that and get through it and go up there and take every possible advantage of it and get better.”
On the flip side, second-year quarterback EJ Manuel is relishing the chance to go up against another team in practice.
After a difficult start to training camp, Manuel has made strides in recent days and is eager to test his skills against a different defense. He’s also looking forward to reconnecting with Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, whom he knows from his hometown in Virginia.
“I’m looking forward to getting together with the Steelers,” Manuel said. “I’m very good friends with Coach Tomlin, we’re from the same area. I saw him a few weeks ago before we came here. He told me whatever look we need as an offense he’ll give it to us. It’s going to be very competitive, we’re going to try and treat it like three days of a game. Each day of practice, we’ll try and treat it like a game.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL