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Bills, Steelers have agreed to joint practices for training camp

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Buffalo Bills have lined up a practice partner for training camp.

Although the NFL must sign off, the Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers have agreed to joint practice sessions that both sides hope will be an annual occurrence.

Three workouts would happen this year at the Steelers' camp in Latrobe, Pa. They would meet at St. John Fisher College next summer.

Bills coach Doug Marrone proposed the idea and exchanged tentative practice schedules with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Bills General Manager Doug Whaley worked in the Steelers' scouting department.

"I think it's a great idea," Whaley told me Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings. "One, it breaks up the monotony of camp. Two, it gives you a chance to evaluate your players against other players in practice setting.

"After all summer of going up against the same guys, the same guys, you might slip into a false sense of reality. This will set the bar a little higher."

The Bills practiced against the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998, the Cleveland Browns in 2002 and 2004 and the Green Bay Packers in 2005.

Whaley said the Bills and Steelers can't finalize their agreement until the NFL releases its preseason schedule.

Exhibition dates could impede on the plan, which is contingent on a Saturday game that would allow the Bills to travel to Latrobe on Tuesday for practices that night, Wednesday and Thursday.

Whaley also revealed the Bills will stay at St. John Fisher longer than they have in the past because of renovations taking place in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills have an extra preseason game this year with the Aug. 3 Hall of Fame Game against the New York Giants.

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.