Zimmer hopes to earn spot with Buffalo Bills during training camp

NFL TRAINING CAMP: Former Ferris State University defensive tackle Justin Zimmer looks on during rookie minicamp with the Buffalo Bills in May. Zimmer opens training camp with the Bills on Saturday. (Courtesy photo/Buffalo Bills)

NFL TRAINING CAMP: Former Ferris State University defensive tackle Justin Zimmer looks on during rookie minicamp with the Buffalo Bills in May. Zimmer opens training camp with the Bills on Saturday. (Courtesy photo/Buffalo Bills)

BIG RAPIDS — Former Ferris State University defensive tackle Justin Zimmer spent most of Organized Team Activities and minicamp with the Buffalo Bills last month focusing on a new defensive scheme and adjusting to the speed at the NFL level.

With about a month of offseason workouts with the team behind him, he enters training camp on Saturday with a different mentality: to make the team.

“I am just excited for the whole process,” said Zimmer, who signed with the Bills in May as an undrafted free agent. “I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m just looking forward to getting a chance to prove myself.”

Matthew Fairburn of Newyorkupstate.com has written highly of Zimmer since the Bills signed him.

Following the first day of rookie camp on May 9, he wrote of the 6-foot-3, 292-pound Greenville native:

“In terms of his relative athleticism, Zimmer stands out among his peers. In short, most guys Zimmer’s size don’t move the way he does. While his 31.75-inch arms are shorter than ideal for an NFL defensive lineman, he has both the production and athleticism to play in the NFL. The question is whether he can adjust to the competition.”

Following the team’s final day of minicamp on June 16, Fairburn wrote:

“Undrafted rookie Justin Zimmer has stepped in and immediately looked comfortable in the Bills’ defense. A few weeks ago, Zimmer mentioned that the scheme isn’t complicated for a defensive lineman. On Thursday, Zimmer picked up an unofficial “sack” during 11-on-11 drills and has been consistently disruptive, albeit against backups. He’s a sleeper to make the roster.”

Zimmer, though, is not focusing on the praise from media, but rather concentrating on the areas he knows needs improvement.

“I think it went pretty well overall,” Zimmer said of minicamp. “Obviously there is still a learning curve coming from a Division II school. So there are a lot of things I need to get adjusted to and a lot of things I need to improve, but overall, I thought it was a good learning process. There are just a lot bigger and a lot faster people.”

Zimmer, who led FSU in tackles (81), sacks (13), tackles for loss (26) and forced fumbles (four) last season, said the main takeaway from minicamp was the importance of watching film.

“You really need to know exactly what you need to do on every play, because if there is any hesitation, then you are out of place,” he said.

Many of the veteran defensive linemen have helped Zimmer transition to the NFL game, he said.

“If they see anything you are doing wrong, they are going to approach you and tell you what you can do better, or what technique you can use,” Zimmer said. “They were all very helpful. I honestly was pretty surprised about that because I really didn’t know what to expect from the older guys.”

As for what it will take to make the team, Zimmer said it’s hard to tell at this point.

“You really don’t know what they are looking for out of you,” he said. “You just know you have to go out there and play your hardest and make some plays.”

If Zimmer doesn’t make the team, he still would welcome the opportunity to join the Bills’ practice squad.

“Yeah, I definitely would do that if I got the opportunity,” he said. “Obviously, the No. 1 goal is to make the team, but if you make the practice squad, you are just one play away from someone going down and being on the team.”

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Posted by Ryan Zuke

Ryan is the sports editor for the Big Rapids Pioneer, covering local prep sports and Ferris State athletics. He can be contacted at (231) 592-8363 or rzuke@pioneergroup.com.

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