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Nelson's impact on offense

Now we know why Bills tight end Shawn Nelson did not play in Thursday night's game in Toronto. Nelson has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Nelson is eligible to return for the fifth game of the season, at home against Jacksonville on Oct. 10. This move pretty much secures Jonathan Stupar as the starting tight end for the season.

Michael Matthews, the 270-pounder, is the No. 2 tight end at the moment. Veteran tight end Derek Schouman suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of the game against the Colts. If Schouman is out an extended period the Bills probably will have to add a tight end to the roster.

How much does Nelson's suspension hurt the offense to start the season? It takes away an option. It's likely the Bills will have to use a tight end to help in pass protection a fair amount. Nelson would not factor into that equation. The Bills have two or three other "big receiver" options they can use in the slot instead of Nelson. Those would be James Hardy, David Nelson and Chad Jackson. Hardy should be ready to come back from a 10-day leg injury any day. Nelson is out probably several weeks with an injury in the ankle area. So it would be good for the Bills if Hardy comes back and starts making an impact over the final two preseason games.

---Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan's Live Chat

Live Blogging From Bills-Colts

Postgame -- The Bills beat the Colts, 34-21, to improve to 1-1 on the preseason. The Bills took the ball away four times and didn't commit a turnover. They scored three long TDs in the first quarter, a refreshing change for a team whose starters hadn't scored a preseason TD in its last 20 possessions going back to the start of the 2009 preseason.

Rookie C.J. Spiller ran for a 31-yard TD in the first quarter and had 54 yards overall. Fellow rookie Joique Bell led the way with 80 yards on 11 carries. Chad Jackson had five catches for 52 yards. Trent Edwards was 5 of 8 passing for 93 yards, including a 70-yard bomb to Lee Evans. Terrence McGee returned an interception 78 yards for a score.

Edwards on what it meant for the offense scoring on the first drive and gaining confidence:

"I don't mean to single out one guy because I thought offensively we did a great job overall as a team. But I think what it means is that we have a really good running back. C.J. Spiller, it was a lot of fun handing the ball off to him tonight. He was making some good defensive players miss."

--- Jerry Sullivan

2:00 left in the fourth -- Bills have driven to the Colts' 2-yard line, largely on the running of rookie back Joique Bell, who has 78 yards on 10 carries. Two-minute warning. Levi Brown is now the QB. He's 2 of 5 for 10 yards. Bell slams into the end zone for the TD after getting stacked at the line. Bills line up for the extra point, but two fans run onto the field and get tackled by security. Darned Canadians. Lindell boots the extra point and it's 34-21, Buffalo. Looks pretty safe. This isn't against New England, after all.

--- Jerry Sullivan

5:51 left in the fourth -- Tim Hiller, a rookie for Western Michigan, is now at quarterback for the Colts. Hiller, like Naaman Roosevelt of UB, went undrafted last spring is what was seen as a down year for the MAC in terms of NFL draftees. One MAC report I read from last April mentioned Hiller and Roosevelt as the two MAC players whose pro stock fell because of uninspiring senior seasons.

--- Jerry Sullivan

9:51 left in the fourth -- The Bills come up with another big play as defensive back Dominique Harris forces a fumble and Arthur Moats, the rookie linebacker from James Madison, recovers for the Bills at the Colts' 22. Bills go nowhere and Rian Lindell comes on for a field-goal try from 37. Lindell's kick splits the uprights and the Shout song reverberates again. Bills, 27-21.

--- Jerry Sullivan

Early fourth quarter -- Naaman Roosevelt, the pride of St. Joe's and UB, just got nailed for a loss on an end around. Then he caught a 9-yard slant from Brohm over the middle to set up third-and-6 for the Bills at their own 28-yard line. It would be nice to see Brohm throw the ball down the field at some point. All right, the Bills went four wides on third down and Brohm found Aaron Rhea for a first down.

