Buffalo Bills news, notes: Nyheim Hines may return punts and door isn't closed on OBJ

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ORCHARD PARK - Never mind the fact that last season, Josh Allen had an uncharacteristically underwhelming day when the Indianapolis Colts marched into Highmark Stadium and blasted the Buffalo Bills 41-15.

That hardly even registers for new Bills running back Nyheim Hines because the game he remembers much more came 10 months earlier in January 2021 when Allen threw for 324 yards and two TDs and ran for 54 yards as the Bills beat his former team 27-24 in an AFC wild-card playoff game.

That performance, and then everything Allen has done since in becoming arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, is why Hines is so excited about the Tuesday trade that sent him to Buffalo.

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After four seasons where his quarterbacks were imminently mediocre Jacoby Brissett, aging Phillip Rivers in what ended up being his last NFL season, helpless Carson Wentz, and steeply declining and now benched Matt Ryan, imagine how he’s feeling with Allen as his quarterback.

“I can go from hating him to loving him,” Hines said with a smile. “There’s been times where we were up a couple times in the playoff (game) and he makes a play and you’re like, ‘God I hate that guy but he’s so good.’ Now I can say ‘God, I love that guy and he’s so good.’”

Nyheim Hines said he's thrilled to be coming to a team with a quarterback like Josh Allen.
Nyheim Hines said he's thrilled to be coming to a team with a quarterback like Josh Allen.

The Bills hope to speed-feed the playbook into Hines so that he can play Sunday against the New York Jets, at least in a limited role on offense and probably as the punt returner. And as he learns more in the coming weeks, they hope he can become a versatile weapon as both a runner and receiver.

“I got to see him a little (Wednesday),” Allen said. “One play, me and Stef (Diggs) looked at each other and said, ‘Holy crap, this guy’s fast.’”

Yes, Hines is fast, and that’s something the Bills have lacked in their running back room. Rookie James Cook has speed, but it’s clear the coaching staff doesn’t have full faith in him right now which is why his snaps have been so limited. Hines is a proven veteran who will be counted on as the Bills make their push for a third straight AFC East title, homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs, and, perhaps, a Super Bowl appearance.

“We came in the same year together (2018 draft); we were actually at the rookie premiere together,” Allen said. “I got to spend a little time with him there so I know him a little bit. He’s a great dude, everything I’ve heard about him is awesome.

“In terms of what he can give this offense, it’s fun to have a piece like this. We played against them a couple times and he always had like one or two plays that helped change the course of the game. He adds another element to our offense and we’re excited to have him.”

Nyheim Hines probably inherits punt return duties

The Bills began the season with veteran Jamison Crowder deep on punts, but then he suffered an ankle injury in Baltimore that will likely sideline him the rest of the regular season at minimum. Rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir took over and though he hasn’t made any colossal mistakes, he has looked a little unsteady as he has only 23 yards on five attempts.

Hines has been the Colts’ primary punt returner since 2020 and for his career he has 73 returns for an 11.8-yard average and two touchdowns. It seems logical that he would replace Shakir and allow the rookie to concentrate on developing as a receiver.

“This is a big transition from Boise to the NFL, let’s be honest,” general manager Brandon Beane said of Shakir. “When his number’s called, he’s ready for it. But naturally, that’s a lot of pressure. And we know the winds of Orchard Park are only going to pick up, probably. He’s done a good job, but it’s still a work in progress.

“Nyheim’s done it for a longer time. It’s a little easier, a little more natural. And so, if he’s healthy and available, that gives us a guy so that Khalil can just focus on his roles that we need him on offense.”

Buffalo Bills aren't closing door on Odell Beckham Jr.

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. leaps over Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl 56.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. leaps over Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl 56.

The star free agent wide receiver is nearing a return to action after knee surgery following the Super Bowl, but he still doesn’t have a team. Are the Bills interested?

NFL:Von Miller doing his best to recruit Odell Beckham Jr. to Buffalo Bills

“Without getting into that one, OBJ is a heck of a talent,” Beane said. “Where he was drafted, obviously he had the great catch, and he might have been the MVP of that Super Bowl, does he not tear the ACL. Really unfortunate for a lot of things for him to have to re-tear that, but he’s a heck of a player.

“Everybody in this room knows who OBJ is. And so, I don’t have to tell you guys, and again, you know me – if we think he can help this team, we’d be crazy not to at least look into it. But if we did, you have to remember there’s financials, there’s roles, there’s all sorts of things that would all have to line up. But yeah, a guy of his talent, of course, we would look into that.”

The Alvin Kamara report wasn’t true

Beane admitted that the media reports of his interest surrounding running back Christian McCaffery were spot on. Beane was in his last week of employment in Carolina when the Panthers drafted McCaffrey in 2017, and he knows how good the player is, so, “When you hear he’s on the block, I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence to not look into that.” In the end, the 49ers offered way more than Beane was willing to, and they made the deal.

As for Kamara, Beane said he never spoke to Saints GM Mickey Loomis as was reported. The Bills’ scout responsible for evaluating the Saints inquired once it became known the Saints might be willing to move Kamara, but that was as far as Buffalo’s interest went. As it turned out, Kamara stayed put.

“The scout checked into it and never actually got an answer whether he was available or not,” Beane said. “And then Sunday, as reported on one of the (network pregame) shows that we were rebuffed. Well, I never spoke to their GM; that’s just how the process works. I did on Christian McCaffrey; I did speak to the Panthers GM. Never made him an offer, but did stay in touch through the process. And ultimately, it was going to be more than we were going to be able to do.”

Bills coach supporting his brother, Tim McDermott

McDermott met the media Wednesday wearing a Philadelphia Union jersey in support of his brother who is the team president of the Major League Soccer franchise. It will be playing in the MLS Cup, the league championship match, Saturday against Los Angeles.

“Philly Union, baby, I’m pumping the Philly Union,” McDermott said. “Just want to give a shout out to those guys, my brother as well, and the work that they’ve put in over there. The best in the MLS and I think it’s been four years running now in terms of their win record and sustained success. So Saturday night, tune in. I know I’ll be watching.”

McDermott said his parents attended the Union’s home playoff match last weekend and they sent him video clips of the action, and his wife Jamie sent him videos of their three kids flipping the TV remote between the Union match and the Bills-Packers game.

“I couldn’t watch last week obviously because we were playing at the same time,” he said. “After our game in the locker room, before I came in to speak with you guys, I was able to see that they won and the environment down there was incredible. It reminds me a lot about our environment here and our fan base, which is pretty cool. Different sport, but their fan base is very much like the Bills Mafia in football, but in this case in soccer.”

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.To subscribe to Sal's new twice-a-week newsletter, Bills Blast, please follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills news: Door not closed for Beckham Jr., Hines may return punts