April had two years left on contract

Updated: January 5, 2010, 8:45 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Bobby April, one of the league's top special teams coaches, has exercised a clause in his contract that made him a free agent Tuesday.

"I didn't want to go through the whole ordeal," April said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday as he cleaned out his office at the team's headquarters. "At this point, I just think it's time for me to move on."

April had two years remaining on his contract and was informed Monday by the Buffalo Bills that he and the other assistant coaches have the right to pursue other jobs as the organization searches for a new coach.

Since the midseason firing of Dick Jauron, April has been trying to decide what to do with the final years of his contract.

The contract gives him 14 days after the season to make a decision. Knowing he will be in demand, April decided to inform the team he was leaving. "It's time for me to move on," he said.

"This way, if someone was interested in me, I wanted to make my status clear," he added.

Also factoring into April's decision was a belief he no longer had a future with the Bills after Dick Jauron was fired in November. April also held the title of assistant head coach, and felt snubbed when the team promoted defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to finish the season as interim head coach.

"The interim coaching deal, I expressed to Russ how I felt about it," April said, referring to chief executive officer Russ Brandon. "I'm going to leave that between Russ and I."

Fewell had a four-hour interview for the head-coaching job with Bills general manager Buddy Nix on Monday, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the team would not discuss the coaching search.

Joining the Bills in 2004 after a three-year stint with St. Louis, April was one of the few Bills assistants retained when Jauron took over in 2006. April completed his 18th season in the NFL after breaking into the league as a tight ends/special teams coach with Atlanta in 1991.

April had the out-clause written into his contract after the 2008 season, when speculation about Jauron's future was being raised. April said he wanted to keep his options open if Jauron was fired.

"I had chosen to work for Mike Mularkey and Dick Jauron, and may not have had a choice on the next one," April said, referring to the team's two previous coaches. "I didn't necessarily want to work for somebody I didn't want to work for."

April was credited for overseeing a golden era for Bills special teams. Led by punter Brian Moorman, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, the unit finished first three times in the annual end-of-season Dallas Morning News rankings, which are regarded as the standard by the NFL.

Place-kicker Rian Lindell has also been consistent under April. Despite often playing in harsh wintry conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Lindell hit 49 of 50 field-goal attempts under 39 yards in his past four years.

Injuries and free-agent losses contributed to the unit's inconsistency this season, though Buffalo did finish in the top 10 in four statistical categories.

"It was a great run," April said, crediting his players for their effort. "I have no regrets and am as grateful as I can be."

The Bills announced in a statement that the team's current staff remains under contract but the coaches have been informed that their obligations for this season have been completed, and they now "have the opportunity to seek positions elsewhere." The release said their status then will be determined by the Bills' next head coach.

Despite how the Bills phrased the release, a person familiar with the team's decisions told The Associated Press that the staff was fired.

The Bills closed their 50th season by missing the playoffs for a 10th straight year, capping a decade in which they enjoyed only one winning season -- a 9-7 finish in 2004.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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