BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – “I’ve got some history here.”
Brian Winters isn’t just talking about playing in Orchard Park when he was with the Jets. When he was released by New York last weekend, that history sure came in handy.
Like anything else during a pandemic, finding a new NFL home is more difficult than usual.
“They put me in a separate hotel, I went through protocol for about five days before I was even able to enter the building. Everything they’re doing is by the book, so it’s good. It’s obviously tough, when I got let go, to feel out a team or see a team when you can’t even get in the building,” Winters said on a zoom call with reporters Sunday.
Instead, he relied on his connections to the area to help him make his decision to sign with the Bills.
Winters’ parents lived in Orchard Park for about eight years. They were close enough to the stadium that they would walk to games. His aunt and uncle currently live in East Aurora.
The coaching staff was also a big part of making Buffalo his next NFL home.
“Great people, they know what they’re doing. They’re awesome, they’re great coaches, I’m excited to work with them. (Offensive line coach) Bobby Johnson, he’s got a lot of respect in the league. He’s someone that helped me make my decision,” Winters said.
“I know what type of program it is. I know it’s a hard-nosed, blue collar area and that’s the type of football I play.”
Winters spent the first seven years of his career with the Jets, so he knows all about playing in Buffalo.
The Jets drafted him in the third-round back in 2013. He was released to save the Jets $7 million against the cap and make room for a almost entirely rebuilt offensive line under new GM Joe Douglas.
Winters was only a free agent for hours before he signed with the Bills.
“It’s one of those things you never know how long your job security is gonna be. I went in every day just how I could as a rookie. Just went in and worked,” Winters said. “I’m excited to be here. I’m excited for a new start.”
Winters looks like the top candidate to take the starting right guard spot after Jon Feliciano had pec surgery that is expected to keep him out two to three months. There will be competition from guys like Evan Boehm and Darryl Williams. Even Ike Boettger could be a challenger.
This move shows the Bills want to keep Cody Ford at right tackle instead of move him back inside.
Winters did miss seven games last season with a shoulder injury. He tried to play through it, but was ultimately placed on injured reserve after having season-ending surgery. He says he feels back to full strength now.
“I’ve been healthy for the last four, five months honestly, I’ve been really at it because I wanted to get back to my normal self. It always sucks having an injury,” Winters explained.
Now he says it’s about learning the playbook and doing everything he can to get up to speed as quickly as possible.