Bills' Easley Continues To Show Amazing Patience

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

Marcus Easley stepped out of the shower in the cramped visitors' dressing room late Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. He maneuvered past Steve Johnson, squeezed around reporters interviewing Donald Jones, stepped over his equipment bag and, finally, the former UConn star found his locker.

Easley, however, would not find the football field during the Buffalo Bills' wild 37-31 loss to the Patriots.

"It's kind of how my career always has gone at pretty much every level," Easley said.

Easley knew he was going to warm up Sunday, but as far as being dressed and activated for his long-awaited first NFL game, that news did not arrive until a few hours before kickoff.

Sure enough, Marcus Easley of Stratford ended up watching.

All afternoon he watched on the sidelines, helmet on, dressed in No. 81 with nowhere to go. He stretched as the Bills amassed an ungodly 148 yards in penalties, the most since they joined the NFL in the merger with the AFL. He applauded as the Bills amassed a team-record 35 first downs. He even stepped onto the field to give Jones a big hug after his 2-yard touchdown reception cut the Patriots' lead to three with 7:47 to go.

Yet there would be no playing time. Bills coach Chan Gailey dressed six wide receivers. Ostensibly, this was insurance for Johnson, who suffered a thigh contusion last week in Houston. Johnson played throughout, however, and beyond the backup quarterbacks Easley would be one of only two players on either team not to step over the white lines while the clock was moving.

"I guess it was nice to be out there, but I really wanted to be on the field," Easley said. "To get to this point was a long time coming, to say the least, but I would have loved to have gotten out there, to try to help my team and try to make plays. Obviously I want more."

His name may be Easley, but the dude never gets to walk on Easy Street.

Tolstoy once wrote, "The strongest of all warriors are these two — time and patience." If this is the case, Easley is one hell of a warrior. He is remembered, of course, as the walk-on at UConn who walked around campus unappreciated for too long. He caught only five passes in 26 games before he hit the radar in the 2009 spring game and promptly had the kind of senior season that would make scouts drool. He had 48 catches for nearly 900 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009, including that 88-yard late touchdown score at West Virginia the day the Huskies returned to the field after the murder of Jasper Howard and nearly scored an incredible upset.

Big, strong, fast, he would be drafted in the fourth round by the Bills in April 2010, six spots ahead of Aaron Hernandez (who did not play Sunday because of an ankle injury). He had gone from nowhere to somewhere. Easley would play well in his first training camp, but a knee injury put him out for the season and on injury reserve. In 2011, he looked as if he had risen as high as the Bills' second receiver opposite Johnson in the preseason. He caught five balls against Jacksonville. He was breaking tackles, and at 6-2, 217, with 4.39 speed, he was a real threat. That's when he went out for the season on injured reserve again, this time with a heart condition he has remained guarding about discussing.

And then, this year, healthy again, he got cut on Aug. 31. He broke a 100-yard kickoff return, but Gailey didn't see much from him in training camp and in the preseason. He hadn't done nearly enough. The Bills re-signed him to the practice squad, and there he stayed until this past week. While the practice squad was no promotion, it also was the first time in three seasons Easley had to get on the practice field for a prolonged time. He said he felt like a walk-on all over again. He clawed his way back.

"He has played extremely well on the scout team," Gailey told reporters last week. "He deserves an opportunity to come up and see what he might be able to do."

This past Monday, Easley showed up to watch film and work out. Later in the day his agent told him something good was happening. And by Tuesday he was officially on the 53-man active roster.

"I knew coming into the season that this would be an uphill battle for me," Easley said. "But the practice squad really helped me and I'm not surprised by the opportunity, knowing how the season might play out, the injuries, guys not performing as well. The opportunities are going to come. It's just a matter of what point in the season. I'm just going to keep playing hard and hope it carries over to playing time."

The Patriots improved to 6-3 with this victory, but they don't look much like a Super Bowl team. Not by their standards. Weighed against the Giants these days, of course, they look like the best team in the league. It helped that they were playing the Bills, who may be the dumbest team in the league. The Bills may be the only team that could ring up 35 first downs, move the ball on the New England 15 and, with the game to be won, have Ryan Fitzpatrick throw the ball directly to Devin McCourty with 23 seconds left. So now the Bills have lost 11 in a row to the Patriots at Gillette and are 2-20 against Tom Brady. Fitzpatrick was left calling the Patriots' Brandon Spikes "a punk" and left wondering exactly what route T.J. Graham was running on the decisive play.

"This was definitely a devastating loss for us," Easley said. "Between the penalties and the way everybody was playing, to fall short, marching down with 30 seconds left and turn the ball over at that time, it's just devastating."

When the game was over and Easley ran on the field he never touched while the clock was running, he found a former UConn teamate. He hugged Patriots offensive lineman Donald Thomas and together they walked toward one end zone and started waving into the crowd at Thomas' family.

"I'm really close to his family," Easley said. "I hadn't seen them in a long time. I had a cousin here today, but my parents and grandparents couldn't make it. They had prior plans they couldn't get out of, but they're going to be there Thursday."

Thursday, the Bills play at home against the Dolphins. Thursday, if there is justice, Marcus Easley's patience will be rewarded.

Featured Stories

To comment on courant.com articles, you must register as a digital member and be logged in to enter your comment below. To report spam or abuse, hover over the comment and select the Flag option in the right corner. For guidelines on commenting, please read our Terms of Service
Connect with the Hartford Courant to get articles like this and more.

UConn Men's Basketball Forum

Have something to say about the team? Join our community and share your thoughts on the Huskies!

Hartford Courant Sports
UConn Men's Basketball
MOBILE ALERTS


Get up to the minute info on
UConn Men's Basketball.

Try FREE UConn Sports Mobile Text Alerts and more: CLICK HERE