When a veteran offensive lineman misses two full weeks of training camp and parts of another, it's generally not cause for alarm.
But in the case of Buffalo Bills' left tackle Dion Dawkins, coach Sean McDermott raised a red flag on Sunday with a comment about Dawkins following his return to the squad after recovering from a COVID-19 infection.
"He’s not close to where he needs to be to play and help us," McDermott said. "He’s got a long road here. He’s going to control what he can control, and so are we. He’s got to continue to work hard to get himself back to where he’s — I mean, this is what, going on Week 4 of training camp at this point? So, he’s missed a lot of time."
Dawkins was cleared for work prior to the Bills' preseason opener at Detroit Saturday night but did not play.
The way the coach sounded the next day, it doesn't sound like Dawkins will be playing at all in the preseason, with his availability for the start of the regular season on Sept. 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in doubt as well.
Dawkins last August signed a four-year contract extension worth as much as $60 million. The former Temple University star was a second-round draft pick of the Bills in 2017, McDermott's first year as head coach. He has started every game for them in each of the previous three seasons.
In his absence, rookie third-round pick Spencer Brown has been getting most of the work.
"That's the, I guess, benefit, if you will, of Dion not being here and Spencer then getting the reps, because those reps are valuable," McDermott said. "So I thought Spencer did a really good job in the game the other day, albeit it's his first outing. So we'll just see where he is as we move forward this week."
McDermott was much more careful with his word selection when assessing the performance of another reserve tackle, Bobby Hart, who struggled so much against Detroit that nobody would have been surprised if he had been one of the five players cut on Sunday. He was not.
"He's got some snaps under his belt and I appreciate the way he's approached it," McDermott said. "He played into the fourth quarter the other night, so I've been happy with the way he's approached it. He seems to be working on his game. He's here early most mornings here, and I appreciate that."