Two years removed from his last game in Buffalo, Naaman Roosevelt returns home with the Bills. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes.
Naaman Roosevelt may be back in Buffalo, but he’s not playing for the same Bills he spent the first two seasons of his career with.
The St. Joe’s and UB product is learning a new offense under a new coaching regime. He has a trio of new quarterbacks — E.J. Manuel, Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis — throwing him passes, a host of new teammates, a new general manager and a new ownership situation.
Basically, the Bills have changed since he’s been gone.
But he’s used to new.
Roosevelt, who played for the Bills from 2010-2012, learned a new playbook and spent a season in Cleveland in 2013 and had a short stint in Detroit, where he also learned a fresh offense, earlier this year.
Buffalo brought him back on July 21, and he believes his experiences with the Browns and the Lions have helped make him a more polished receiver since his inaugural two seasons.
“Once you go around and get used to playing more defenses and seeing different corners and stuff like that, you definitely get used to running routes differently and that’s a big thing with me,” Roosevelt said Aug. 5 from St. John Fisher College. “Just running routes differently and understanding where I need to be for the quarterback.”
Roosevelt will have to be polished if he hopes to join the Bills’ young, talented group of receivers for the team’s season-opener Sept. 7 at Chicago.
Top rookie Sammy Watkins, promising second-year players Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin and fellow Buffalo native Mike Williams head up the team’s receiver corps. He’s also vying for roster spots with Chris Hogan, T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley and a cast of other players.
At 26, he’s one of the older receivers on the Bills’ roster — a trait he hopes, when coupled with his competitiveness, will only help in his bid for a roster spot.
“Hopefully [my experience will help],” Roosevelt said. “Even just to help out some of the younger players. There’s a lot of great players, as you can see. Everybody. So for me to come here and compete, anything they need help with, I’ll help them out.
“But I just need to compete. If everybody’s competing, we’re going to get better. So just come out here, compete and hope for the best.”
Roosevelt is the only receiver on the Bills’ roster that was with the team in 2011. Despite the unfamiliarity coming in, he thinks things have gone well thus far.
“Things are definitely different from when I was here the first time,” he said. “But to get used to how things are ran now, that’s the biggest thing. With the talent here, just to be a part of it and show what I can do is great.”
If he wants to earn a regular spot, Roosevelt said he knows he’ll have to be versatile and contribute in more than one facet of the game, something he was proficient at during his first go-around with the Bills.
In addition to hauling in 25 passes for 396 yards and a touchdown in his two years in Buffalo, the fifth-year pro had a role on special teams — a role he’s eyeing again now.
“I know special teams is a big thing. Just special teams and making plays,” Roosevelt said. “That’s what gets you noticed and gets you out on the field. For me, I’m going to learn and do everything coach asks me to do on special teams or at receiver.”
While the next few weeks of training camp will essentially determine Roosevelt’s fate with the Bills, he said he’s glad just to be back and have another chance at playing for his hometown team — a chance many players never see even once.
“It’s great,” Roosevelt said. “Just having that support. My family’s around, my friends are around and the fans are the greatest fans in the NFL. So it’s really exciting just to come back around and I’m glad to have the opportunity to come do it again.”