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Free Safety Battle To Be Fierce
Draft Pick And Young Veterans To Battle For Important Job.
by Steve Saslow
Thursday May 11, 2000

Travares Tillman

With the May mini-camp behind us, and the voluntary two week June camp a month away, this is a slow time for news coming out of One Bills Drive. Bills Daily is taking this time to take a look at some of the bigger position battles on the team. Today we are looking at the battle for the very important starting free safety spot.

Kurt Schultz's defection to Detroit during free agency is arguably the biggest loss of many this off season. Schultz was a steady hand at free safety, which is known as the "quarterback of the defense." This position must make all the defensive calls in the huddle and altering the calls after checking the offense as they come to the line.

There are three young, experienced players vying for the job, Keion Carpenter, Daryl Porter and 2nd round pick Travares Tillman. Luckily, who ever wins the job will have a veteran counterpart to lean on in Henry Jones. The steady and consistent Jones will be able to help with the calls in the huddles but when they come to the line the free safety will have to make many of the alterations since Jones will be in lined up wide covering either a back or a tight end. This means that whomever wins the job needs to know the defense and how to read offenses. There isn't much time to see what the offense is showing and then to call the correct adjustments using the right signals. That's a tall order for players this green and will require a tremendous amount of studying during this month so the players will be more ready to make those calls during the June camp.

This is why the Bills chose Tillman in the second round of the draft. People called him a reach pick and that may very well be true but he is a very intelligent player and a good athlete who likes to hit like Schultz did. He is a bit behind the other two candidates right now but his leadership abilities and intelligence may allow him to catch up.

Carpenter is the favorite for the job, he was the lone rookie free agent to make the team last year. He played mostly on special teams when he was active and saw only minimal, garbage time at safety. The coaches feel he has what it takes to step up and start this year.

Porter has more experience than the others do. He came to Buffalo after being waived midway through the 1998 season by New Orleans. He has played corner in his year and a half with the club but was asked to move to Safety to battle for that job. If he shows he can handle the switch he will give Carpenter a run for the job.

Another player who might be in the mix before the season starts is Manny Martin. He is an unrestricted free agent, but is working out in Buffalo trying to recover from a knee injury. If he makes it back then he will probably be re-signed at a bargain rate. He has a lot of experience at the position and if he can return healthy he can win that job, but that is a big if.

The winner of this battle may not necessarily be the best athlete but the one who can comprehend all the Xs and Os of the game. The only good thing is that Jones will be there to help them out. It will certainly be the most interesting battle of training camp indeed.

Other Articles In This Series:
Third Wide Receiver Battle
Outside Linebackers Battle
RB Battle

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