Super Mario impresses at Bills workout

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is sacked by Houston Texans linebacker Mario...

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is sacked by Houston Texans linebacker Mario Williams last season. (REUTERS)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:16 PM ET

As bitterly cold winds blew sleet and snow outside, Mario Williams worked out Monday morning for the first time with his new Buffalo Bills teammates.

The Bills began their voluntary off-season program, consisting of conditioning and weightlifting drills, at their indoor training facility in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Even for Buffalo, such a burst of winter in the last week of April is almost as unseasonal as the record-high summer-like weather that greeted Williams in mid-March, when the NFL's premier 2012 free-agent defender signed with the Bills for $96 million over six years.

"Yeah, I think he was a little confused from his last visit," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said in a telephone interview after the workout. "This isn't like Florida -- beautiful long summers and all that. But this is very fitting to have the weather like this on the first day, just to give everybody a nice introduction to Buffalo."

Williams told reporters that, weather-wise, "it was good to kind of get both sides of the deal."

His new teammates noticed, and appreciated, that Williams arrived early for the 7:30 a.m. start of the first of two optional Monday sessions.

"I met him this morning," Fitzpatrick said. "He was here at 7 a.m., ready for workouts. And it seems to me that he just wants to be one of the guys.

"He's in there working hard, not asking for any special treatment, and not thinking that he deserves something more than any other guy. And I think that's what's really going to help him fit on to this team, and into this locker room."

The re-signing in March of the team's top wide receiver, Stevie Johnson, plus the free-agent signings of star defensive ends Williams, from the Houston Texans, and Mark Anderson from the arch-rival New England Patriots, has the team more optimistic and excited than usual, Fitzpatrick said.

"Everybody on the team was buzzing a little bit this off-season."

And, in the case of Fitzpatrick and several other banged-up players, recovering.

Fitzpatrick said he is healed from whatever mid-section injury (which he won't disclose) he suffered in the middle of last season.

Fitzpatrick's play dropped off dramatically after getting crushed on a hit Oct. 30 against the Washington Redskins at the Rogers Centre. His QB rating was 97.8 before that, but 66.5 thereafter, as the Bills lost eight of their final nine games in a 6-10 season.

It was an injury so severe that sometimes Fitzpatrick "barely could say a full play under one breath" in the huddle, Johnson told me last month.

But now?

"Yeah, I'm 100% and feeling great," Fitzpatrick said.

Williams said he, too, is fully recovered from the torn pectoral muscle that forced him to miss the final 11 games of the 2011 season with the Texans.

"The time we've had off from the season until now is always something you look forward to, to let your body heal," Fitzpatrick said. "A lot of guys are coming off surgeries in the off-season, too, so having that time to recover ... is always a good thing."

Even the release of the 2012 schedule last week had Fitzpatrick pumped.

"Being able to visualize what time of the year it's going to be, who we're playing the week before, and who we're playing the week after, really gets you going for the season," he said.

The Bills kick off the season in 139 days, Sept. 9 at the New York Jets. Buffalo hasn't made the playoffs in 13 years.

"Things need to change around here, and that's definitely what we're going after," Williams said.\

BILLS NOW HAVE THE MEANS TO AN END

Mario and Mark are together again. This time in Buffalo.

Defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson signed as free agents last month with the Bills.

Previously, they played one season together on the Houston Texans, in 2010. Last year, Anderson was a pass-rushing specialist with the New England Patriots.

Did the fact Williams signed with Buffalo on March 15 compel Anderson to follow suit on March 21?

"It really wasn't key, but it didn't hurt either," Anderson said in a telephone interview Monday, after the start of voluntary team workouts.

"Because I played with him at Houston, I know what type of guy he is on the field and off the field. And we're pretty close."

Williams said at his session with reporters Monday that the duo's mutual friendship and knowledge will help on the field.

"I think the biggest thing is not just his presence," Williams said, "but it kind of makes it a little bit easier for me in the transition ... I've kind of got a little feel for him already, for what he's going to do."

Coincidentally, the two arrived at about the same time Sunday at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

"He rode with me over to the stadium, and then to the hotel," Williams said.

Some pundits now rate the Bills defensive line -- which includes inside tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus -- as not only the best in the AFC East, but with the potential to be among tops in the league.

"We haven't talked about anything like that," Anderson said. "Eventually we'll have that (goal) in stone, but right now we're just trying to get back in shape, work out hard, and get ready for the season."

What's it like for Anderson to now have Pats quarterback Tom Brady as a target, instead of a teammate?

"I wouldn't even pinpoint Brady," he said. "We're trying to get every quarterback."

John.Kryk@Sunmedia.ca


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