Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan talks to Tyrod Taylor (5) during NFL football training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Saturday, July 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Bill Wippert
July 30, 2016

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) Waking up in his dorm room hours before the Buffalo Bills opened training camp at St. John Fisher College, quarterback Tyrod Taylor allowed himself one brief moment to reflect back on how far he's come.

A year ago, Taylor was a relative unknown in the NFL and his role uncertain on a team that thrust him in the mix of a three-way competition for the starting job. On Saturday morning, the Bills opened camp with Taylor taking the first snap under center as the team's unquestioned starter.

''A year went by so fast,'' Taylor said, recalling his thoughts upon getting out of bed.

''Everything up to this point has been a learning experience and I've tried to use that to better myself as a quarterback and as a person. So I'm thankful for the experience last year,'' he added. ''But that's behind me now. I can't dwell on it.''

Though he secured the job after a promising 8-6 record as a first-time starter last season, Taylor appreciates his work is far from done.

First, there's doing his part in delivering on the growing expectations following a season in which he established himself as a dynamic dual threat with his strong arm and scrambling ability. Taylor threw 20 touchdown passes, 14 going 20 yards or longer. He set the franchise record for quarterbacks with 568 yards rushing and scored four times, including a 22-yarder.

The Bills have a role to play in Taylor's future, as well.

There's no guarantee he'll be back in Buffalo next season because he's entering the final year of his contract. Though the two sides have held negotiations, the Bills have so far balked at making a lucrative long-term commitment to a player with a short resume - encouraging as it might be.

It's considered a calculated gamble by the Bills, who have had a revolving door at quarterback since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season. Even if a deal isn't completed, Buffalo can retain Taylor's rights by designating him their franchise player.

Taylor insists his contract status is not a distraction, and says he's solely focused on football.

''I'm out here to help the Bills as an organization win football games and help bring this community what it's been waiting for for years now,'' Taylor said. ''That's where my focus is. That's where the team's focus is. The contract situation will handle itself.''

Buffalo signed Taylor in free agency after he spent his first four NFL seasons backing up Joe Flacco in Baltimore. He eventually beat out former starter EJ Manuel and veteran free-agent addition Matt Cassel two weeks before the season opener.

Taylor has started to become the face of the franchise, which is reflected on the outside wall of the Bills' store leading out to training camp. Wearing a team cap, Taylor is the only player pictured. On the opposite wall, Taylor is pictured in action alongside running back LeSean McCoy, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and receiver Sammy Watkins.

Taylor is even beginning to attract national attention. He was featured in a car company's commercial. He also earned mention on the HBO football-based series ''Ballers,'' in which a player's agent informs his client, a receiver, that Taylor ''could be the franchise quarterback (the Bills) have been waiting for.''

After spending much of last offseason splitting practice time, Taylor began this year enjoying the benefits of working with the starters, and being familiar with the playbook. He's also focused on establishing himself as a leader.

Receiver Robert Woods noticed Taylor has become more assertive during practice and in the huddle.

''You always hear his voice,'' Woods said. ''He's calling us out, wanting to make plays, pulling us to the side how he wants our routes.''

Taylor said he became more comfortable taking on a leadership role once he established himself as the starter last year.

''There's nothing that people just give to you. You have to go out and earn respect,'' Taylor said. ''And of course, leadership comes from the quarterback position. I welcome that role and am looking forward to leading these guys.''

NOTES: The Bills signed DT Casey Walker and cut DE Cedric Reed. Walker has two years of NFL experience and played two games with Dallas last season after splitting the 2014 season between New England and Baltimore. Overall, he has one sack in eight career games. ... Coach Rex Ryan revealed LB Manny Lawson has a bruised left pectoral injury, which he hurt weightlifting before the start of camp.

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