Former Clemson star out to quiet critics

08/06/2014 10:49 PM

08/07/2014 9:31 PM

Don’t think for an instant C.J. Spiller failed to notice several critics last season who began referring to him as a “one-year wonder.”

The Buffalo Bills’ running back took names and says he’s ready to produce the stats in a bid to prove his doubters wrong, once and for all.

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely a fire burning. I haven’t forgotten what was written out there,” Spiller told The Associated Press following a recent practice in training camp. “I’ve got my axe ready to chip away some wood.”

Spiller’s defiance is a reflection of the motivation he has entering his fifth season in what’s been an up-and-down career in Buffalo since being drafted with the ninth pick out of Clemson.

After having difficulty establishing a niche during his first two seasons in Buffalo, Spiller enjoyed a breakout year in 2012.

That’s when he earned his first Pro Bowl selection after becoming the NFL’s seventh player to average 6-plus yards per carry by finishing with 1,244 yards on 207 attempts.

Spiller’s average was a fraction of an inch behind league leader, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. And it led Spiller to raise his expectations by suggesting a 2,000-yard season was not out of reach last season.

Unfortunately, the chances of that happening were derailed from the start.

Spiller was dealing with off-field issues last August, when his step-grandfather shot and killed two people before killing himself in Florida. Then he was undone by injuries by first straining his right quadriceps, before being hobbled by a high ankle sprain that never had time to heal.

He finished with 933 yards rushing and was limited to 10 starts in 15 games.

“Obviously, I wish I wouldn’t have gotten hurt. But that’s one of the things that just happen,” Spiller said, assessing the year. “But to be able to do what I was able to do with me just having one healthy leg, I thought it was very impressive.”

Fully healed, Spiller is eager to show he’s regained his powerful stride.

“I feel 100 percent,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett foresees Spiller playing a big role in Buffalo this season.

“When you have a player like C.J., you want to get him out there a whole bunch,” Hackett said. “He’s a great player, and we have to feature him just like we have to feature a lot of guys.”

The Bills are being careful in keeping Spiller fresh for the regular season by limiting his playing time in practice and preseason games. Spiller had one carry for 2 yards in a 17-13 preseason-opening loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.

Spiller’s ready, and still stung by what some people wrote or said about him last year.

“That’s what people get paid to write,” Spiller said. “I definitely remember what was written. And I won’t forget it.”

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