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TOPIC: Coming off a 17-player haul in free agency

Coming off a 17-player haul in free agency 5 months 2 weeks ago #1274

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ORCHARD PARK , N.Y. (AP) — Brandon Beane has plenty of options entering the NFL draft. And the Bills general manager isn’t going to restrict himself to focusing on one or two positions when it comes time for Buffalo to make the No. 9 selection.Name a position outside of quarterback, after Buffalo selected Josh Allen with its first pick a year ago, and Beane won’t rule it out. And that includes an offensive lineman, even though Buffalo added seven newcomers already this offseason.“I wouldn’t say it’s less likely, no. I think there’s some good ones,” Beane said.“Guys, I’m serious. We’re taking the best player,” Beane added, before noting he and his scouting staff will hold several in-house mock drafts to prep for the draft. “I feel confident that we’ll get a good player at nine. And I’ll be curious how these mocks go, but I can see a lot of scenarios of (selecting a player from) either side of the ball.”With that in mind, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Buffalo to select an offensive tackle such as Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, should he be available. Then there’s the option of the Bills addressing their defensive line with Houston tackle Ed Oliver, or adding a pass-rusher, such Michigan’s Rashan Gary.Tight end, a position long lacking in production in Buffalo, might even be on the table with Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson being linked to the Bills in various mock drafts.Beane’s point is Buffalo’s roster is in a much better place when it comes to competitive depth and salary structure entering his third year. The change is the result of Beane spending the past two years purging high-priced contracts and underperforming players, and rebuilding through youth by stockpiling draft picks.The overhaul resulted in the Bills taking a step back in going 6-10 a year after a 9-7 finish in which they sneaked into the playoffs to end a 17-year drought.The benefits were evident a month ago. With more than $70 million in salary cap space available, Beane took an aggressive approach by filling numerous needs in free agency. He focused mostly on surrounding Allen with more talent by upgrading what had been a patchwork and inexperienced offense.After center Mitch Morse, the most notable additions were receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown, who join a relatively untested group of receivers made up of Zay Jones and Robert Foster.With a defense that allowed the second-fewest yards in the league returning mostly intact, the expectation now is for Allen to build off a promising finish to his rookie season and help the Bills take the next step toward being a contender.Coach Sean McDermott isn’t buying into the notion the newcomers make the Bills any better.“Right now, they’re just names on paper,” McDermott said. “What we have to do is find a way to bring these names that are on the paper and bringing them to life.”DRAFT ASSETSThe Bills have 10 selections, with seven spread over the final four rounds. With only one second- and third-round pick, it makes it difficult — but not impossible —for Buffalo to move up in the first round as it did twice a year ago. Don’t rule out the Bills combining their later-round picks to trade up should the opportunity present itself.WHEELING AND DEALINGBeane spent the first round last year maneuvering up the draft board. He traded up five spots to select Allen with the No. 7 pick Devin Singletary Jersey , and then moved up six draft positions to select Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds at 16.MOCK MISSAsked about how many times his in-house mock draft finished with Buffalo landing both Allen and Edmunds, Beane said: “I think we were zero for zero.”Though he always considered the likelihood of trading up to select Allen, not once did he consider being in a position to move up and select Edmunds. “We always made a pick at 22 or, we used that pick to move up, so we didn’t have it,” he said.WHO’S LEFT?With defensive tackle Kyle Williams retiring after 13 seasons, the Bills have five players left who were on the roster since coach Rex Ryan’s final year in 2016.And of those five, defensive end Shaq Lawson (a first-round pick in 2016), is the lone player drafted by Buffalo who remains. Defensive end Jerry Hughes, acquired in a trade in 2013, is now Buffalo’s longest-serving active player.AGE-OLD QUESTIONBeane doesn’t consider drafting a running back a high priority even though Buffalo’s backfield currently features 30-year-old LeSean McCoy and 35-year-old free-agent addition Frank Gore. The GM said if he doesn’t select a running back, there are still several free-agent prospects available. FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Jonotthan Harrison has not forgotten a single punch or kick, the brutal pushing and shoving, the sudden tackles to the ground with his classmates piling on top of him.There was also the constant and flat-out mean name calling. And all the laughing. So much laughing — at his expense.The New York Jets center endured years of bullying while growing up in central Florida, but refused to let those painful moments stop him from achieving his goals.“I can get along with anybody,” Harrison said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But for whatever reason, people found me to be an easy target to mess with, pick on or whatever, whether they thought it was playful or not.”The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Harrison hardly looks like the type of guy anyone would dare mess with.From fifth grade through high school, though, it was a different story — one he often shares in schools on days off from practice to bring awareness to bullying and try to prevent it from happening to other youngsters.