Inside the phone call that led Cole Beasley back to Buffalo
ORchard Park, New York — Brandon Bean was traveling the day after Thanksgiving when he realized he had a missed call from Cole Beasley.
Gone but not forgotten, Beasley never missed a Bills game. He still talks to a lot of his former teammates, and is rooting for them from a distance. He watched Buffalo win a tough game against the Detroit Lions, and though he retired in October, Beasley knew his return to football wouldn’t scratch itself.
So Paisley called Bean.
In the days that followed, the former Bills All Pro receiver chatted with Josh Allen, Gabe Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie. They all want him back.
Allen approached Beane to ask about the possibility of Beasley returning, but the Bills GM did not have any open roster spots. If a receiver wants to rejoin his teammates, he must be on the team’s practice squad.
I just said, ‘I keep thinking, and it’s not quite as simple as bringing Cole back. I should discover the menu piece here, too, said Benny. “Josh, he just felt like everything would be great if we made this move.”
Ten months ago, the 33-year-old receiver sat across the table from Beane and demanded a trade. Beasley, who played three seasons with the Bills, didn’t want to be in Buffalo anymore. He said in August that the organization had changed, that he needed to move on, and that he would not regret his decision.
The problem Paisley faced was that his free agent market was as dry as a desert. The Bills released him in March, and he didn’t find a new team until two weeks into the season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came calling but were only willing to sign him to their practice squad. This marriage lasted two weeks before Paisley chose to call it quits.
Paisley did not finish football. He just didn’t want to be in Tampa. In many ways this was the experience he needed to realize what he was back in Buffalo.
Watching from a distance the next two months, Paisley had time to reflect on his tenure with the Bills. He pondered how badly his stint had ended despite it being his best three years in football.
Beasley didn’t like the NFL’s Covid protocols or be forced to get vaccinated. Talk about it — out loud, especially on social media. By the time the 2021 season is over, burnout has set in for him and the team.
Despite plays and some comments from Beasley on his way out, Bean never slammed the door on his return. The two men spoke several times in the three weeks before Paisley was officially signed to the Bills’ practice squad on Tuesday. Beasley said some issues need to be resolved.
“I didn’t like the way things ended up here,” Paisley said Wednesday. “I told (Ben) that when I got here, my family and I fell in love with this place. So I just wanted to come back (here) and finish it right.”
Beane has turned over the rocks to find answers on a grand scale after suffering a string of injuries this season.
The Bills hosted Odell Beckham Jr. On a visit earlier this month, but he still wasn’t ready to come back from a torn ACL. Penn signed former Bills receiver John Brown to the practice squad last month. He hasn’t played much football since leaving Buffalo after the 2020 season, but he knows Allen and the offensive system well.
The Bills’ passing game production has gone downhill over the past two months. The passing efficiency of Ken Dorsey’s offense, which averaged north of 350 yards per game in September and October, has fallen. Buffalo averages 212 passing yards per game in its last seven rounds.
Jake Comero and Jamison Crowder remain on injured reserve and the Bills’ passing offense remained in a neutral position after spending the early part of the season in sixth gear.
At his best in Buffalo, Beasley had the full attention of opposing defenses. The coordinators had to plan for him because he provides an option for Allen in the short passing game.
“It’s an extension of the running game,” said Bean. “When people are just trying to clear the deep stuff, and you need those guys to find the holes in the middle when you have to throw it with third and third and third and fifth, whatever the bottom line and distance. I think Cole has proven that.”
Beasley grew up playing quarterback and his father coached him through college. He understands how to manipulate defenders to create space, which is something the Bills have been looking for from lesser known pass players like Stefon Diggs.
“I feel like I can (read defenses) better than anyone else,” Paisley said. “As far as reading the coverage and adapting or reacting to what they do, and then controlling how they play. I feel like I can still do that.”
Beane had seen enough in Paisley’s 13 offensive snaps to be excited to add him back into the mix. Allen said Allen was able to rehearse with him this week and is looking forward to getting back in the cinema room with Paisley. Allen said he believes Beasley is ready to play, but putting him in Saturday’s crucial AFC East game against the Miami Dolphins will come down to how he feels.
Beasley has been playing basketball to stay in shape. He said he remembers how he was always gassed in high school when he started looping after football season because of the constant running on the hardwood. He even credits his basketball experience with how he developed into a powerful slot receiver.
Billing safety Jordan Boyer was ecstatic to see Paisley back in the block. He called him one of the best teammates during his NFL career. On the field, Boyer said his teammate looked exactly like Beasley.
“Shoot, I mean, it looks like he can still move,” Boyer said. “He’s just a guy who opens up in the hole. Everyone always talks about how tough he is. … I think he can be an outlet for Josh in certain situations.”
It’s possible that Paisley’s arrival will mean less of a role for Isaiah Mackenzie. Now the tallest bill recipient, McKenzie isn’t worried. He even led the recruiting effort to take back Paisley.
When Mackenzie heard about Paisley reaching out to Ben, he took to Twitter to make his case. He told his old friend to call him so he could explain how much he wanted him back.
“He can teach us a lot of things, especially where I am,” Mackenzie said. “But off the court, he’s a great guy. We can hang out with him off the court, you know, doing anything. I mean, even though he’s 33 now. He’s still young, we can play basketball and things like that. But he Just a good guy to be around – a leader and all.”
Bean did not guarantee Beasley anything when he agreed to return to the Bills. It remains his role in the team, what time to play, and what time he will start playing.
Paisley said he’s not worried about the details. He’s back in Buffalo and ready to play football again with the teammates he loves. He hopes to rekindle the love affair he had with his fanbase back in 2019 when he first arrived in town.
“I just wanted to right a lot of wrong here and be with my mates and play football again,” Paisley said. “Nobody’s perfect. I didn’t handle everything like I wanted to and a lot of that was a big reason I wanted to go back, too.”
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