Gilmore reports for Bills mandatory practices
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – After skipping the Buffalo Bills’ entire spring schedule of voluntary workouts, cornerback Stephon Gilmore provided one good reason why he showed up for practice on Tuesday.
“It’s mandatory,” Gilmore said.
Rather than risk being fined by the Bills for refusing to report, Gilmore was a grudging participant in opening the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp.
Even then, his participation was limited to taking part in stretching and individual drills while observing the rest of practice from the sideline.
Saying his surgically repaired shoulder has fully healed, Gilmore cited the lack of progress in negotiations to extend his contract beyond next season as the reason he’s placing less emphasis on practice.
And it’s an approach he suggested might extend into next month, once training camp opens.
“I feel like it’s better for me to just wait it out and go when the time is right,” Gilmore said, before looking ahead to training camp. “Whenever I get there, I will compete.”
Asked if his choice of the word “whenever” means he might not show up for the start of camp, Gilmore replied: “I mean, we’ll see.”
Buffalo’s 2012 first-round draft pick, Gilmore is entering a critical stage of his career and at a time salaries are skyrocketing for the league’s top cornerbacks. The Bills last year elected to pick up the fifth-year option on Gilmore’s contract, which pays him a base salary of just over $11 million.
Attempts by both sides to extend the contract have stalled this offseason, opening the prospect of the Bills losing Gilmore to free agency next year.
Last month, general manager Doug Whaley described talks as being “a complicated process,” while cautioning the value of Gilmore’s next contract as potentially handcuffing the team from addressing other positional needs. One of those spots is quarterback, with starter Tyrod Taylor also entering the final year of his contract.
Gilmore believes he deserves to be among the NFL’s top-paid cornerbacks. The bar was raised this offseason with Washington’s Josh Norman signing a five-year, $75 million contract and the New York Giants signing Janoris Jenkins to a five-year, $62.5 million deal.
“When they got their deals, they helped the cornerback market out a lot,” Gilmore said. “So I’m looking forward to it.”
Rather than risk getting hurt in practice, Gilmore is focusing on the regular season when he intends to show the Bills and the NFL how much he’s worth.
“I’m not frustrated because I know what I can do on the field,” he said. “My game speaks for itself, and whatever happens, if it happens now, if it happens later, it happens. My No. 1 priority is to just prove myself on the field when it’s time.”
A four-year starter in Buffalo, Gilmore has established himself among the league’s top young talents.
He has nine interceptions and 50 passes defended, including a career-best 18 last season. Most notably, Gilmore has shown he can be physical in covering a receiver off the line of scrimmage, while also capable of defending opponents in one-on-one coverage.
The only downside is Gilmore has missed 11 games over the past three seasons because of injury, including four last season when he hurt his shoulder in December.
Bills coach Rex Ryan referred to Gilmore as a “tremendous player,” and an important piece to his defense, which relies on cornerbacks playing one-on-one coverage.
Ryan is confident Gilmore will be prepared for the start of the season despite the practice time he might miss.
“Do I want him here? Of course,” Ryan said. “The one thing I know about Stephon is I know he’s going to be ready to roll. He’s going to be in shape. He’s going to do all that stuff.”
NOTES: Bills RB Karlos Williams is working out individually to take off weight after reporting to camp out of shape. Williams acknowledged he put on extra pounds because his fiance would get hungry during her pregnancy. … RB LeSean McCoy was limited in practice because of an ankle injury. … Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula watched practice from the sideline.