“It was a journey and I realized toward the end of high school that it kind of toughened me up on the inside,” the 27-year-old Harrison said. “You know, if I could go through all that and still come out on top, so to speak , all those people that bullied me and did whatever, they’re still in my hometown. They haven’t done anything with their lives, so now I’m very thankful for my parents’ guidance growing up and for where it’s helped me get to.”Harrison’s mother Jennifer and stepfather Robert Vorasky were travel nurses when he was young, so the family often bounced around south Florida. When Harrison reached fifth grade, his parents bought a home in the city of Mascotte in Lake County, Florida, with the intentions of providing stability.But Harrison quickly realized he was in for some major challenges.“I was the only person of my color in my class and they didn’t throw racial slurs at me, but coincidentally, we’d go out to recess and everyone would gang up on me on the soccer field,” he recalled. “They would trip me, they’d throw the ball at me. Me being an only child, I didn’t have any siblings to talk to, didn’t have any siblings to toughen me up or anything like that. So, there were times I’d go home emotional to my mom.“It sounds bad, but it is what it is.”In middle school, Harrison tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds, so he exceeded the weight limit to join athletic teams. Instead, he discovered the school band and played the guitar and French horn. He was pretty good at both, too, but that didn’t matter to some of the school’s jocks.“It was like, ‘Oh, here’s this ‘big, squishy kid,’ let’s tackle him and let’s pick on him a little bit,'” Harrison said. “So, on my way to lunch Brian Burns Jersey , I’d get tackled every single day. My books would go flying, I’d get scraped up, my shirt ripped up, whatever.“Everybody would just laugh, and I’d just pick myself up and keep going.”At South Lake High School, it was more of the same. Some kids also came up with an undesirable nickname: “Big Baby.”“They would say, ‘Oh, you’re just like a big baby,'” Harrison said. “It kind of stuck with me all the way through college, but it was a different ‘Big Baby’ at that point. I eventually became like a cool ‘Big Baby,’ but at the time, it was belittling and all I wanted to do was fit in.”Harrison would share some stories with his parents, but his mother would occasionally hear from his friends about other troubles with which her son was dealing.“He didn’t want to hurt me,” Jennifer Harrison said in a telephone interview. “He didn’t want to see my pain, too, because I think he realized it made me so sad when he was hurting, too.”She would frequently address Jonotthan’s issues with his teachers and school officials. At home, she provided her son comfort — and valuable advice.“Be greater than your enemies,” Harrison recalled her telling him. “Don’t stoop down to their level. You could really hurt somebody if you retaliated because you’re 200-plus pounds and they’re still under 200 pounds.”Jennifer Harrison acknowledged it was tough to ask her son to not retaliate. She knew it frustrated him, but she made it clear she understood what he was going through.“I told him, if you fight back, you would just be fueling the fire that these kids are trying to spark in you,” she said, “and you don’t want that.”Instead, Harrison kept brushing himself off and moving forward.He joined the football team in high school and became a star offensive lineman. That paved his way to a scholarship to the University of Florida.“I honestly believe that is one of the things that motivated him to be such a good football player,” Jennifer Harrison said. “That was his license to hit back. Maybe some good came out of it in that way. I saw his passion in football and I just said , ‘Wow, he’s finally able to hit back legitimately,’ and I think that gave him his strength and his oomph in football.”Harrison was also a model student with a double major who graduated with degrees in criminology and anthropology, and set his sights on becoming a homicide detective after his playing days.“It’s a pleasure to sit back and watch what he is doing now and how he has overcome that in his life and turn it around into something good,” Jennifer Harrison said. “I know it could have turned the other way.“It could have been more negative.”Harrison went undrafted in 2014, but signed with Indianapolis and started 23 games over the next three seasons. He signed with New York last year and played in eight games, including one start, before re-signing with the Jets last offseason.Harrison is set to start his third consecutive game at center, and could remain in that spot the rest of the season.“I’ve had people reach back out and act like everything’s cool now,” Harrison said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, bro. You don’t remember? I remember you throwing rocks at me when I rode my bike. I remember when we were playing football and all you guys turned and we got into this huge brawl in my backyard and nobody had my back. I remember all those times.’ It kind of sounds bad, but I kind of laugh at times because it’s like, if you were just nicer, you know what I mean?“I didn’t do anything to deserve that, but you felt the need to do that, and look at life now.”That’s what drives him to be so active in anti-bullying campaigns in conjunction with the Jets. He’ll go to a school and sit at lunch with a child who has experienced bullying, trading stories and bonding.“My whole message is: You will be all right and you will come out on the other end stronger, as long as you allow yourself to,” he said. “If you allow whatever’s influencing you to get to you and get under your skin, yeah, it’s going to cripple you. It’s going to cripple you emotionally, cripple you mentally and psychologically.“But if you take that and you just keep, not fighting back but keep standing up to whatever that influence may be, you’ll realize over time that it makes you stronger on the inside and it gives you the confidence necessary to go through life.”
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