Ryan (Call him ‘Rick’) Bates says Bills are ‘waking up’

Buffalo Bills

ORCHARD PARK, NY – DECEMBER 06: Ryan Bates #71 of the Buffalo Bills walks off the field after a game against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium on December 6, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Ryan Bates says he doesn’t know why it happened. Or how it happened. He just knows when it happened.

When everyone on the Bills started calling him “Rick”.

It was 2019. Bates was an undrafted free agent. He had been traded to Buffalo by the Eagles. He was young and unsure, trying to land a job in the NFL after being unwanted by every team in the draft and unwanted by the first team that signed him.

Former Bills tight end Nate Becker was the author. All Bates knows about the nickname is that there was no way he was shaking it.

“I don’t even know what the reason was. I don’t know why ‘Rick’. He said it one day and it just kinda stuck like glue,” Bates said. “I just kinda embraced it. I was like, ‘Yeah! Rick… that’s me’.”

The world found out about “Rick” because a few of teammates referred to Bates that way while talking about the incredible job he did filling in as a starter in Sunday’s win over the Patriots. He said it was the first time he started a game since the last bowl game he played in college for Penn State.

Bates got the start because Jon Feliciano and Cody Ford were still on the Covid list. Dion Dawkins was activated the day before the game, but deemed not ready to start. Bates then had to switch from right to left guard when Ike Boettger tore his Achilles during the game. It’s no small change. Bates compared it to a right handed person trying to write left handed.

The Bills offense scored 33 points, did not allow a sack and did not punt against one of the NFL’s elite defenses. They also scored a win that put Buffalo back in first place in the AFC East. Bates said he and his O-Line teammates were going bananas on the sideline after their game clinching TD drive.

“I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun playing football,” Bates said. “It was just nice being back out there with the guys. Just grinding towards a W.”

That excited feeling hasn’t stopped for Bates and, likely, for the rest of the Bills. They’ve followed a rousing near comeback win against the Bucs with a pair of impressive offensive outings in wins over Carolina and New England. The division is now theirs for the taking with two more wins and, perhaps, much more.

“This football team is waking up. We’re on a roll. We’re going to be dangerous down the stretch,” Bates said. “We’ve always been dangerous. Don’t get me wrong. We’ve got a fire right now. Josh (Allen) is an unbelievable leader. He lights that fire. It’s exciting. It’s exciting to watch and be a part of it.”

Feliciano returned from the Covid list on Wednesday and could be in line to get his old starting spot back from Bates for Sunday’s game against Atlanta. Bates is staying humble.

“I took advantage of the opportunity I got and we’ll see where it goes this week,” he said.

If Bates does get in the lineup again, he may end up considering an actual name change to “Rick”. He joked that, back in 2019, he considered taking a Sharpie and writing “Rick” over “Ryan” on his locker stall.

“I kinda like it at this point. It’s almost like a term of endearment now,” he said.

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