PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Aaron Williams wore full shoulder pads in five practices this week, but it wasn't until Saturday evening's scrimmage when the Buffalo Bills safety could clear the next hurdle in his recovery from a neck injury that ended his season last October.
Williams collided violently with running back James Wilder on a 9-yard run about halfway through the mock game, immediately popping up without experiencing any of the numbness that plagued the sixth-year safety as he tried to play through his injury early last season.
It was the best sign yet that Williams -- who once feared his career would be over -- is fine.
"When I hit him, I stopped and made sure that I could feel everything and I could turn my neck without feeling any pain," Williams said after the scrimmage. "I realized I was all good. It was a sigh of relief. I'm super blessed that I can keep playing and do what I do. I love being with my teammates, I love being on the field with these guys."
Williams' career took a turbulent turn last September when, in a Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots, the energetic safety attempted to dive to stop wide receiver Julian Edelman at the goal line. Williams landed awkwardly and lost feeling in parts of his body, necessitating the Bills immobilizing him and taking him from the field in an ambulance.
He attempted a return in Week 5, starting against the Tennessee Titans but feeling numb once again after he made a tackle early in the game. Fearful about his ability to keep playing football, the Bills placed Williams on injured reserve and he later underwent surgery to "shave" vertebrae in his neck. He was back at practice for organized team activities and minicamp this spring, but Williams has long awaited training camp as an opportunity to test his neck in a fully-padded, live-hitting setting such as Saturday's scrimmage.
"Am I going to sit here and say I'm 100 percent, ready to go, I can go all out? No," said Williams. "But this was a major step in the process of being fully recovered. As long as I keep up with my rehab, and strengthen my neck and maintain my body, everything will work out."
Williams' hit on Wilder and his positive reaction highlighted the Bills' intrasquad scrimmage, which was shortened by coach Rex Ryan to nine drives because of concerns over recent injuries to linebacker Reggie Ragland and others.
The Bills did not get through the practice unscathed, however. Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn was tangled up at the bottom of a pile after a short-yardage run and came to the sideline with a slight limp. He later walked to the locker room with trainers; the team called it an ankle injury.
Here are some other notes and statistics from the scrimmage, which was held in front of a capacity crowd at St. John Fisher College's Growney Stadium:
Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor went 8-of-11 passing for 89 yards. His first drive with the first-team offense ended with a three-and-out after tight end Chris Gragg could not corral the third-and-4 pass, which was nearly intercepted by safety Corey Graham. Taylor's second drive was highlighted by an 11-yard completion to Marquise Goodwin on fourth-and-4, followed by a 15-yard completion to Greg Little. The Bills were later stopped on three consecutive plays from the 12-yard line for a turnover. Taylor finished the night with a 36-yard touchdown to Robert Woods, who made an acrobatic catch over second-team cornerback Corey White in the end zone. Taylor did not attempt any rushes in the scrimmage.
Running back LeSean McCoy finished with one carry for three yards, as well as one catch for three yards in very limited action. Reggie Bush returned punts -- all for fair catches -- but did not record any touches on offense. Rookie running back Jonathan Williams led the Bills with 22 yards on three rushes, while Mike Gillislee showed some burst with 21 yards on four carries, including a 17-yard gain.
EJ Manuel finished 3-of-5 passing for 60 yards. His first drive, against the third-team defense, included a 26-yard catch by Little and a well-thrown 41-yard touchdown to Goodwin. Manuel's second drive was a disaster that featured a sack, an overthrown pass and two false starts to set up a 3rd-and-28 when Manuel dumped off to tight end Nick O'Leary for two yards. Manuel's final drive lasted just one play after O'Leary was hit trying to catch a pass and it was intercepted by Graham.
Rookie quarterback Cardale Jones led the third-team offense, completing 5-of-9 passes for 78 yards. His first drive ended in a Boom Herron fumble in the red zone; his second drive was a three-and-out; and Jones' final drive featured a beautiful 52-yard pass to Jarrett Boykin that stalled with a field goal after two bad overthrows in the red zone. Jones was particularly active as a runner, scrambling (sometime with reckless abandon) four times for 28 yards.
Not participating in the scrimmage for the Bills: running back Karlos Williams (NFI); wide receivers Sammy Watkins (foot/PUP), Marcus Easley (knee/PUP) and Kolby Listenbee (hernia/NFI); tight ends Charles Clay (undisclosed) and Jim Dray (ankle); offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (NFI); defensive linemen Marcell Dareus (NFI) and Kyle Williams (knee/PUP); outside linebackers Shaq Lawson (shoulder/PUP) and Manny Lawson (pectoral/NFI); and inside linebackers Reggie Ragland (knee), Jamari Lattimore (nose) and Kevin Reddick (knee).