--- Jerry Sullivan  

End of third quarter -- Bills lead, 24-21. We might not see anything like the first quarter for awhile. Cherish it while you can. Brohm is 12-for-17 for 106 yards.  He hasn't dazzled, but he has been efficient. Again, I don't see why the coaches can't give him a chance to play with the starters at some point in the preseason -- assuming it's really an open competition, of course.

--- Jerry Sullivan

4:58 left in the third -- Bills were stopped on downs but got the ball back when Indy's Ray Fisher fumbled a punt and Donovan Woods recovered. Bills had a third-and-12 from the Colts' 38 and Chad Simpson was stopped for a 3-yard gain. Brian Moorman punted into the end zone from the 35. Gee, do you think they could be a little more daring  on a night when so much has gone right? How about letting Brohm prove himself on third-and-long?

--- Jerry Sullivan.

6:19 left in the third quarter -- Bills still lead, 24-21, as the game has expectedly  slowed down. Some first half stats: Edwards was 6 of 9 for 93 yards with a TD and no picks. He had a 142.2 rating, about 100 better than his 42.7 rating for his previous five preseason games. Spiller had 10 carries for 54 yards. Manning was 8-for-15 for 91 yards, with a TD and an interception.

--- Jerry Sullivan.

Halftime -- Bills lead, 24-21, after an entertaining first half. Wow. The Bills had gone five preseason games and 20 possessions without a touchdown from the starters. They had two in the first quarter against the Colts -- Spiller's run and a 70-yard bomb from Edwards to Lee Evans. They also got a 78-yard interception return from Terrence McGee, who picked off a deflected pass, got off the turf, and raced past the Indy offensive team for a TD that brought back fond memories of McGee's days as the NFL's top kickoff returner.

It's only the preseason, but the first half should bring some of the more discourarged fans back from the ledge. The Bills still have a lot of problems. The defense looked shaky again in the first half. They still give up far too many big plays. The Peyton Manning to Jacob Tamme TD pass was reminiscent of the Tom Brady to Ben Watson pass that beat the Bills in the opener at New England a year ago.

But the Bills do have playmakers. Chan Gailey got Roscoe Parrish involved in the offense. Brian Brohm made a few nice throws. The Bills are bad, but at least they could be entertaining. They're not as bad as they appeared last weekend, nor as good as they looked in the first quarter tonight.

An update on attendance in the Rogers Centre. The crowd filled in quite a bit as the first quarter moved on, and the crowd is estimated in the 33,000 range.

--- Jerry Sullivan.

First Quarter -- Good first drive for the Bills' defense. Kyle Williams smelled out a screen pass to force a punt. ... Lo and behold: The Bills have a touchdown in preseason. Trent Edwards made a play on the run, hitting Roscoe Parrish for an 11-yard gain. Then C.J. Spiller showed great moves on a 31-yard run for a touchdown. Bills 7, Colts 0. ... Mark Gaughan.

7:30 p.m. -- Opening coin toss. Let's call it 30 percent full -- maybe 18,000 in the stands.

7:25 p.m. -- Five minutes before kickoff and the stands are about 20 percent full. ... Dwight Freeney is starting at DE for the Colts.

7:10 p.m. -- It looks like the team will get a better read on the offensive line. Cornell Green was working on the field at right tackle, and left tackle Demetrius Bell and right guard Eric Wood both were working in warmups. ... Look for Peyton Manning to complete most of his passes. With the defense playing mostly vanilla in preseason, he should have an easy time with his reads ... not that he struggles when the exotic defenses come out. ... We'll see how much of a "home-field edge" the Bills have, if any. A quick count of the east end zone stands finds that the number of fans wearing Bills and Colts jerseys is dead even, 30-30. The Bills sacrifice most of their "defensive noise advantage" here in Toronto. ... Talked to former Bills star left tackle Will Wolford before the game. Wolford does radio for all the Colts games. -- Mark Gaughan.

