By JOHN WAWROW The Associated Press
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — PITTSFORD — The Buffalo Bills big man, Marcell Dareus, is ready to shed his heavy heart.
The defensive tackle is looking ahead to the season with the intention of returning his focus back to playing football. It’s a conscious approach Dareus is taking after being left an emotional wreck last year following the shooting death of his youngest brother.
“To me, last year never happened,” he said. “I done came to the realization that my little brother is gone. I’ve coped with that. I’ve grieved over it. I got all of it out, and I’m OK now.”
Difficult as it might be, Dareus is ready to move on after his sibling, Simeon Gilmore, was among three people killed during a burglary in a suburb of Birmingham, Ala. It occurred the same weekend Dareus was preparing to open the season.
Dareus left the team to mourn with his family. And it was clear upon his return that he had been left drained by the experience.
He wasn’t the same bubbly person off the field. Rather being someone usually ready to show off his dance moves in the locker room, Dareus mostly avoided eye contact with reporters. And he certainly wasn’t the aggressive dual-purpose pass-rushing/run-stuffing wrecking ball of a player Buffalo hoped for.
“It hit me real low. And it took a lot out of me,” Dareus said. “That’s the first time I went through my season where I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what was going on and why things were happening to me the way they were.
“I really didn’t know how to bounce back.”
This season becomes a fresh start in Dareus’ pursuit to begin realizing the potential the Bills saw in selecting the former Alabama star with the third pick in the 2011 draft.
“I have a lot to prove to myself,” he said. “Of course, I’ve had a couple of bumps and bruises in the road. But at the same time, I’ve overcome them. I’m just focusing in on this year, getting better, and being the best player that I can be.”
The sky is still regarded to be the limit for Dareus, but he’s yet to come close to scratching that surface.
Playing through an assortment of injuries in his rookie season, Dareus still led the team with 5½ sacks on a porous defense. Last year, he finished second on the team with 5½ sacks, but was knocked for his inconsistency for much of the season.
First-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Dareus is “having a pretty good camp,” while noting there is still much he needs to improve upon.
The biggest issue is getting Dareus to use his powerful, 6-foot-3, 300-plus-pound frame to create the same type of havoc along the line as he did in college.
“We’re trying to get him to be a little more aggressive and roll off the ball and use his size,” Pettine said. “Sometimes you get big guys that think they’re little guys. He has to understand at times he just needs to use his size and strength.”
Dareus had a solid scrimmage on Monday, when he bullied his way into the backfield to disrupt plays on several occasions. And yet, there have been times when he’s relied too much on finesse.
Veteran defense tackle Kyle Williams, who has taken Dareus under his wing, is confident his teammate is making progress.
“Fans and everybody outside and inside, coaches and players, are kind of waiting on him to kind of take off and fly. And I think he’s there,” Williams said. “I just want to be around for that, because I know physically what he can do. It’s just really trying to narrow his focus.”
Dareus understands his shortcomings. He was ready to improve upon them a year ago, before his focus was derailed by tragedy. He’s grown from that experience.
Dareus is proud to announce he’s down to his rookie playing weight of about 300 pounds, after entering camp at 331 last season. He talks about how much better he feels mentally and physically. And he’s pleased to hear what Williams had said about him being ready to take off and fly.
“Everything is behind me. I’m only looking forward,” Dareus said. “Kyle Williams has got my back, and just knowing that pushes me through all of this.”
With each word, his voice rises with intensity, and a smile begins to build.
“Yeah, I’m happy,” Dareus said. “I’m ready to twitch. I’m ready to go.”