Shaq Lawson comes out punching in Bills practice debut

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The big blue, wobbly tackling dummies didn't stand a chance once Bills rookie linebacker Shaq Lawson came out punching during his first practice in five months on Wednesday.

Lining up at the far end of the field, Lawson hit the first dummy with his left fist before rearing back and hitting the next one with a hard right, eventually leaving all four of them rocking back and forth in his wake.

It was a fitting moment for Lawson, who saw it as an opportunity to test the strength of his surgically repaired shoulder.

It was also a chance for Lawson to vent any lingering frustrations after the Bills decided he required surgery in May when the first-round draft pick aggravated the injury during a similar drill at rookie minicamp.

''Yeah, I did hit the bag hard,'' Lawson said. ''I wanted to test it out a little bit. But it felt great. Everything.''

The next test is seeing how one of college football's top pass-rushers last year might fair against opposing NFL linemen in an actual game, and when that opportunity might come.

Though cleared for practice, Lawson remains on the physically unable to perform list. Under NFL rules, the Bills have three weeks to activate Lawson or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

Coach Rex Ryan hasn't entirely ruled out Lawson from playing Sunday, when the Bills (4-2) travel to face AFC East rival Miami (2-4). Ryan, however, noted he doesn't want to rush back a player after only a few practices.

''We're going to err on the side of caution,'' Ryan said. ''But if he's ready to roll and we feel great about it, he feels great about it, the doctors feel great about it, then let's let it rip.''

Whenever Lawson is activated, he'll be eased in as a backup on a defense that has proved capable of generating a pass rush without him.

The Bills are second in the NFL with 20 sacks, one fewer than the team had all last season. And they're led by 10-year journeyman Lorenzo Alexander , who has an NFL-leading eight sacks while filling the starting spot once reserved for Lawson.

Lawson's fine with whatever role he's assigned, and eager for the opportunity to contribute to Buffalo's potent pass rush.

''Those two guys are just unstoppable,'' Lawson said, referring to Alexander and fellow starter Jerry Hughes, who has four sacks. ''Us three on the field, it might be special.''

Lawson hasn't played a competitive snap since capping his college career at Clemson with two sacks in a 45-40 loss to Alabama in the national championship game in January.

As a junior last season, he was a consensus All-American for leading the nation with 25+ tackles for a loss and added 12+ sacks. Overall, Lawson had 20 sacks in 40 games despite playing with the right shoulder injury for much of his college career.

It wasn't until the NFL combine in February when Lawson said tests revealed he had a torn ligament. The Bills were aware of the injury when they selected him with the 19th pick.

Rather than risk Lawson aggravating the injury, the Bills took the precautionary step in electing him having surgery for the chance to have him healthy by October.

''It was a good decision. If I never got it repaired, and something happened during the season, I would've missed the whole season,'' Lawson said. ''I feel stronger than I've ever been since I had the injury 3+ years ago.''


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