Dareus' plan: 'Have fun with football'

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- As the smell of sausages and throngs of fans returned to St. John Fisher College for Buffalo Bills training camp, one former first-round draft pick treated the first practice Sunday as a fresh start.

Defensive lineman Marcell Dareus was chosen third overall in 2011, but his first two seasons in the NFL have been less than ideal.

This season will be different, he says.

"I'm really excited. I prayed on it and I came to an agreement: I'm just going to have fun this year," Dareus said Monday. "No bumps in the road. Just simplify my life and just have fun with football."

Last September, Dareus' brother was killed in a triple homicide in Alabama. He didn't miss a game -- in fact, he started every game for the Bills last season -- but the murder stayed on his mind throughout the season.

"It was just a lot. I was only 22 years old," he said. "I didn't have anybody I could talk to. [That] took it a lot out of me. But towards the end of the season, I caught myself. I started having fun again."

While he has tallied 5.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons, the Bills still need more out of Dareus, who is being pushed for a starting job by Alex Carrington and Jay Ross.

"I'm closer now than I've been in a long time to just being that guy," Dareus said Monday.

However, Dareus saw limited snaps in Sunday's opening practice, even with defensive linemen Mario Williams and Kyle Williams sitting out of team drills.

But according to Dareus, he's not being held back for injury or conditioning reasons.

"I'm healthy as a rock," he said. "Believe me, with our strength coaches, you're not going to be out here if you're not in shape."

Whatever role Dareus earns on the Bills this season, the 23-year-old knows he still has to handle family matters back home.

"I still have to go home and face them, talk to them," he said. "There's a lot going on, [and I'm] just trying to handle myself and still come here and handle my responsibilities with the team, and be the player they want me to be."