Feature: Top-Pick Lynch Arrives at Bills Camp Poised for Action

July 27, 2007

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -With his Buffalo Bills teammates casually gathering along the sideline awaiting the start of practice Friday morning, running back Marshawn Lynch was already poised for action.

The first-round draft pick had his helmet on, held a football tight against his side, and listened intently as assistant coach Eric Studesville ran through the offensive plays.

Once practice began, it was difficult to hold Lynch back. He nearly jumped the line trying to cut ahead of backup Shaud Williams during hand-off drills.

'I had to get back into it, get the feel of the ball, put the cleats back on and get my feet dirty,' Lynch said. 'It's just getting back into some football after being out of it for quite some time ... the feeling you get when you're ready to go.'

After missing the Bills' first two practices Thursday, Lynch made his training camp debut in suburban Rochester after signing a five-year contract worth nearly $19 million. He was so eager that the native of Oakland, Calif., was already in the state waiting for the deal to be completed.

'It's real important. I didn't want to miss the few hours that I missed, but that's the business,' Lynch said. 'It happened. But I'm here now, so I'm moving forward.'

Forward is the direction the Bills hope Lynch can take their offense. He was drafted 12th overall out of Cal to replace Willis McGahee, the inconsistent and often brooding player who was traded to Baltimore in March.

Lynch finished with 3,230 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns, while adding 600 yards receiving and six TDs in 35 games over three seasons at California.

His versatility as a receiver gives the Bills an added dimension in coordinator Steve Fairchild's multi-threat offense, something McGahee struggled with last year.

Lynch's arrival pleased quarterback J.P. Losman, who also made his camp debut after a lower back strain held him out of practice Thursday.

'It's exciting to get him signed and see how much he wanted to be here,' Losman said. 'He knows how important he's going to be for our offense.'

Losman also praised Lynch's attention to detail.

'You watch him closely, he's always paying attention,' Losman said. 'You never see him messing around back there. And that's what you want to see from your running back.'

Lynch received limited practice time, but immediately showed he's ready even for a non-contact session. Lynch was in position but stopped just short of tackling fellow rookie and good friend Paul Posluszny while the linebacker was attempting to return a loose ball.

The two then shared a laugh.

'Ha, that's my boy, Paul,' Lynch said, flashing a grin of gold-rimmed teeth. 'He's going to bring it. I'm going to bring it. We're going to have some fun out there.'

Lynch has already begun to win over Bills fans with a bright personality and his plan to make Buffalo his year-round home.

McGahee, by comparison, spent his offseasons working out in his native Miami, and then wore out his welcome in January when he criticized Buffalo for lacking an adequate nightlife.

Without mentioning McGahee, former Bills star quarterback Jim Kelly urged Lynch to understand how special a player he can become in a football-mad city like Buffalo.

'I just hope that Lynch comes in and realizes that this is his team now, and this is his town,' said Kelly, the Hall of Famer, who is a regular at camp. 'I think the city needs a guy to come in and be the running back that we all hope for, and who would embrace not only the football team but the city.'

Kelly then paid Lynch the ultimate compliment, hoping he can become the workhorse running back for this team that soon-to-be-inducted Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas was for the Bills in the 1990s.

Lynch didn't flinch when informed of Kelly's comments.

'Well, I've got a great amount of expectations on my shoulders and I'm looking forward to carrying them,' Lynch said. 'I've never been in a position like this. But I'm looking forward and I'm up to the challenge.'

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