Buffalo Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel admits he's getting old, but the Bills would love to just have the old Schobel back.
"It's just so good to have him," head coach Dick Jauron said. "That skill level is impossible to teach. You can't teach a guy some of the things that he does so naturally and that top pass rushers do so naturally. So it's nice to have him back on the field and working to get ready for the season."
Schobel wasn't on the field very often last year for the Bills. The former Pro Bowl pass-rushing specialist sustained a serious foot injury that limited him to just five games.
Schobel never missed a contest in his first seven years in the league. His return to Pro Bowl form is paramount to the Bills' defense, which last season amassed only 24 sacks, fourth-fewest in the league.
Schobel has dropped the quarterback for a loss just 7.5 times in 21 games the past two seasons after racking up 45.5 sacks during a four-year period starting in 2003. But defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said Schobel gives the team "an added dimension."
"To have a guy like that will work wonders for us," Stroud said. "He's got that chip on his shoulder and is ready to make an impact."
With his gruff exterior in tow, Schobel, the second-leading sack producer in team history, has worked harder this training camp because of the lost time. The extra load has burdened him with some overall soreness, but the 31-year-old has shrugged it off in aiming to reproduce his impressive 2006 campaign, in which he recorded a career-best 14 sacks.
"In my legs I don't feel as explosive as I was two years ago at this time, but I feel like there's no question I can do that," he said. "I just have to get back into it. It's like anybody. I'm as good right now as I was two years ago at this time, and I don't feel like I've lost any speed or any quickness. I feel like it takes me longer to warm up."
Schobel should be helped by the addition of rookie defensive end Aaron Maybin, the Bills' first-round (11th overall) pick in April's draft. Maybin, who has yet to sign, will be counted on to give the Bills added pressure from the edge.
But it's Schobel who ultimately holds the keys to Buffalo's ability to hinder the quarterback.
"He's still grumpy as he always has ever been, but at times I see the flashes of Aaron Schobel from two years ago," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "But then there are times when I see some rust. He needs to continue to work and play football again and get his timing down. But he is definitely working on doing that."
Notes: The Bills signed DL Corey Mace and CB Antwain Spann on Saturday. Mace was on Buffalo's practice squad from 2007-08, while Spann joins Buffalo after a three-year stint with New England. ... Backup OL Kirk Chambers was held out of Saturday's practice because of a sore foot. ... The Bills are off on Sunday and will return to practice Monday.