Gone but not forgotten: Inside the phone call that led Cole Beasley back to the Bills

Orchard Park, NY — Brandon Beane was traveling the day after Thanksgiving when he realized he had a missed call from Cole Beasley.

Gone but not forgotten, Beasley had never missed a Bills game. He still spoke with a lot of his former teammates, rooting for them from a distance. He watched Buffalo win a tough one against the Detroit Lions and, despite retiring in October, Beasley came to the realization that his itch to return to football wasn’t going to scratch itself.

So Beasley called Beane.

In the days that followed, the former Bills All Pro receiver spoke with Josh Allen, Gabe Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie. They all wanted him back.

Allen even approached Beane to ask about the possibility of a Beasley return, but the Bills GM didn’t have any open roster spots. If the receiver wanted to rejoin his teammates, he would have to be on the team’s practice squad.

“I just said, ‘I’m still thinking, and it’s not it’s just as simple as bringing Cole back. It’s, I got to figure out the roster piece here as well,’” Beane said. “Josh, he felt like everything would be great if we did make the move.”

Ten months earlier, the 33-year-old receiver had 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 wouldn’t regret his decision.

The problem Beasley ran into was 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. That marriage lasted two weeks before Beasley opted to call it a career.

Beasley wasn’t done with football. He just didn’t want to be in Tampa. In many ways it was the experience he needed to realize what he had back in Buffalo.

Watching from a distance the next two months, Beasley had time to reflect on his tenure with the Bills. He thought about how his stint ended badly despite it being the best three years he had in football.

Beasley didn’t like the NFL’s Covid protocols or being forced to get vaccinated. He spoke up about it – loudly, especially on social media. By the time the 2021 season was over, fatigue had set in for him and the team.

Despite the theatrics and some of the comments from Beasley on his way out, Beane never closed the door on a return. The two men spoke multiple times in the three weeks before Beasley officially signed to the Bills practice squad on Tuesday. Some issues needed to be resolved, Beasley said.

“I didn’t like the way things ended here,” Beasley said on Wednesday. “I told (Beane) that and when I first got here, me and my family fell in love with this place. So just wanted to get back (here) and end it off right.”

Beane has been turning over rocks to find answers at wide receiver after getting hit with a rash of injuries this season.

The Bills hosted Odell Beckham Jr. on a visit earlier this month, but he still isn’t ready to return from a torn ACL. Beane 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 production for the Bills’ passing game has fallen off a cliff the past two months. The passing efficiency of Ken Dorsey’s offense, which was averaging just north of 350 passing yards per game in September and October, has plummeted. Buffalo is averaging an astounding 212 passing yards per game in its last seven outings.

Jake Kumerow and Jamison Crowder remain on injured reserve and the Bills passing offense has been stuck in neutral after spending the early part of the season in sixth gear.

At his best in Buffalo, Beasley had the full attention of opposing defenses. Coordinators had to game plan for him because he provides an option for Allen in the short passing game.

“He’s an extension of the run game,” Beane said. “When people are just trying to take away the deep stuff, and you need those guys finding the holes in the middle when you got to throw it third-and-3, third-and-5, whatever the down and distance is. I think Cole has proven to be that.”

Beasley grew up playing quarterback and his father coached him up until college. He understands how to manipulate defenders to create space, which is something the Bills have been searching for from pass catchers not named Stefon Diggs.

“I feel like I can (read defenses) better than anyone,” Beasley said. “As far as reading coverages and adapting or reacting to what they’re doing, and then controlling how they play. I feel like I can still do that.”

Beane saw enough in Beasley’s 13 offensive snaps to get excited about adding him back into the mix. Allen was able to throw with him in practice this week and is looking forward to getting back in the film room with Beasley, he said. Allen said he thinks Beasley is ready to play, but his status for Saturday’s crucial AFC East game against the Miami Dolphins will come down to how he’s feeling.

Beasley has been playing basketball to stay in shape. He said he remembers how he’d always be gassed back in high school when he started hoops after the football season because of the constant running on the hardwood. He even credited his basketball experience for how he developed into a strong slot receiver.

Bills safety Jordan Poyer was ecstatic to see Beasley back in the building. He called him one of the best teammates he had during his NFL career. On the field, Poyer said his teammate looked like the exact same Beasley.

“Shoot, I mean, looks like he can still move,” Poyer said. “He’s just a guy that just gets open in the slot. Everybody always talks about how unguardable he is. … I think he can be an outlet for Josh in certain situations.”

Beasley’s arrival likely means a reduced role for Isaiah McKenzie. Now the longest tenured Bills receiver, McKenzie isn’t worried. He even led the recruiting effort to get Beasley back.

When McKenzie heard about Beasley reaching out to Beane, he took to Twitter to make his case. He told his old friend to give him a call so he could explain how much the team wanted him back.

“He can teach us a lot of things, especially in the slot for me,” McKenzie said. “But just off the field, he’s a great guy. We can hang out with him off the field, you know, do anything. I mean, even though he’s like 33 now. He’s still young, we can play basketball and stuff like that. But he’s just a good guy to have around – a leader and everything.”

Beane didn’t guarantee Beasley anything when he agreed to return to the Bills. His role on the team, playing time, and when he’ll start playing remains to be seen.

Beasley said he isn’t worried about the details. He’s back in Buffalo and ready to play football again with the teammates he loves. He’s hoping to rekindle the love affair he had with the fan base back in 2019 when he first got to town.

“I just wanted to right a lot of wrongs around here and be with teammates and play football again,” Beasley said. “Nobody’s perfect. I didn’t handle everything how I wanted to and a lot of that was a big reason I wanted to come back as well.”


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