PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- As the first NFL team to open training camp this summer, the Buffalo Bills still have some offseason distractions to deal with -- though none of them involves Terrell Owens.
While T.O. and the rest of Buffalo's veterans were scheduled to report to camp in suburban Rochester by Friday night, the Bills were busy attempting to sign the top four players of their rookie draft class, including a pair of first-round picks, defensive end Aaron Maybin and guard Eric Wood.
Buffalo plays Tennessee on Aug. 9 in the preseason opener, the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, giving the two teams a little more than two weeks to prepare. The Titans open camp next week.
The Bills are handcuffed because so few first- and second-round draft picks have been signed around the NFL. The Bills usually prefer to base their contract offers on the deals signed by players selected near the same draft position as their prospects.
That's difficult, considering only two first-round picks and seven second-rounders had been signed as of Friday afternoon.
"We want to get these done, but we're going to get them done in the framework of what we feel is right," Brandon said. "We've been pretty solid at that for many years and will continue to be. Obviously, we want them here, but it's going to be a fair deal on both sides."
Brandon didn't consider the unsigned players to be a distraction even though Wood and Levitre are projected to be starters on a totally revamped offensive line this season.
"We're hopeful that everyone gets here on time but we'll have to wait and see," Brandon said. "There will be continual dialogue and as we all know it takes two to get deals done. So we'll keep working on it."
Buffalo did lock up one prospect Friday, when fourth-round tight end Shawn Nelson agreed to a four-year deal. Nelson was expected to arrive at camp in time for the team's first practice on Saturday morning, agent Joel Segal said.
The Hall of Fame game isn't the only reason Buffalo came to camp early. Brandon said the Bills wanted to get started after the lingering disappointment over last year's 7-9 finish after a 5-1 start. The Bills are hoping to end a nine-year playoff drought, the longest in franchise history.
And don't forget about Owens, who signed a one-year $6.5 million deal with Buffalo in March, days after he was released by Dallas.
A large contingent of fans are expected to turn out for the team's four practices over the next two days to get their first glimpse of Owens in a Bills uniform.
"Obviously, there's a certain element that he brings. He's one of the most prolific players in the history of this league and he's a huge celebrity," Brandon said. "So it brings a lot of outside elements. We're excited about it as an organization and I know our fans are. There's certainly going to be a great energy to the camp. And it can be only positive from our standpoint."
More important, Brandon is looking forward to seeing Owens spark what's been a sputtering offense that's ranked 25th or worst in the NFL in each of the past six seasons.
"That's why we brought him in, to make plays," Brandon said. "He's one of the most productive players in the history of this league, and adding him to our offense with the weapons we already have makes it pretty exciting. We're all waiting in anticipation to see what we can do with that."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press