Tennessee defensive end Jeffery Simmons has been practicing against left guard Rodger Saffold since the Titans drafted him in 2019.
Now, Simmons gets his first chance at Saffold on Monday night when the Titans visit Buffalo with Saffold in his first season with the Bills.
“I’m excited to go against him,” Simmons said. “We’ve had great battles here in practice, but everyone knows that for me, passing is not a practice. We can rush, we can do all these things, but we can’t get a midfielder in training… For me, I will say that I play more than I train.”
This isn’t the first time Saffold has run into former teammates. He started his career with the Los Angeles Rams and won last season with the Los Angeles Titans. Saffold started with his third NFL team this season with the defending Super Bowl champion Bills.
Saffold said it’s definitely a strange feeling to play with the team he’s played the last three seasons at left guard.
“At the end of the day, I have a job to do,” Saffold said. “So, you know, this is what we came to do, this is our art. And after the final whistle, we will always look for each other.”
Buffalo (1-0) and Tennessee (0-1) are not in the same division. As they prepare to play for the fifth year in a row, they know each other almost as well as if they played in the fledgling rivalry twice a year. Familiarity breeds strong emotions and great football.
The Titans won their last two games in Nashville, and Simmons helped stop Bills quarterback Josh Allen on fourth-and-goal to preserve a huge win as Tennessee not only repeated as AFC South champions, but also clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed . 1 seed. The Bills ended up with the No. 3 seed.
Allen has played at Tennessee every season he’s been in the NFL and finds familiarity with the Titans helps a bit. Allen noted that the Titans have one of their best coaches in Mike Vrabel, the AP NFL Coach of the Year.
“He’s doing a lot of good things,” Allen said. “And again, he’s going to motivate them immensely here. So we have to be ready for any punch they throw our way and try to put our best foot forward.
Getting to know each other is just part of what makes these Titans-Bills showdowns so intense.
The Titans defeated Buffalo in 2020 in a rare Tuesday night game that was postponed after Tennessee became the first NFL team to have a COVID-19 outbreak in the first season of the pandemic. The Titans got a big stop for a big win a year ago.
Monday night is the home opener for Buffalo. Bills safety Micah Hyde said they wanted to win this game to protect home field.
“Obviously, it’s huge for them, too,” Hyde said. “And we’re going to go out there and play our best and try to get the first game at home.”
Both the Bills and Titans have had roster turnover since last season. With Derrick Henry the focus of Tennessee’s offense and Leslie Frazier, the Bills’ defensive coordinator since 2017, little has changed in what teams do on the field.
“We’re not going to try to beat anyone’s schedule,” Hyde said. “We’re just going to go out there and play football, do what we do and try to execute. So they are kind of similar in that regard.”
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a natural change from seeing the Bills regularly in the AFC East while playing in Miami. It will be his fourth game against Tennessee in this series, and the quarterback said it’s a simple recipe.
“It comes down to execution and making plays,” Tannehill said.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed.
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