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Bills move to get stronger at strong safety

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Head coach Rex Ryan won’t admit that he is uncomfortable about the situation at strong safety, but his actions at the start of OTAs on Wednesday revealed his concern.

Ninth-year veteran Corey Graham was running with the first unit in place of the triumvirate of Bacarri Rambo, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks.

Ryan values veterans on his defensive unit, and Graham has more NFL experience than the other three combined, plus he played some safety through the years. Thus, Graham will be given the opportunity to learn the position full time during OTAs to be ready to compete head-on in training camp.

“I’m not saying he won’t go to corner because I’m sure he’ll play some there, but we really want him to focus on safety right now,” Ryan said of Graham. “I just want to give him a shot. You know, you just want to get your best 11 on the field. So let’s see what we have out there.

“And this is no slam on Duke or on Rambo or on Meeks or any of those guys, but this is us doing what’s best for the team. And if that means we feel good about him playing safety, then that’s where he’ll be.”

Graham is one of Buffalo’s most versatile defensive backs. Last year in his first season with the Bills after playing for Baltimore and Chicago, Graham saw time at outside corner, nickel corner and safety.

“We’ve worked him a lot at corner,” Ryan said, referring to practice sessions during voluntary workouts the past few weeks. “We’re confident that he can jump right back in there. He’s going to need a lot of reps at safety. So that’s where he’s going to be getting the majority of his work.”

Graham was not surprised by the announcement. He had a feeling it might happen, and he’s happy for the chance to become a full-time starter, something he has never really done during an NFL career marked mostly by outstanding special teams play, and sub-package roles on defense.

“I can play both, but right now I want to focus on safety and learn it and see where it goes, see how much I can grasp and see how I’m playing at it,” Graham said. “When you get older in your career, sometimes you move to different positions, so I look forward to it, it’s a challenge, but I’m excited about it. We’ve been talking about it the whole offseason so it’s nothing new.”

Graham said cornerback is the harder position to play, but safety presents several challenges, both physical and mental.

“It’s not just about what you’re doing, you’ve got to pay attention to what everybody around you is doing,” he said of the safety’s role. “You have to get everybody lined up, and think about if one guy motions, you might change the whole defense.”

— Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus spoke for the first time since the league handed down a one-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy last year. He didn’t have too much to say about that, other than he was glad it was only one game.

But he did talk a bit about his upcoming contract year. He’s set to become a free agent after 2015, and given what Miami paid for Ndamukong Suh, Dareus could be in for a humongous payday, and he knows it.

“It weighs on me heavily,” Dareus said of the status of talks between the team and his agent. “I want to go out and perform and do what I have to do like I always do and have fun with it. Whatever the outcome is, that’s the outcome. However they want to play it is how they play it.”

Suh made $59 million guaranteed and Tampa Bay forked out $51 million guaranteed to Gerald McCoy.

Asked whether he deserves to be paid like that, Dareus said, “Just turn on the tape. Turn on the tape. It speaks for itself. Those are great guys. They play hard. I play hard. I’m pretty sure there’s hundreds of other guys that play hard as well. What they got, that’s not mine. I can’t count what I don’t have. I’m just going to sit back, play my game and have fun.”


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