ELMA, N.Y. -- First-round draft pick Marcell Dareus wasn't going to pass up a chance to join his new Buffalo Bills teammates for informal workouts this week -- even if it meant arriving a few days late and spending most of Wednesday's session watching from the sideline.
The opportunity to start bonding with fellow players and get his first taste of an NFL-style workout, despite the gloomy shadow of a labor dispute, was just as important to the defensive lineman as was the limited on-field work he got done.
And no one, including agent Todd France, was going to prevent him from traveling to Buffalo, where Dareus joined a group of 30-plus Bills players who have been working out at a suburban sports complex since Monday.
"There was no doubt in my mind (about) coming," Dareus said, before recalling the concerns his agent expressed to him about getting hurt. "I said, 'Todd, you know I still want to go out there and show my face. I'm the first pick. They want me there. I'm not going to turn them down, because I've got to show some kind of support.'"
Selected third overall in the draft last month, the former anchor of Alabama's stingy defense arrived wearing a bright red T-shirt with "NFL PLAYERS" written across the chest.
Dareus' work was limited to lifting weights and stretching. He was not allowed to take part in any on-field work due to the risk of injury, which could jeopardize his career because he is not under contract. It's the same routine Buffalo's two other rookies -- linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and defensive back Da'Norris Searcy -- have been following since the workouts opened Monday.
Afterward, Dareus spent a half hour chatting with veteran linemen Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson.
"Just picking their brains," said Dareus, who had no fear of getting hurt. "There's risk getting out of bed. You're going to get hurt no matter what you do. I'm just going to take it easy, not do too much, not over-extend myself."
Dareus would have arrived sooner if he wasn't committed to joining his fellow top prospects in Los Angeles for the NFL Players Association's annual Rookie Premiere events, which ran through Sunday. After a quick visit home to Alabama, he was back on a plane to Buffalo, where he's staying with safety and Bills union representative George Wilson.
Dareus will take part in the players' final session Thursday before returning to his temporary workout base in Atlanta.
The Bills are counting on the 6-foot-3, 300-plus-pound Dareus to make an immediate impact in improving a defense that ranked last in the NFL against the run last year and had difficulty generating a pass rush.
Though he wasn't provided a playbook, Dareus said he was familiar with the Bills' defensive style, noting it was similar to Alabama's. He's also not concerned about the time he stands to lose should the labor dispute disrupt the start of training camp in two months.
"Control the controllable," he said. "The only thing I can really handle is staying in shape, focusing in, talking with these guys, getting the plays down and just try to learn from a distance."
This marks Dareus' second trip to town, the first coming a day after he was drafted, when he met with team officials, including coach Chan Gailey and Bills owner Ralph Wilson. Now he's had the opportunity to meet much of the rest of the team.
"Oh, man. Wonderful people. Wonderful people to be around and learn from and jell," Dareus said. "I just wanted to get around the guys, and know what kind of people they are, and really put a face to the name."
His new teammates were impressed to see him show up.
"It shows a lot," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "It shows his enthusiasm, his willingness and how eager he is to get out here and meet the guys."
Notes: Fitzpatrick moved the workouts outside for the first time this week, in which he and quarterbacks Levi Brown and Brian Brohm worked on passing routes with receivers and running backs. ... Kicker Rian Lindell made his first appearance at the workouts and also spent time outside with punter Brian Moorman and long snapper Garrison Sanborn. ... Tight end Scott Chandler wound up driving 12 hours from his home in Iowa to attend the workouts after his flights were canceled last weekend.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press