The Buffalo Bills brought back several familiar faces before the start of the 2022 NFL season, including defensive end Shaq Lawson. Back in March, the Bills’ former first-round pick from the 2016 NFL Draft literally begged on Twitter to “come back home” to Buffalo, and a few weeks later, signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal to return.
During his first three years with the Bills, Lawson recorded a total of 10 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, and 20 quarterback hits before exploding in year four. In 2019, he added 6.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, and 18 quarterback hits. Buffalo had declined the fifth-year option for Lawson before the season started, which made him a free agent in 2020.
Following his breakout year, Lawson was offered a three-year, $30 million contract to sign with the Miami Dolphins, and he took it. However, Lawson only lasted a year with the Bills’ AFC East rival. In 14 game appearances and seven starts, Lawson tallied four sacks, four tackles for a loss, 18 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble recovery which he ran in for a 36-yard touchdown. After the season ended, the Dolphins traded him to the Houston Texans.
In an interview with Spectrum News 1 Buffalo published on Tuesday, November 29, Lawson reflected on his decision to sign with the Dolphins. “At the time I thought that was the best decision for me,” he said. “Looking back… I’d probably say that’s probably the worst decision I made.”
Lawson never played an official snap with the Texans, as Houston traded him to another one of the Bills’ AFC East rivals, the New York Jets, before the 2021 NFL season started. Lawson recorded just one sack, five tackles for a loss, and five quarterback hits in 14 game appearances and seven starts with the Jets and was released just before New York’s final regular season game, which was against Buffalo.
“It was a humbling two years,” Lawson said. “This year I consider a humbling year for me trying to get my career back.” In fact, the veteran defensive end felt like he lost his true self after leaving Buffalo.
“If you would have seen me the last two years you’d be like ‘This is Shaq?’ I’m quiet. I’m not talking. I’m just strictly about ball. Not joking and things like that. And that’s not me. I like to have fun. Like to joke. I still take the game serious, but me I got to be interacting and cracking jokes. So that was my biggest part. I couldn’t be myself.”
Bills Head Coach ‘Let’s Me Be Myself,’ Lawson Says
During the summer, Lawson admitted that it was “a nightmare” having to go up against Bills quarterback Josh Allen so often during his two seasons with the Dolphins and Jets. “Not just Josh, but the whole team in general.”
The 28-year-old now refers to Buffalo as “home,” and gives major credit to Bills head coach Sean McDermott for allowing him to transition back to his old self. “McDermott just let me be myself. Once he came to me when I signed back and said ‘Be yourself. Be that dog you used to be.’ Once I got that, that okay to say so, it just opened my game up and made me feel more comfortable. I still got it. I haven’t lost it yet.”
In 10 game appearances thus far this season, Lawson has recorded 1.5 sacks and eight solo tackles while participating in just 42% of the defensive snaps.
“I told myself, if I get another opportunity, this might [be my last],” Lawson said. “You know how the league works. The older you get they’re basically pushing you out the door, so I got to separate myself from the younger guys. It’s me running and playing every play like it’s my last because you never know.”
With Von Miller Out, Lawson Is Ready to Step Up
Bills superstar edge rusher Von Miller suffered a knee injury during the team’s 28-25 win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, and has been ruled out for the Bills’ upcoming Thursday Night Football game against the New England Patriots.
While Miller’s absence in the second half was compounded by the fact that defensive ends Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa were inactive due to injuries, Lawson didn’t blink after the eight-time Pro Bowler went out. “Next man up,” Lawson said, per ESPN, following the Bills win. With Boogie Basham and Mike Love, who was elevated from the practice squad for the Lions matchup, “We were just saying, ‘Hey bro, it’s our opportunity.”
While it remains unknown if Miller will be able to return to play this season, Lawson is confident he can help fill the void.
“There’s a key phrase: stay ready and you don’t have to get ready,” Lawson said. “I think that’s always been in my head. Prepare every day like you’re the starter. Prepare like the coach is going to call on you when the game is on the line.”