Bills Alexan­der mak­ing his last stops

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By JOHN WAWROW AP Sports Writer

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. >> Bills de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Les­lie Fra­zier opened the fi­nal week of the sea­son in a bit­ter­sweet mood, and it had noth­ing to do with Buf­falo hav­ing lost at New Eng­land two days ear­lier.

What struck Fra­zier was the re­al­iza­tion his time coach­ing line­backer Lorenzo Alexan­der was po­ten­tially com­ing to a close. Though the play­off-bound Bills (10-5) are guar­an­teed an AFC wild-card game af­ter clos­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son against the New York Jets (6-9), the game Sun­day could very well be Alexan­der’s home fi­nale. The 13-year vet­eran has said he plans to re­tire fol­low­ing the sea­son.

“I was telling one of our coaches this morn­ing that if this indeed turns out to be his last home game or last sea­son, there may be some­one else that’ll play the po­si­tion next sea­son, and they may wear the same num­ber,” Fra­zier said. “But there won’t be an­other Lorenzo Alexan­der.”

Fra­zier’s praise for Alexan­der goes be­yond the 36-year-old’s pro­duc­tion. Alexan­der has played half of Buf­falo’s de­fen­sive snaps and ranks third among the Bills with 218 spe­cial teams snaps.

But his pres­ence as an un­ques­tioned leader has Fra­zier us­ing him as a what he called “a sound­ing board to gauge the tem­per­a­ture of our de­fense.”

“The play­ers look up to him. The coaches trust him,” Fra­zier said. “It’s hard to find a guy like that. We’re go­ing to miss him.”

If this is indeed his fi­nal sea­son, Alexan­der sud­denly isn’t say­ing.

The usu­ally out­go­ing and talk­a­tive player, known for hold­ing half-hour weekly ses­sions with re­porters at his locker, was a cu­ri­ous no-show fol­low­ing prac­tice Tues­day. Alexan­der also de­clined an in­ter­view re­quest from The As­so­ci­ated Press on Mon­day, leav­ing it dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine whether he’s had a change of heart about re­tire­ment.

Alexan­der first said he be­lieved he had one more year left in him at the end of last sea­son, some­thing he re­it­er­ated weeks later af­ter be­ing re-signed to a oneyear con­tract.

“If you asked me to­day, yeah, this is my last year,” the mar­ried fa­ther of four said in mid-Jan­u­ary. “At some point you’ve got to even­tu­ally walk away from the game and start the sec­ond half of your life. I’ve got a lot of life to live. There’s other things that I want to do.”

If any­thing, Alexan­der con­tin­ues prov­ing he’s ca­pa­ble of play­ing a reg­u­lar role.

He ranks sixth on the team with 50 tack­les, has two sacks and is tied for the team lead among lineback­ers with nine passes de­fensed in 15 games, in­clud­ing seven starts.

Alexan­der has also proven durable. He hasn’t missed a game since 2013 with Ari­zona, when he sat out the fi­nal 13 games with a right foot injury.

He’s com­plet­ing his fourth sea­son in Buf­falo, af­ter be­ing ini­tially signed to fill a spe­cial teams role in 2016. It took only a few months for then-coach Rex Ryan to dis­cover Alexan­der’s full ca­pa­bil­i­ties by hav­ing him re­place starter Manny Lawson.

Alexan­der’s pres­ence has also be felt in the com­mu­nity, where he’s ac­tive in fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for his ACES char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion. In­clud­ing this sea­son, he’s a five-time Wal­ter Pay­ton Man of The Year award nom­i­nee.

“He’s been ev­ery­thing, that guy, not just team, but to this com­mu­nity,” safety Micah Hyde said. “Every­body ap­pre­ci­ates ‘Zo around here.”

That in­cludes of­fen­sive play­ers.

“You can’t re­ally put into words what he means to this team,” quar­ter­back Josh Allen said. “He does things the right way and he’s been an in­spi­ra­tion for a lot of peo­ple here.”

At 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, Alexan­der’s ca­reer has been a tes­ta­ment to his hard work and ver­sa­til­ity.

He was a 300-pound de­fen­sive line­man com­ing out of Cal­i­for­nia in 2005, when Carolina signed him as an un­drafted rookie free agent. Alexan­der briefly switched to tight end be­fore be­ing con­verted to line­backer upon mak­ing his NFL de­but with Wash­ing­ton in 2007.

“Guys get drafted on height, weight and speed. And then you have the Lorenzo Alexan­ders of the world who defy all those num­bers,” Fra­zier said. “To have the type of ca­reer he’s had, it’s an in­cred­i­ble story. And it speaks to be­ing able to look be­yond the raw num­bers.”

Alexan­der is set to play his 191st ca­reer game Sun­day. He has also made four post­sea­son ap­pear­ances, all of them losses.

A year af­ter de­fen­sive tackle Kyle Wil­liams re­tired, Fra­zier ac­knowl­edged be­ing self­ish in hop­ing Buf­falo doesn’t yet lose an­other in­flu­en­tial leader.

“I wouldn’t mind if he did change his mind,” Fra­zier said. “I’m sure his wife might have other things to say, but I’d love to have him back.”

NOTES: With the Bills locked in as the AFC’s fifth play­off seed, coach Sean Mc­Der­mott plans to rest some starters against the Jets. With­out say­ing who, Mc­Der­mott ac­knowl­edged the pos­si­bil­ity of Allen play­ing a por­tion of the game be­fore giv­ing way to backup Matt Barkley . ... The Bills were not re­quired to is­sue an injury re­port, but run­ning back Devin Sin­gle­tary was among the play­ers who did not prac­tice . ... C Mitch Morse prac­ticed af­ter be­ing side­lined Satur­day with a lower right leg injury.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.