7:05 p.m. -- The Rogers Centre looks nice all decorated in NFL trappings. We'll see in a bit if the place is half-full for the game. The one upgrade they made here is to the turf. There is now an NFL-standard field on the ground. The past two years, the turf at Rogers Center consisted of 5-yard square plates of turf all pieced together. With all the seams in place, it definitely was not up to snuff, even though the Blue Jays played on it for many years. The Blue Jays and major league baseball combined to put in a much better turf. ... We were thankful for Buffalo's lack of traffic on the drive up. There were a couple backups and it took 2:15 to get to Toronto, not counting a 30-minute wait at the bridge. -- Mark Gaughan.

6:45 p.m. -- The roof is open again at the Rogers Centre. When we arrived at 4:30, the roof was open, but then it was closed until about 6. The weather is fine. It's warm and humid with a light breeze blowing through the stadium. It's doubtful that the wind will be a significant factor tonight. There's a very scant crowd in here at the moment. We're expecting the place to be about half full.

Sources tell us that Jairus Byrd's groin injury was unrelated to the injury he suffered last season and is not considered serious. Byrd has a realistic chance to play in the regular-season opener. 

UB graduate Jamey Richard is starting at center for the Colts tonight in place of the injured Jeff Saturday. Saturday is expected to miss 2-6 weeks, so Richard could be snapping the ball to Peyton  Manning in the regular-season opener.

--- Jerry Sullivan

TORONTO -- Greetings from the Rogers Centre, where the Bills meet the Indianapolis Colts this evening in the latest installment of the Bills Toronto Series, a venture which continues to enjoy a rather indifferent response from the citizens here north of the border.

On the front page of today's Toronto Sun sports section, in fact, there is a tease to Steve Simmons' column, with the leering tabloid headline "Inside Toronto's NFL Fiasco." Simmons, for my money the top columnist in Canada, savages the Bills series and makes it clear that the idea has been an abject disaster in Toronto. (Sabres fans get a look at Steven's column on Tomas Kaberle from two days ago as a bonus).

I share Simmons' disdain for the series. Yes, Ralph Wilson has made $78 million off the Canadians, but it's a travesty to play regular-season games here and I don't buy the notion that it will help ensure the Bills' long-term future in Western New York.

Preseason games are a tedious exercise to begin with. I can't imagine why discerning Canadian fans would spend big bucks to watch an exhibition. I'd be a little more interested if Brian Brohm were starting at quarterback instead of Trent Edwards. If there's truly an open competition at the position, why not let all the presumed contenders start a preseason game? Wouldn't it be better to see Brohm playing with and against the starters? News readers would surely agree. In our on-line poll, 64 percent of respondents say Brohm should be the starter.

--- Jerry Sullivan

Third surgery for Byrd

Bills coach Chan Gailey told reporters in Toronto this evening that safety Jairus Byrd is out indefinitely due to surgery on his groin. The concern for the Bills is it's the third surgery for Byrd on the groin in 13 months.

Byrd missed the start of training camp last year due to groin surgery. He played as a reserve in the first two regular season games last season then moved into the starting lineup for the third game. Byrd made eight straight starts and had eight interceptions over that stretch, but the groin injury nagged him later in the season. He saw increasingly limited duty in December and had to go on injured reserve for the last two games. He had another procedure to address the groin problem around the first of the year.

Gailey said it was uncertain whether Byrd would be available for the season opener on Sept. 12 against Miami. That's 25 days away. One consolation for the Bills is secondary is the deepest position on the team. Byrd's backup, George Wilson, has 24 career starts.

---Mark Gaughan

Your call on starting QB?

The Bills head into their second exhibition game Thursday night vs. Indianapolis. Brian Brohm gets his shot as No. 2 behind Trent Edwards. If he's going to make a push for the starting job, the time is now. So it's an appropriate time to ask the question: Who do you want as the starter. We intentionally did not list "doesn't matter" or "none of the above" as answer options. We are listing the three veteran QBs in alphabetical order. -- Mark Gaughan

Bills work vs. 4-3

The Bills spent time in Tuesday's practice working scout team plays vs. their starting units to get ready for Thursday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Chan Gailey said it was largely because the Colts run a 4-3 defense, and the Bills' offense has faced mostly 3-4 looks all offseason. Washington, last week's opponent, played the 3-4.

