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Ryan hopes for good work in practices with Browns

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Rex Ryan might have said he wants to build a bully in Buffalo, but the Bills’ head coach would prefer not to have to be a bully Monday and Tuesday when the Bills host the Cleveland Browns for a pair of joint practices in advance of the teams’ preseason game Thursday night in Cleveland.

Browns coach Mike Pettine, who worked with Ryan in both Baltimore and New York before leaving to become Buffalo’s defensive coordinator in 2013, said over the weekend that his team wouldn’t be going up to western New York for “a pillow fight.” And Joe Thomas, the Browns’ star tackle, warned that with jobs on the line, the summer heat on the rise, and two teams filled with competitive players, that fights could be prevalent.

Ryan basically scoffed at the notion of the Browns trying to set a tone before they even arrive at St. John Fisher College.

“We’ll conduct business as business is being done to us, I can promise you that,” Ryan said Sunday. “You don’t want a pillow fight, you want to compete, and that’s why it should be a higher intensity level anytime you’re going against another opponent. But at the same time we want to practice football. If you just want to fight, we’ll go to the local gym and grab some guy to fight somebody. That defeats the purpose, but we’re not going to be bullied. I was hoping the idea was to get better as a football team.”

The Bills are coming off a 25-24 preseason-opening loss to Carolina, and while Ryan wasn’t going to lose sleep over the result, it didn’t please him that his defense — even though it was the third-stringers — blew a late lead.

“I told you guys the most important thing was execution, it really wasn’t the winning and losing, but I lied,” Ryan said. “It’s about wins because you know I hate losing. I don’t care how bad you out-play a team, I hate losing. I mean it killed a pretty darn good day.”

The big news for the Bills coming out of the game, and then looking forward to the next few days about to be spent with the Browns, was the play of the quarterbacks. All three — Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, and EJ Manuel — played pretty well, which is more than most Bills fans could have possible expected.

“They were solid, they had a good night,” said center Eric Wood. “The stats could have been better based on drops or protection, but I thought they all executed pretty well and I’m excited about moving forward. I’m glad I’m not the one making the decision.”

Ryan started Cassel and saw him complete 7 of 8 passes for 45 yards. He went with Taylor second and he completed 5 of 8 for 49 yards, plus he rushed six times for 47 yards on read-option plays. Manuel played with the second- and third-stringers and threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Thompson on his way to a 4-of-8, 71-yard outing.

“This isn’t ideal, obviously, but you have three guys battling (and) you want it to be a hard decision with all three guys, that all three are playing to a good level,” Ryan said. “I think it’s impossible to say they didn’t play well; all three of them did. Make that thing as hard as possible and again, we will make the decision when it’s the right time to make it.”

His decision for this week wasn’t hard. He was planning to let Taylor play with the first string all along, and he’s looking forward to seeing what this largely unproven player can do, but also, the entire team.

“I am really looking forward to practice against Cleveland because now you have another team in here,” said Ryan. “Even though it’s the same drills we have been doing on the practice field it’s against another opponent. So I think those are always good. Great to evaluate guys, and it’s great to compete against another team.”

–The Bills have lost backup defensive end Jarius Wynn for the season due to a torn ACL suffered in the 25-24 loss to Carolina Friday. Wynn was being counted on as part of a deep rotation up front, and now his spot is up for grabs. There are several candidates, and one of the most intriguing will be IK Enemkpali, just signed last week after being cut by the Jets for punching Geno Smith and breaking his jaw.

Enemkpali was a sixth-round draft pick of the Jets in 2014 when Ryan was still the coach there. It seemed like an odd signing for the Bills because Enemkpali played only six games for New York as a rookie, mostly on special teams. But regardless of whether Ryan was trying to stick it to the Jets or not, he thinks this player could help the Bills.

“He’ll be a guy who competes in a similar role to Jerry Hughes,” Ryan said, meaning Enemkpali is an upfield pass rusher off the edge who could drop into coverage if need be. “He’s a different kind of player than Jerry, but he’ll back up at that position and play special teams; he’ll run down there, he’s an aggressive, physical player, so I think the young man has a chance to develop into a decent football player.

“Nothing justifies hitting somebody and all that stuff. And I’m not trying to say it wasn’t a mistake. But I also believe that he’s going to learn from this. And we’ll give him a chance to compete. There’s no guarantee this young man makes our team. Not everybody’s perfect. You can look at every person in that locker room and not anybody is perfect.”


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