Edwards gets majority of practice time
For Edwards, it's one thing to open training camp as the leading candidate, as he did on Thursday. It's another to keep it after he was benched midway through last year.
"I've grown from that. I'm a year older. I'm a year stronger. I'm hopefully a year better," he said. "And I'm going to use that to my advantage, just like I'm using this competition out here to my advantage."
Edwards has the inside track for the job, as coach Chan Gailey delivered on his promise to establish a pecking order after providing his three quarterbacks equal time during the team's offseason minicamps.
Edwards enjoyed the majority of practice time throughout the two-plus hour session, and primarily worked with the first-string offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who finished last season as the starter, worked with the second-stringers, followed by third-stringer Brian Brohm.
Gailey said Edwards deserved the opportunity to lead the pack based on how he saw the quarterback perform in practice through spring.
"He just made a lot more plays that we thought were positive," said Gailey, who provided all three quarterbacks a clean slate since taking over as coach in January. "He did a good job of handling the team."
Gailey said Fitzpatrick and Brohm will split time working with the second-stringers over the next few weeks. And he stressed that the competition is far from over, noting he'll continue gauging the players' performance through the preseason.
Aware that the job is not his yet, Edwards isn't taking anything for granted.
"I must have been doing something right in minicamps, so it's nice that you're appreciated for what you've done in the past," Edwards said. "But that's in the past now. We need to grow off that and get ready for the Dolphins Week 1."
Edwards was referring to the Bills regular-season opener against Miami on Sept. 12.
At the very least, opening training camp as the starter marked a first step for Edwards in what's already been an up-and-down tenure in Buffalo.
Selected in the third-round of the 2007 draft out of Stanford, Edwards supplanted J.P. Losman as the starter during his rookie season. The following season, Edwards helped the Bills get off to a 5-1 start, before he and the offense struggled in contributing to the team losing eight of its final 10 games.
Last season was all too forgettable with Edwards taking the brunt of the blame for running a popgun offense that had numerous problems beyond his control. Coordinator Turk Schonert was fired two weeks before the start of the season, followed by the Bills releasing starting left tackle Langston Walker.
Edwards then lost his job in early November after Dick Jauron was fired and replaced by interim coach Perry Fewell.
Looking back, Edwards acknowledged he didn't handle the adversity very well.
"I think I probably got overwhelmed or stressed over too many little things, and paying too much attention to too many things I shouldn't have been paying attention to," he said. "I feel like that was almost good for me."
Edwards was already considered the front-runner for the job as he entered this year with the most statistical categories, including career starts (30), pass attempts (826), yards (5,498) and touchdowns (24) during his three NFL seasons. Fitzpatrick, entering his sixth season, was next with 23 starts, 4,104 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick accepted Gailey's decision, but added that he intends to continue competing for the job.
"You can't be disappointed," Fitzpatrick said. "I just have to continue to get better and that's the only way I can approach it, and do whatever it takes -- whether it's me in there or not -- to help the team win."
Brohm is regarded as a raw talent. Selected by Green Bay in the second round of the 2008 draft out of Louisville, Brohm eventually landed in Buffalo last November when the team signed him off the Packers practice squad.
He struggled in his first career start last season, going 17 of 29 for 146 yards and two interceptions in Buffalo's 31-3 loss at Atlanta in December.
While a key position on offense is up for the grabs, the Bills' defense took a hit Thursday.
Veteran linebacker Chris Kelsay will be out indefinitely after injuring his right shoulder on the first day of training camp.
Without providing any details of the injury, coach Chan Gailey says Kelsay "will be out a little while," but didn't know for how long.
Kelsay was hurt midway through practice Thursday afternoon, when he left the field and had his shoulder immediately wrapped in ice. Kelsay wouldn't divulge the nature of the injury as he walked off the field following the session in suburban Rochester.
An eight-year NFL veteran, Kelsay is projected to start at outside linebacker in making the move from defensive end as the Bills make the switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme this season.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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