- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Sidelined for the season, Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso is staying upbeat by focusing on rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee.

“It stinks. But you’ve just got to be optimistic about it and keep grinding,” Alonso said Tuesday. “Because if you do everything you need to do in you rehab, it’ll come back stronger.”

The second-year player spoke publicly for the first time since being hurt two months ago and about 10 days after arriving in Buffalo to continue his recovery at the Bills facility. Alonso walked with only a slight limp and said his recovery is on schedule after tearing a ligament while working out in Oregon.

Alonso said he first felt discomfort in his knee during a change of direction drill, but the severity of the injury wasn’t revealed until a few days later.

“Yeah, I felt something goofy. I got it checked out,” Alonso said. “I kind of sat on it for a couple of days and finally got it looked at again, and they told me it was torn.”

Alonso didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of playing this season, but that’s unlikely because the recovery process usually takes eight months.

The injury dealt a significant blow to the Bills defense three weeks before the start of training camp.

The second-round draft pick out of Oregon was an NFL defensive rookie of the year contender last year. He led Buffalo with 159 tackles, two fumble recoveries and tied for the team lead with four interceptions while barely missing a snap in playing all 16 games.

This season, Alonso was expected to shift from the middle spot to outside as part of a revamped starting linebacker group that includes veteran free-agent additions Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers.

“It’s definitely a huge disappointment,” Alonso said. “Obviously, I want to be out there with the guys, but that’s just how football is. You’ve got to deal with it and come back stronger from it.”

Alonso also had hip surgery earlier this offseason.

After spending the first six weeks recovering on the west coast, Alonso felt it was necessary to return to Buffalo to be with his teammates, who prepare to open the season at Chicago on Sunday.

“It wouldn’t feel right not to be here,” he said.

Alonso is familiar with lengthy rehabs after tearing a ligament in his right knee during his sophomore season at college.

Alonso spoke after announcing a charitable program in which a local supermarket will donate 20 cans of soup to area food banks for every defensive tackle this season.

Earlier in the day, the Bills released cornerback Bobby Felder after reaching an injury settlement with the second-year player. Felder had been sidelined by a groin injury for part of training camp and placed on the team’s reserve/injured list last week.

The Bills also signed tight end D.J. Tialavea to round out their 10-player practice squad. The undrafted rookie signed with Jacksonville this offseason before being cut by the Jaguars last week.

The Bills lack depth at tight end with Lee Smith’s status uncertain because of a toe injury. That leaves Buffalo with only two healthy tight ends - starter Scott Chandler and backup Chris Gragg.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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