By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Preston Brown went into his first training camp with the Buffalo Bills not knowing exactly how much time he would see on defense, if any at all.
“To be honest I kind of thought I’d be a special teams guy my rookie year,’’ Brown said. “But once I started to play, I knew I didn’t want to give that up.’’
The Bills had three pretty good linebackers coming back for that 2014 season– Kiko Alonso, who was coming off an impressive rookie season, Nigel Bradham and Keith Rivers.
Brown, the first pick of the third-round of the 2014 NFL Draft figured he would have to bide his time to see action in former Bills’ coordinator Jim Schwartz’ defense.
“They told me from the beginning to prepare as if you’re a starter, and I did,’’ Brown said. “But I thought I’d be a special teams guy at first. I really didn’t know how much I would play.
Then Alonso suffered a torn ACL knee injury that landed him on injured reserve. Bradham was suspended for the first game of the season. And Brown played all 74 snaps in the Bills’ 23-20 overtime win over the Chicago Bears in the season opener.
“It was an interesting start,’’ Brown, now one of the leaders of the Bills’ defense under first-year head coach Sean McDermott, said.
In his first NFL game, Brown recorded seven tackles and recovered a Brandon Marshall fumble that he returned 30 yards to set up what proved to be a crucial Bills’ field goal.
“That was fun,’’ he said of the fumble recovery. “My dad always taught me, try to make the first guy miss. (Bears running back at the time) Matt Forte tried to tackle me, I got past him, got down the sideline, got a couple of extra yards and then those angry o-linemen met me.’’
Brown’s first season saw the Bills play five preseason games, which gave him a little extra time to learn the defense and get settled for what would turn out to be a rookie season that saw him finish with 108 tackles, six for a loss, and an interception.
“That whole preseason the coaches had me learn all three positions and to be ready for anything,’’ Brown said. “We had Nigel Braham, but he was suspended for the first game, so I got thrown right into action. I had to be ready right away.
“When we finally got to Chicago it started to set in that this it, for real, (I) made it to the NFL and we’re going to play a real game. I mean it’s really exciting to do something you’ve always dreamt about. Then you looked over at their offense, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, guys I’ve watched on TV and now I have to go tackle them.’’
Brown played on the outside in the Bills’ 4-3 scheme that opening day. He moved inside when the team switched to a 3-4 scheme under former head coach Rex Ryan and is now back in the middle under McDermott.
And that’s where he’ll be when the Bills host their AFC East rivals, the New York Jets, Sunday, September 10th in this year’s season opener.
“The season opener is always exciting,’’ Brown said. “It’s a whole new team basically; Fifty-three guys you’re bonding with throughout camp. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and you get to show the world what you’re going to be about that year. You always get up for that first game, especially, and showcase for the whole league.”