|Bills' QB Edwards still has plenty to prove|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 07 August 2008 14:57|
Like accepting an invitation from Wayne Gretzky to play in a charitable golf tournament in June and getting to rub shoulders with The Great One and John Elway.
As enjoyable as that was, the compelling memory that Edwards came away with was of a struggling Nationwide Tour player who was in his group during the Pro-Am.
``He was staying in a room above a bar and had worked the person down to $60 a night,'' Edwards recalled. ``Me, I'm going down to the Westin and staying in a nice room with my caddy, which they paid for me and him to fly out.''
Edwards kept tabs on the player, and noted that he missed the cut.
``You see the way they live their lives, they're just trying to make ends meet,'' Edwards said. ``He missed the cut and he's not going to make any money. So you see that side of it and you appreciate it a lot more.''
The lesson was evident: No matter what sport, it's not easy to make it as a professional athlete.
It was a keen reminder for the situation Edwards finds himself in entering his second NFL season. For everything the third-round draft pick out of Stanford accomplished as a rookie last year, when he took over the starting job ahead of J.P. Losman, there's always another challenge ahead and the cut that looms.
Unless your last name's Manning or Brady, there's not much job security among NFL quarterbacks. And that holds especially true in Buffalo, where the Bills have gone through a cast of characters both young - from Todd Collins to Rob Johnson and Losman - and old - from Doug Flutie to Drew Bledsoe and Kelly Holcomb - without finding an adequate replacement since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season.
And there's no guarantee, yet, that Edwards is their man following a season in which he went 5-5 in 10 appearances, and did enough to earn the Bills' confidence to provide him a clear shot at taking over the starting job. But make no mistake, there's still plenty for him to prove before the Bills will be regarded as ``his team.''
``If you're not winning, if you're not making the playoffs, if you're not putting fans in the stands and making money, then you're not going to have a job the following season,'' Edwards said. ``So you have to take advantage of that window of opportunity.''
Edwards didn't exactly set the Bills' popgun attack on fire in a season in which the offense produced only 20 touchdowns - a franchise-low for a 16-game campaign.
He finished with 1,630 yards passing, completed only 56 percent of his attempts and had seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. Edwards also stumbled in closing the season with three losses, in which he combined to go 38-of-89 for 418 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Patience, coach Dick Jauron said, is never in great supply in the fickle world of the NFL, including Buffalo, where the Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999.
As much as Jauron likes Edwards' confidence and his ability to think quickly on his feet, the coach isn't making any promises.
``I don't know if I have any patience with Trent. I don't know if you have much patience with anybody,'' Jauron said. ``We try to do as much as we can to help every player get better as fast as they can. Sometimes, it's not fast enough for them or for the rest of the organization. That's just the way it works. It sure is fun, but it sure is a challenge, too.''
If last season was a blur for Edwards once he was thrust into action after Losman was hurt in Week 3, he's taken numerous steps to prepare for this year.
Edwards added 15 pounds, he's now over 240, bulking up to better absorb the constant blows. Besides practice, he's spent countless hours poring over game film and learning the new offensive scheme put in by first-year coordinator Turk Schonert.
Edwards is so committed to being focused that he, unlike many of his teammates, didn't bring a television set to training camp. Then again, he doesn't even own a TV, much less have to watch it.
Left guard Derrick Dockery says Edwards has more command in the huddle.
``His confidence has increased,'' Dockery said. ``I think he's doing a tremendous job of leading by example. I've seen nothing but effort in getting us in the direction we need to go.''
That direction included a very important detour Edwards made following minicamps, when he traveled to South Florida to spend a few days with star receiver Lee Evans.
The two didn't exactly hit it off last season, when Evans publicly backed Losman as starter. Evans meant no disrespect toward Edwards, but voiced his opinion because he was close with Losman and also didn't want to go through another quarterback carousel as happened in 2005 between Losman and Holcomb.
The visit was as much a chance for Edwards to throw the ball around with Evans, who had been held out of minicamps because of a nagging shoulder injury, as it was for the two to get to know each other.
``You need to have the trust of the guy. You need to have sort of his approval. And he needs to have my approval,'' Edwards said, noting the two had long conversations over dinner about their college days, former girlfriends and anything else that came up. ``That goes a long way when it comes time to being in a huddle.''
Evans was impressed, because he wasn't sure how serious Edwards was when the two discussed the idea in April.
``Talking about it and doing it is a different thing,'' Evans said. ``I think it went a long way. I think it showed that he's serious about his preparation and serious about wanting to play well this season.''
``More than that, it showed his dedication,'' Evans said.