Notebook: Injuries mounting

Eric Wood (Getty Images)

After Eric Wood's horrifying injury, Buffalo now has 14 players on injured reserve...

--OG Kendall Simmons was among the linemen Buffalo considered during last offseason's free agency period. His injury history, including an Achilles' tendon tear in 2008, scared the Bills off and Simmons eventually landed with New England a week before the regular season started. He made just one game appearance and was cut Nov. 6.

After season-ending injuries to Eric Wood and Seth McKinney last Sunday in Jacksonville, the Bills had few choices but to call Simmons in order to find an experienced player. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2002, won a Super Bowl ring, and has 80 starts.

The issue with Simmons remains the same: durability. If he can prove himself over the final six games of the season, Buffalo would consider extending him a long-term deal considering four of their own linemen will be coming off serious leg and knee injuries.

--As expected, Ryan Fitzpatrick was named the starter for Sunday's game against Miami by interim coach Perry Fewell. Despite two interceptions, Fitzpatrick had one of the best passing days by a Bills QB in years last week in Jacksonville, finishing with 297 yards and a record 98-yard TD bomb to Terrell Owens.

"I just put a lot of air on it and let him run under it," Fitzpatrick said of his historic heave, made three yards deep in his end zone with several defenders in his face. "What he's shown not only throughout the season, but even in the offseason, is he's going to run by people. He's shown it his whole career, so I just wanted to give him the opportunity to make a play. I talked to him about going out there and giving him a chance, I just threw that one up to him and he made a great play."

That's something Trent Edwards couldn't do, which is why his career is in limbo.

--Fewell continues to infuse some much-needed toughness into the general atmosphere at Bills headquarters. He had his players practice outside in the rain Wednesday. Working in the elements was unheard of under predecessor Dick Jauron, who like many of the Buffalo coaches before him preferred the cozy confines of the team's indoor practice facility.

What's it say about practicing in the rain?

"Never listen to your local meteorologist," quipped Fewell, who didn't think it was going to rain. No matter. "I just felt we had to get outside," he said. "The wide receivers had to focus on the ball more. I wanted to get their attention from a focus and detail standpoint, so the weather wasn't a distraction, it was a focus for us, and we had a good crisp practice with the pads on. We live in the North Atlantic, so let's train in the North Atlantic."

--Buffalo's players on offense are starting to get a feel for Fewell, the team's defensive coordinator whom they had little direct contact with before. "A high energy guy that's going to be involved in everything we do," Fred Jackson said of Fewell when asked to describe him. "A lot of guys like that and a lot of guys feed off of it. I do. I feed off his energy just like I'm sure everybody else does."

--The Bills and Dolphins will be missing numerous key starters, from Leodis McKelvin, Kawika Mitchell and Eric Wood for Buffalo to Ronnie Brown and Jason Ferguson for Miami, all top players who have landed on season-ending injured reserve.

Said Miami coach Tony Sparano on forging on with backups: "It is just what you have to do. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you and if you start feeling sorry for yourself you are going to be on the wrong end of a real good butt-kicking."

--Sparano wasn't shocked to see Owens finally get hot with a nine-catch, 197-yard day against Jacksonville last Sunday. Sparano was offensive line coach in Dallas for two seasons with Owens.

"I've seen it before," he said. "Terrell is a guy that certainly has that kind of ability, and once he gets going like that, he's a hard guy to stop. He can get on you really fast, he can finish plays, the guy can run out of tackles. They got him going a little bit, looked like there was some chemistry between Fitzpatrick and him during the course of the ballgame."

Sparano has familiarity with Fewell, too. They were assistants in Jacksonville on 2002.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Number of Bills on season-ending injured reserve, including six starters.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just wanted to look at the tape, talk to the offensive coaches. I came out of the game feeling Ryan had performed well but there are things you want to see and know. You look at the tape and then understand better why he made some of the decisions that he did. But I just had to confirm the gut feeling I had that Ryan should be our guy again this week."

-- Interim coach Perry Fewell on naming Ryan Fitzpatrick to start his second consecutive game over a healthy Trent Edwards against Miami on Sunday.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

It's much too early for Buffalo's medical and coaching staff to predict how Eric Wood's severely broken left leg will affect his future.

"I can't answer that," interim coach Perry Fewell said.

One thing is known: Wood's injury was so severe, doctors in Jacksonville, Fla., have kept him hospitalized for observation after repairing two broken bones, the tibia and fibula. Wood was expected back in Buffalo by Thursday at the earliest.

Fewell said he has been told Wood's surgery went well "and we hope to have him back soon."

The Bills have watched 14 players go on season-ending injured reserve, but Wood's injury still shook the team.

