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Training Camp Report: Bills Stampede Into Green Bay


Fourteen-year NFL veteran and Buffalo Bills cornerback Troy Vincent, a Pro Bowler in his day, now enters the twilight of his career. He could relate to another grizzled veteran, who held a bicycle.

"You know I just retired," the child told Vincent, who attended the University of Wisconsin.

Going into eighth grade, the boy had reached the age limit to escort a Green Bay Packers player to practice via his bicycle.

As the Bills participated in a joint scrimmage on Thursday night, they experienced a unique atmosphere, including thousands of passionate fans and a biking tradition.

"It's something I've always watched on television. I saw it when I was at Madison as a student-athlete there. You see it on the ESPN highlights," Vincent said. "I said, 'Man, I hope I get a chance to ride that bike.'"

Indeed, Vincent and many other Bills received that bike ride and participated in a ritual that dates back to 1961, when Vince Lombardi asked his players to ride bikes to practice in an effort to augment the team's relationship with their fans. To and from training camp practices, local children lend the players their bikes and often ride atop its handlebars.

The rides to the practice field were not the only benefit of the intra-squad game. Both teams raved about practicing against new opponents instead of their teammates.

"[You] see something different - a different look, different personnel, different defensive scheme," Bills wide receiver and University of Wisconsin alumnus Lee Evans said. "When you're in training camp, you see the same things your defense does. It's good to just come out here and just be competitive again."

However, both teams kept the schemes fairly simple -- perhaps because the teams will practice against each other twice more and face each other in an Aug. 20 preseason game. It made the decision making easy for the quarterbacks.

"I didn't really get any blitzing at all," Bills quarterback J.P. Losman said. "Offensively, we kept it basic, and so did they."

With a real opponent crouched across the line, practice took on a higher energy level. Bills safety Lawyer Milloy yelled at his defensive mates on the sideline: "Wake up! Wake up!"

He chewed them out as if it was a regular season game.

"There was an intensity level that was greater than what we had practiced with," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I felt like I had a little bit more juice in the legs and the arm, knowing I was facing guys I hadn't faced before."

Competing against the best brings out the best in players, and the Packers received the opportunity to play against perennial Pro Bowl players such as linebacker Takeo Spikes, wide receiver Eric Moulds and defensive lineman Sam Adams, among others.

Vincent relished facing quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Donald Driver.

"You have to be impressed with Brett and what he's still doing," he said. "I always loved competing against Donald Driver. I've always felt he was one of the top receivers in the league."

Despite some intense live scrimmages and sweltering heat, no tempers flared. No meeles ensued. The joint practice featured good, clean football.

"Buffalo was real professional," FB Nick Luchey said. "They were first class about this practice. They didn't do anything cheap against us."

The joint practice allowed players a chance to catch up with old friends. The leader of the Packers offense, Favre, and the leader of the Bills defense, Spikes, engaged in conversation. Packers punter Bryce Benekos chatted with former UTEP teammate Jon Dorenbos, a long snapper with the Bills. Former Arkansas Razorbacks, Packers cornerback Ahmad Carroll and Bills offensive lineman Jason Peters, slapped hands.

"It's a small world," Luchey said.

Former Cincinnati Bengals Luchey and safety Mark Roman had a de facto Bengals reunion as they mingled briefly on the sideline with Spikes, who played five years with the Bengals and defensive line coach Tim Krumrie, who coached the Bengals for eight years.

Luchey planned to swap war stories and reminisce about old times as the two teams met for a joint dinner following practice. They also discussed their respective football environments, which often are more similar than they are different.

"We talk about everything - different guys we know ... just trying to see some of the things they go through that we go through," he said. "It's all the same in this league."

Quick Hits: Running back Chaz Williams broke his ankle during Thursday's practice ... Offensive tackle Brad Bedell, who injured his hamstring on Wednesday, walked around on his own power on Thursday. "We're extemley encouraged," Sherman said. ... Cornerback Al Harris (quadriceps) may not play on Friday.

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