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Doug Whaley: Bills 'planning to be a playoff team'

The Buffalo Bills haven't appeared in the playoffs since the 1999 season. It's a drought nearly as painful as the team's four straight conference titles were impressive.

The Bills don't seem to be anybody's darling pick to make noise in 2014, and the loss of star linebacker Kiko Alonso to a season-ending knee injury this month made the bandwagon even lighter.

The Bills began to report to training camp Friday. It was there that general manager Doug Whaley was frank when asked about projections that place the Bills at the bottom of the AFC.

"They should. We haven't done anything. We've got a lot to prove," he said, according to the official team site. "It is what it is. Like Russ (Brandon) said, 'We won't hide from it.' We haven't been in the playoffs in a long time and we owe it to the fans, our late Hall of Fame owner and everybody in this business to show that we're not the Bills anymore. We want to be a playoff team. We're planning to be a playoff team and that's our goal."

The key to any tangible success in Orchard Park goes back to second-year quarterback EJ Manuel, who struggled with injuries and consistency as a rookie. Whaley conceded Manuel needs to grow in Year 2.

"I believe that he has to take a step. Now, a big step, that depends on your categorization of big," he said. "I would say take care of the ball and, the one thing he did last year that he needs to do this year, is to come through and make the players. He did that last year. We think with our defense, our running game, I'm not going to say he has to manage it, but he just gets better and keeps improving.

"He doesn't have to feel the weight of the world on his shoulders and he has to go out and win. We've surrounded him with some people where, if he does his job, we should be okay."

Whaley has more to lose than anyone if Manuel flops. The general manager was part of the brain trust that opted to use a first-round pick on Manuel in 2013. Whaley then rolled the dice in May's draft to pair the quarterback with a potential star in wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

If we don't see progress, Whaley might not survive.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" invites Bucky Brooks in-studio for a team-by-team AFC training camp preview.

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