"That young man was in pain," Fewell said. "When I walked down on the field he was in severe pain and that was not a pretty sight to see. You never want to see that as a football coach. That's part of our game but as a human being you never want to see something like that happen to another person."

Wood was hurt while pass blocking early in the fourth quarter. Jaguars DT Montavious Stanley charged into the backfield and made a diving attempt to tackle QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, landing on the back of Wood's lower leg and bending it sideways. CBS declined to show replays because Wood's injury was so gruesome.

Wood, one of the team's two first-round picks, had started all 10 games and was showing steady development into a player Buffalo could rely on for the long term. Now that's in question and only time will provide the answer.

Eight-year veteran Kendall Simmons was signed to take Wood's place.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was named the starter for Sunday's game against Miami, interim coach Perry Fewell announced. The move was expected after Fitzpatrick had one of the better passing days by a Buffalo QB in years last week at Jacksonville. Fitzpatrick threw for 297 yards, including a team-record 98-yard TD bomb to Terrell Owens.

--LT Demetrius Bell did not practice again due to his injured knee. His absence makes the situation on the offensive line even more desperate. Three linemen have been lost for the season with injuries.

--DT Marcus Stroud did not practice due to a tender knee. He missed last week's game at Jacksonville and remains questionable for Sunday's home game against Miami.

--CB Terrence McGee, who had surgery on his knee during the team's bye week, could miss his third game in a row. He did not practice on Wednesday and remains questionable.

--OL Kendall Simmons, an eight-year NFL pro, was signed after season-ending injuries to Eric Wood and Seth McKinney. Simmons could start at right guard against Miami on Sunday if he can get up to speed with the offensive system.

--OG Christian Gaddis, who rejoined the practice squad last week, was promoted to the active roster after season-ending injuries to Eric Wood and Seth McKinney. Gaddis, 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds, will provide depth the rest of the way. He has spent time with Buffalo, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

--OL Jason Watkins was signed to the practice squad. He signed with Houston as a rookie free agent out of Florida and was cut during training camp.

--DT Lonnie Harvey was signed to the practice squad. He played at Morgan State before signing with Carolina as a college free agent. He was cut on Sept. 1.

GAME PLAN: The Bills were mauled on both sides of the ball and couldn't match Miami's emotional level in a 38-10 loss to the Dolphins in this season's first meeting. Returning home for interim coach Perry Fewell's home debut should give Buffalo the emotional edge this time.

Both clubs are dealing with the loss of key personnel due to injury, and the game's outcome will depend on depth, preparation and breaks. The Bills have to contain rejuvenated running back Ricky Williams and get their own dormant running game on track. Miami out-rushed Buffalo 250-46 last time and the Bills have never been the same. If they can shut down Williams, the AFC offensive player of the week, they will force QB Chad Henne to do more. The Bills lead the AFC in interceptions with 17.

Offensively, a strong running game will set up Buffalo's passing game for some big plays. Terrell Owens got on track last week in Jacksonville with nine catches for 197 yards. He and Lee Evans combined for five catches for 120 yards in the Miami loss. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who gets the start, should be able to take advantage of a young Dolphins' secondary.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills run defense vs. Dolphins rushing offense. featuring Ricky Williams. The Bills, ranked 31st against the run, get a break with Ronnie Brown, who ran for 115 yards and two scores in their first meeting, out for the year.

Bills CB Terrence McGee vs. Dolphins WR Ted Ginn Jr. McGee won the last battle of old rivals by holding Ginn to one catch for 4 yards. McGee is coming off knee surgery, however, and has missed the last two games.

--Bills offensive line vs. Dolphins LB Joey Porter. Buffalo's line is ravaged by injuries. Porter, who has consecutive two-sack games against Buffalo, missed the last meeting with a hamstring pull.

--Bills RBs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson vs. Dolphins run defense. Lynch and Jackson were held to 46 yards combined rushing in their last meeting against Miami, but this time the Dolphins' 12th-ranked run defense is without star NT Jason Ferguson, who is out for the season with a quadriceps injury. Paul Soliai will start in his place.

INJURY IMPACT: With Keith Ellison out for the year with a quad injury, the Bills will continue to start strong safety Bryan Scott at WLB, teamed with MLB Paul Posluszny and SLB Chris Draft. Scott is OK with the move because it gets him back on the field; reserve George Wilson wrestled his old job away at SS as Scott sat a month with a high-ankle sprain. Scott, a rugged 6-1, 219-pounder, is about 10 pounds lighter than Ellison. But his coverage skills are better, and last Sunday in Jacksonville he finished with nine tackles, second only to Posluszny's 12 on the team. He also had a pass breakup and forced fumble. The Bills had one of their better days stopping the run, holding Maurice Jones-Drew to 66 yards on 25 carries. The return of safety Donte Whitner from injury also helped the run stuffing.

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