The Buffalo Bills played well on both sides of the ball in their 21-0 preseason victory over the New York Giants on Saturday, but nothing that happened during those three hours at newly named New Era Field could compare to what transpired in the two hours before kickoff.
In a pair of stunning announcements spaced about an hour apart, the Bills released running back Karlos Williams and also revealed that troubled defensive tackle Marcell Dareus would be entering rehabilitation.
Both players are suspended for the first four games of the regular season for repeated violations of the NFL's substance abuse program, and given their independent situations, they will need that time off.
Dareus ' history suggests he does need help, according to a source outside the team, and this is the perfect time to seek that assistance since he can't be with the team starting Sept. 5. He served a one-game suspension in 2015 for violating the substance abuse policy and has had a couple off-the-field incidents as well as problems in his personal life, and it's clear that he needs a reboot.
Williams can perhaps use that time to revive his suddenly sinking NFL career. A breakout rookie in 2015 who scored nine touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per rush, Williams not only ran afoul of the NFL's drug policy, he allowed himself to get grossly out of shape in the offseason.
Things were so bad that Williams missed the entire offseason program and was unable to practice until last week at training camp.
Dareus released a statement before the game that read: "After careful consideration of recent events within my life, I have made the decision to enter a rehabilitation facility. I feel this is the best decision for me, my family and my teammates as I move forward with my career. I appreciate the support of my teammates and the Bills organization through this process."
Dareus proceeded to then make another poor choice. He was seen leaving the stadium before the game, and later that night he was seen enjoying the night life in a busy nightclub district in downtown Buffalo.
A picture of Dareus posing and smiling with two women made the rounds on social media and immediately called into question about how serious he would take rehab. Dareus may not have been drinking, but it was still not a good look for him and led many to wonder whether the Bills' ownership forced him to go to rehab or if he did so voluntarily.
"Well, as somebody who spends a lot of time with him, who's been around him a lot, I care more about him than I do his football career," Bills veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "So I want to be him be better. So if this is the step that him, and (Bills owners) Terry and Kim (Pegula) thought that he needed to take, and this is going to work out in the long run better for him, then so be it."
"He's family, and we're being supportive of him in this step in his life," general manager Doug Whaley said of Dareus. "I told you guys we wouldn't give up on him, and we wholeheartedly support this effort."
Of course, Buffalo can't give up on Dareus. The Bills just signed him to a $103 million contract extension last year, and to cut ties with him would cost about $47 million in dead cap money. Beyond that, he remains one of their best players, a former first-round draft pick (No. 3 overall in 2011) who anchors the middle of Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense.
Moving on from Williams was easy. As a fifth-round pick in 2015, they owe him virtually nothing monetarily and the salary cap hit is about $53,000. "Every decision is made on three factors," Ryan said. "Those three things are the team first, the team second and the team third."
That is true, especially when it doesn't upset the salary cap structure. To be fair, this was Williams' fault. At one point he reportedly ballooned up to 261 pounds in the offseason, more than 30 pounds above his listed playing weight, and though he was trying to lose the weight, he wasn't succeeding.
"If he's not out there being able to perform and he can't perform at the level we expect him to, then that's on him," said Whaley. "I've always said this is a performance-based business and releasing Karlos Williams was strictly performance-based. He came in behind the eight-ball and never caught up and there were other guys on the roster that moved ahead of him.
"In light of that, why hold on to him? Why don't we give him a chance to maybe find another job in the league? We weren't going to hold on to him until the end knowing he wasn't going to make the team."
-- QB Tyrod Taylor had a solid start Saturday as he completed 7 of 10 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, and he also lost a sure TD pass when FB Jerome Felton fumbled at the goal line. ... QB EJ Manuel turned in another solid effort as well. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 69 yards and a TD. ... RB James Wilder Jr., shortly after learning that his good friend, Karlos Williams, had been cut from the team, had a team-high 31 yards rushing. ... RB Jonathan Williams had 17 yards rushing, 11 yards receiving and scored on a fourth-down 1-yard TD dive. ... LB Lorenzo Alexander, the front-runner to start at left edge rusher, recorded a sack and two tackles. WR Sammy Watkins, who Ryan said might play in the game, was held out once again. ... RB Mike Gillislee was injured in Saturday's game, suffering a possible concussion.