Spiller gets an NFL education from his rookie season


Bills running back, and former Union County standout, C.J. Spiller, right, runs past Bears' defender D.J. Moore during the first half of a game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 12:10 a.m.

For former Union County star C.J. Spiller, and most first-year players in the NFL, his rookie season was a learning experience, made up of adjustments.

Spiller, who was picked ninth overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2010 NFL Draft, might also have to learn to deal with the league's first work stoppage since 1987.

On Thursday at 11:59 p.m., the current collective bargaining agreement between the players' union and the owners expires. A lockout is expected if both sides can't come to an agreement. The main sticking points in the labor dispute between the Players Association and the owners are an 18-game schedule, a revenue split, health care and draft pick money.

The 5-foot-11, 196-pound running back, who finished his standout career at Clemson with 3,547 yards rushing, 2,052 yards on kickoff returns, 1,420 in receiving and 569 in punt returns, has received some sound advice from his veteran teammates in preparation for a lockout.

“ ‘Save your money,' is mainly what the veterans have told all the guys, everybody in the locker room,” said Spiller, who was named ACC Player of the Year in 2009. “Save your money because it is a possibility. I am pretty sure it is going to happen, because nobody wants to play 18 games.”

In his rookie campaign for the Bills, Spiller rushed for 283 yards on 74 attempts and also caught 24 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown in 14 games. As a returner, he handled 44 kickoffs for 1,014 yards, including a 95-yard return for a touchdown against New England in week three.

Spiller just began his pro career and doesn't feel the addition of two games will help prolong it.

“I am definitely not, and I know everybody on my team is not, for 18 games and everybody across the league is not,” Spiller said. “That is the thing that is hanging over the labor, right now, is the 18-game schedule.

“None of the older guys want to play it, none of the younger guys want to play it. When we've just seen how long a 16-game season is.

Talking about adding two games to the season, that is going to shorten peoples' careers, really.”

Hard hitting analysis

Last week, the NFL announced that team doctors and trainers will use standardized sideline testing next season to diagnose concussions. That could also help extend playing careers.

“I think (Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver) Hines Ward summed it up well. It is football. It is a violent sport when you are playing in the NFL,” Spiller said. “You don't have to play in the NFL, you know what to expect when you signed up to play.

“There is no way you can really control some of those hits. Some of them you can, but most of them you really can't control. A guy has been tackling his whole life on defense, can't try and come change how he tackles.”

On the field this season, Spiller had a tendency to rush things and needed to slow down. That is not exactly easy for someone who won the 2006 Class 2A state title in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

“It was a big adjustment as far as them wanting me to be more patient. That was the biggest thing. I was trying to hurry up everything trying to get there too quickly,” Spiller said. “I went back and looked at the film. There was a lot of runs, if I just would have waited a second later it would have been a big gain.

“That just comes with the learning process. It is something I know I can learn from going into my second season.”

Climate change

The cold climate that Buffalo offered was also something Spiller had to get used to.

“It was cold. It was very cold there,” he said. “I have the mindset that is something I can't control, so I can't get caught up too much in it. I just put on the necessary stuff I need to put on and try to go out there and play.”

Spiller said that aside from the weather, Buffalo reminded him of Clemson and Lake Butler. While he said he is not a big wing-eater, Spiller did sample the popular appetizer originated in Buffalo, N.Y.

“I ate some wings just to try them. They were good,” he said. “I just had the regular kind, I don't do spicy.”

Although Buffalo (4-12) lost eight straight to open last season, Spiller enjoyed playing in Western New York.

“I think we are going in the right direction.

“We have a great team, a great organization, our GM Buddy Nix and coach (Chan) Gailey does a great job of bringing in the right personnel that we need,” Spiller said.

“We need a couple of pieces here and there, but I think we'll be fine.

“At the end of the day, people want wins and hopefully they'll start coming.”

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