Other Sports

Former Georgia Tech, Central-Phenix City standout Cordaro Howard to make first NFL start with Buffalo Bills

Howard undrafted from Georgia Tech

By Kevin Oklobzija

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — When an undrafted rookie is about to make his first NFL start, a coach never knows what to expect.

Yet while Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey doesn’t know how Cordaro Howard, a former Central-Phenix City standout, will play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, he can at least say he knows how the versatile offensive lineman will handle the situation.

Gailey coached Howard for three years at Georgia Tech, the first when he was a redshirt freshman (2005) and the next two years when he was starting at guard.

“One thing I’d say about Cordaro, the game doesn’t seem to be too big for him,” Gailey said. “He goes out there and handles his business. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or who he’s lined up against.”

Maybe that’s the proper mindset for him to have Sunday, considering the Ravens are the opponent — an angry Ravens team at that. Baltimore (4-2) squandered a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead in Week 6 and lost 23-20 in overtime to the New England Patriots.

“I’m a little nervous, but this is what I prepare for and work for,” said Howard, who has been on the depth chart at right guard but will replace injured right tackle Cornell Green in Baltimore. “You’re going against one of the top defenses in the NFL, so it’s an opportunity to showcase your talent.”

The 6-foot-4, 314-pound Howard wasn’t drafted in April, even though he was a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection in 2009 and a second-team pick in 2008. He signed with the Bills (0-5) as a free agent in May.

“I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t trust me and trust in my ability,” Howard said. He has played in the first five games, either as an injury replacement or to enable others to rest. This week, he will be part of the starting unit because Green is out with an undisclosed injury.

Because the Bills had a bye last weekend, Howard took part in even more practice snaps with the first-team offense.

But the start at tackle doesn’t mean Howard will be trying something new.

At Georgia Tech, he played guard and tackle. He said he is comfortable in either spot, and playing within Gailey’s system in college certainly helps, too.

“I’m real comfortable in his system,” he said. “It’s not a big transition. I’ve been playing guard and tackle for three years, and moving back to the same system everything pretty much came back.”

The tougher adjustment will be reading and reacting to what the Ravens do. They likely will blitz often and shift their looks, and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs might end up in Howard’s face a lot.

The Ravens won’t be a welcoming party.

But, as Howard noted, “everybody wants to get an opportunity to start in the NFL.”