BY MARK LUDWICZAK The Associated Press
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — ORCHARD PARK — Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is hoping to put an offseason drug arrest behind him and focus on football.
Dareus participated in Buffalo’s first session of organized team activities Wednesday, three weeks after he was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance (synthetic marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia. The defensive tackle insisted he’s on the right path and chalked up his arrest as a youthful mistake.
“I feel like I’m on the straight and narrow,” Dareus said. “Things happen; young, dumb. You’ve got to correct it and just work through it.”
On the field, Dareus has been a force on the defensive line for the past three seasons. The 2011 third overall pick posted career highs in tackles (71) and sacks (7 1-2) and was chosen for his first Pro Bowl as an injury replacement last season.
But he’s also had his share of off-field issues over the past six months. Dareus was disciplined late last season for being late to team meetings; he was benched for the first quarter of Buffalo’s Week 16 game against Miami, and for the first half of Buffalo’s season finale against New England.
“It’s behind me,” Dareus said. “I mean, I’m not a trouble guy, I don’t cause any problems nowhere. I’m not a loud guy, I don’t do anything ... if things happen, things happen.”
Dareus said he has not heard from the league regarding a possible suspension.
Following the draft, Bills general manager Doug Whaley and coach Doug Marrone said that they view off-field trouble on a case-by-case basis. Marrone said Wednesday that Dareus has done a good job since returning to Buffalo for strength and conditioning workouts earlier this month.
“(He’s) getting on track and staying focused,” Marrone said. “I think every time he’s here and he’s in this building, that’s what we see. I’ve always told Marcell that. The more that he can be here, the better job that he seems to do. Just going to stay on it.”
The Bills picked up a fifth-year option on Dareus’ contract at the end of April, keeping him under contract through 2015. Dareus knows he’ll need to stay out of trouble if he hopes to receive a long-term extension in Buffalo.
“They really put a lot of emphasis on it,” Dareus said. “We sat and talked as a group. They believe in me, they know that I’m not a trouble guy, they know that I’m not the person that is trying to look for any trouble, I’m not trying to do anything wrong. It’s just things happen and we’re moving forward, and they know I’m going to grow into the guy that they want me to be and continue to put myself in positions to get better.”
Dareus was one of the last players off the field following Buffalo’s practice Wednesday, putting in extra time with his pass-rushing work. He hesitated to call his most recent non-football development a wake-up call, but it’s clear that he’s eager to put the last six months behind him.
“Wake-up call? Of course, but at the same time, I’m here,” Dareus said. “I’m here with my guys, I’m here with the great fans of Buffalo, I feel at home and ... I’m away from all the mess and I can focus and I can just be myself and have fun.”
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Top draft pick Watkins signsrookie pact
The Buffalo Bills signed first-round pick Sammy Watkins to his rookie contract Wednesday.
The Bills announced the signing shortly after the team’s first session of organized team activities.
Buffalo moved up five spots in the draft in a trade with Cleveland to select Clemson’s Watkins fourth overall. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound wideout is known for his explosive playmaking abilities and his speed and good hands.
Buffalo is counting on Watkins to immediately step into the starting lineup for a team that has not been to the playoffs since 1999, the NFL’s longest current drought.
- The Associated Press