"It’s a totally different front for our offense. It’s a four-man front as opposed to a three-man front. So we felt like just to give them a little bit of a chance this last day to maybe give them a look of what the Indy defense will be like. So we did that today. Then when you go on cards for the offense, the defense always cries and wants offensive plays to be run. So you give them those plays."

---Mark Gaughan

TE Stupar impresses

Jonathan Stupar continued to hold down the starting tight end spot for the Buffalo Bills heading into Thursday's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. Stupar, who was on the Bills' practice squad in 2008 and who saw limited duty in 2009, is working ahead of second-year man Shawn Nelson, a fourth-round pick last season.

Coach Chan Gailey on Stupar: "Stup is a very solid, consistent football player. He can’t go in there and knock people off the ball. He can’t run down the field and run a 4.5. but he’s a good route runner. He’s an intelligent player. He fights every snap. He’s more than an adequate blocker. He’s done a good job so far. He’s been one of the pleasant surprises of camp."

For a longer look at the competition between Stupar and Nelson, see Wednesday's editions of The News.

---Mark Gaughan

WR Nelson injured

Bills rookie wide receiver David Nelson suffered an injury to his lower right leg during Tuesday's practice at St. John Fisher College. Coach Chan Gailey said after practice the injury is not long term but could last several weeks.

"It doesn’t look good. But I don’t think it’s long term," Gailey said. "The question will be whether he gets back for the first of the season or not."

The 6-foot-5 Nelson was undrafted out of the University of Florida but has had a good showing in both spring workouts and training camp. He has looked like one of the top five receivers on the team in camp and has a good chance to make the 53-man roster. He has worked a lot as a slot receiver, giving the Bills a big alternative in that position to small, speedy Roscoe Parrish, who figures to see a good amount of actioin in the slot.

Nelson was hurt after he caught a pass near the goal line from rookie Levi Brown. He seemed to turn awkwardly on the foot as he went to the ground.

Elsewhere on the injury front, free safety Jairus Byrd missed practice due to what Gailey termed a minor physical ailment.

Also sitting out was receiver James Hardy, who was injured on Aug. 10 and who will miss Thursday's game against Indianapolis. The injury to Nelson should give Hardy even more snaps to make an impression over the last two preseason games. Also sitting out were Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Ed Wang, Jon Corto and John Destin.

---Mark Gaughan


Lynch back for preseason finale?

PITTSFORD -- It looks like the right ankle running back Marshawn Lynch sprained in the preseason opener at Washington might not be as bad as first feared. It was believed Lynch would be sidelined three to four weeks, but head coach Chan Gailey offered a more optimistic outlook.

"I think it’s not a major injury by any stretch of the imagination and I would think he could be back by the last preseason game,” Gailey said after the Monday night practice. ”That’s what we’re hoping anyway.”

If Lynch were able to come back by the final exhibition, Fred Jackson wouldn't have to rush back from his broken hand because Lynch and Spiller are capable of handling the backfield workload while Jackson recovers.

---Allen Wilson

Easley surgery imminent

PITTSFORD -- Bills rookie receiver Marcus Easley is expected to have knee surgery soon, according to head coach Chan Gailey. Easley was not at practice Monday. He has been sidelined for the past two weeks.

Gailey couldn't give an exact time of Easley's surgery, but did say it was going to happen "sometime soon.''

Gailey didn't have a timetable on how long Easley's recovery would be.

"I think it depends on what [the doctors] find when they get in there,'' Gailey said.

Easley, the Bills' fourth-round draft pick, was one of the early surprises in the spring practices and might have worked his way up the depth this summer if not for the knee injury. Gailey has not specifically said what kind of damage Easley sustained to the knee, but it's obviously significant enough that surgery is required.

It would be a shame if the injury forces him to go on the season-ending injured reserve list, but that is a possibility.

---Allen Wilson 

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