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Stroud's Homecoming party!
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Marcus Stroud wants you to believe going back to Jacksonville Sunday doesn't mean a thing to him.
"Just another game," he says.
But he's returning to the scene of his prime, where he made the Pro Bowl as a run-stuffing defensive tackle three times. The Buffalo Bills got him by trade in March — for a pair of draft picks — while he was recovering from ankle surgery.
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So does Stroud really feel nothing about going back.
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"Well, you know, it is what it is," he says. "That's the business aspect of it. I get to go back home and play against some of my old guys, go have a great time."
His smile suggests this is clearly more than just another game.
"No," he says, still smiling. "My incentive is just being healthy and going out there and playing like I know I can play. I'm trying to get back to my level and do stuff that makes me happy."
He looked over-the-moon happy as the Bills beat the Seattle Seahawks 34-10 in Week 1, continually exhorting a sell-out crowd.
The stat sheet accorded Stroud six tackles, two tipped passes and he was originally credited with a half-sack, before having the stat was officially changed to two.
"I was like a kid out there," he says. "That's how I play the game. I like to have fun, like to get the fans into it. I feed off their energy and I try to pass my energy off to the rest of the guys."
What the stats didn't show was the way his massive frame — 6-6, 310 pounds — opened up avenues for other defenders. Sometimes he played end, sometimes standing up like a linebacker. And he played with joy, raising his arms and calling for ever more noise.
"The Buffalo crowd was great, man," he says. "I was able to feed off them. That's a wild bunch, more like a college crowd than a pro crowd. It reminds me of being back at Georgia. I love it."
The Bills have not had a dominating man in the middle since the days of Pat Williams and Ted Washington. Stroud, 30, appeared fully recovered from his ankle surgery, running down backs with an agility belying his size.
"He's not a big fat guy who usually takes plays off," defensive end Chris Kelsay says. "He plays hard. He runs to the ball. He even does it in practice."
Safety Donte Whitner says he noticed that ferocity the first day of training camp.
"Maybe when we made the trade, people thought, 'Oh, he's washed up,' " Whitner says. "Oh, no, no, no, no. He's dominating out there."
Stroud says he can play better and, anyway, it was only one game. "It was rewarding, but it's early," he says. "I want to be a guy that is able to turn it on every week. I don't want to be that guy who has flashes."
Stroud has a chance to be Buffalo's best defender to come by trade since linebacker Cornelius Bennett in 1987. The enormity of that suggestion doesn't faze him.
"Well, I hope so, man," Stroud says. "I want to come up here and play well and be an impact player. And that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Next stop on that journey: Jacksonville. His teammates say pay no attention to his protestations.
"He might put up that front," Kelsay says, "but he's got a chip on his shoulder. And that's good for us."
Whitner thinks it will be very bad for the Jaguars.
"When they look at the film, they're going to be, 'Why did we ever let this guy go?' " Whitner says. "And that's what we want them to say. We know he has a lot of motivation. He's not going to confess to it but he does, because he feels like he was a franchise guy and they let him go.
"It's only natural. We're all human. So you know he wants to go in there and have a great game and dance around in front of the fans that he played in front of for so long. And he has every right to do that and I believe he will."