ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Marcell Dareus is confident he can finally begin focusing on playing football after the Bills star defensive tackle spent a four-game suspension confronting personal issues — including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — that were holding him back.
“I’m happy to be back, and I’m a better person,” Dareus said Wednesday, after rejoining the Bills for practice for the first time in six weeks.
“I really feel I got exactly what I needed. I really sought out help when I never really asked for it, so I can take the proper steps to really help myself be the person that I want to be.”
Dareus understands the onus is on him after being disciplined by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for a second consecutive season.
“Talk is cheap,” Dareus said, reiterating a comment he made in August, when first addressing news of his suspension. “It’s not about words. It’s all action now.”
Dareus revealed he did not enter a rehabilitation facility, as he initially said he would when being excused from the team on Aug. 20.
Instead, Dareus sought consultation from a life coach and leaned on the advice of several Bills’ Hall of Famers, including defensive end Bruce Smith.
Dareus acknowledged one unresolved personal issue was ADHD, which he’s struggled with since his college days at Alabama. He also said he received positive reinforcement from “people who don’t want anything from me.”
The Bills’ top-paid player previously complained he’s tried to avoid returning home to Alabama because of various distractions.
“I’m just happy with what I did over the four weeks. I really was proactive,” Dareus said. “I’m really optimistic of the future.”
The first step takes place on Sunday, when Buffalo (2-2) travels to play Los Angeles (3-1).
Though Dareus is on Buffalo’s exempt list, coach Rex Ryan fully anticipates him to be activated by the end of the week.
“You hope that they learn from the mistake that they make, that’s the first thing,” Ryan said.
“And then you hope that he’s ready to go and he’s eager and excited about the opportunity to come back and be part of this football team. And I can tell you right now the answer is yes. So it’s a great thing. I’m happy to get him back, I can promise you that.”
Dareus is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and has been a starter since Buffalo selected him with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft.
At 6-foot-3 and 331 pounds, Dareus has been a disruptive force in the middle because of his strength to shed blockers and is also quick on his feet.
Off-field issues have been the only concern involving Dareus.
Though the NFL did not reveal the reason behind the suspension, Dareus said it was because of a missed drug test.
His one-game suspension last year stemmed from Dareus being charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia after being stopped by police in his native Alabama in May 2014.
The charges were dropped when Dareus agreed to enter an NFL substance abuse program.
Also in May 2014, he was arrested after crashing his Jaguar into a tree near a busy suburban intersection not far from the team’s practice facility. Dareus reached a plea agreement to have the charges dropped.
Dareus declined to discuss his past by saying he wants to move forward.
The Patriots were limited to 277 yards, 13 first downs and blanked at home for the first time since 1993.
In a 33-18 win over Arizona a week earlier, the Bills had five sacks and forced five turnovers.
Dareus said the worst part of being suspended was watching the Bills play without him.
“Oh, man, it was a killer, bro,” he said. “It ate me up inside.”
Dareus said he’s in good shape and is up for playing as many snaps as possible.
“Coach and them don’t want me to kill myself,” Dareus said, referring to Ryan’s plan of easing him back. “I’m pretty eager to get out there. I have a lot of pent-up aggression. I’m ready to go, I can say that much.”