Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus returned to training camp Wednesday hoping to earn his teammates’, coaches’ and fans’ trust after a troubled off-season.
“I have a passion for this game and I want to be here to help this organization achieve its goals,” Dareus said in a statement released by the team. “There are things I need to work on professionally and personally to make sure I can be accountable to myself, my family, this team and this community.”
The first step is getting in shape, which is why Dareus made his camp debut by heading directly to a stationary bike on the sideline at the start of practice in suburban Rochester.
Dareus is on the team’s active/non-football injury list after he failed a conditioning test Saturday. He must pass that before he can be cleared to practice.
The Bills have a day off Thursday, so Friday is the earliest Dareus might begin practising. The 2011 first-round draft pick has now missed four days of workouts since camp opened Sunday.
He was excused for the first three days to attend a court hearing in his native Alabama on two felony drug charges. Dareus was arrested May 5 and charged with possession of synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia (a glass pipe).
On Monday, Dareus agreed to enter an NFL substance abuse program in a bid to have the charges dismissed.
Dareus also faces a reckless driving charge after crashing his 2012 Jaguar into a tree following an alleged car race with teammate Jerry Hughes not far from Ralph Wilson Stadium on May 30.
The arrests open the possibility that the NFL will discipline Dareus with a fine or suspension.
Dareus’ troubles go back to the end of last season, when he was benched for parts of the final two games for breaking team rules.
General manager Doug Whaley told The Associated Press on Sunday that Dareus’ failed conditioning test was “a cause for concern” but expressed confidence the player can get his life and career back on track.
“His mindset’s better once he’s here,” Whaley said. “And I think we’ll find out with his actions. And I think he’s ready to disprove all this stuff that he’s a bad seed.”
Dareus has been a three-year starter in Buffalo since he was drafted with the third overall pick out of Alabama. He’s coming off a career season in which he was credited with 71 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl appearance as an injury replacement.
Dareus isn’t expected to be made available to reporters Wednesday. He hasn’t made any public comments since May, before his car crash.
“I’m excited to return to training camp to rejoin my teammates in our preparations for the 2014 season,” he said in the statement. “I want to thank the Bills organization, coach (Doug) Marrone and the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support.”