Jerry Hughes was traded from Indianapolis to Buffalo right after last April’s NFL Draft. His memory of the day makes it seem like it was yesterday.
“I told (team officials) to get me the first flight to Buffalo so I could get out there and get my hands on the playbook,” the former TCU standout said. “It was a fresh start and I was excited and anxious to come out here.”
Hughes trade to Western New York may have been surprising considering he was coming off his most productive NFL season. He wasn’t interested in finding out why; Hughes was ready to start the next phase of his career.
The fourth-year player is currently fighting for a starting linebacker spot at Bills training camp at St. John Fisher.
“We are very excited about Jerry (Hughes),” said Doug Whaley, Buffalo general manager. “He was a high pick and we think that this fresh start will be good for him and a bonus for us.”
New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme favors versatile players like Hughes. He played defensive end in college and moved over linebacker last season after Colts head coach Chuck Pagano switched the team to a 3-4 scheme.
Hughes has earned playing time with the starters at the rush end and linebacker so far in training camp.
“I think it’s good because the system, first of all, can fit to the player’s strength,” said Doug Marrone, Buffalo head coach, said about Hughes.
“I think that having him on the outside, what I’ve seen from him is quick redirection. I think it’s very hard to get outside on him. Again, we are still developing that in-line play of him, taking on the bigger tackles and knocking them back.”
After two unproductive seasons in Indianapolis, Hughes emerged as a solid contributor for the Colts last season, who went from two wins in 2011 to 11 recording a career-high 41 tackles and four sacks. Credit his productivity to his increased playing time; for the first time in his career, Hughes played in all 16 regular season games.
Hughes was primarily used as a pass rushing outside linebacker last season.
“I got to see the playing field for the first time in my career so I was able to just play football,” Hughes said. “I am just trying to continue going off that and continue to just play football. I just went out there and made plays and play up to the best of my ability.”
Hughes came into the league with high expectations after the Colts selected him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He didn’t appear to be a fit in the team’s Tampa 2 defense, spending his first two seasons behind incumbents Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Page 2 of 2 - Hughes played 24 games and recorded only 21 tackles in 2010 and ‘11.
“The first two years, I was almost non-existent,” Hughes said. “But last year I was able to get on the field and the coaches just let me play.”