Tight end Shawn Nelson practiced fully for the second straight day Thursday, increasing his chances of playing on Sunday. Coach Chan Gailey is expected to make a decision Friday on whether Nelson will be active against the Baltimore Ravens.
The decision really should be a formality at this point. Nelson has shown he's recovered from the groin surgery he had while serving his four-game suspension. The Bills also could use some offensive production out of the tight end position, and Nelson has the receiving skills to do that.
After sitting out Wednesday's practice with a sore neck, Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap worked out on a limited basis Thursday. Heap's ailing neck was related to his scary helmet-to-helmet collision with Patriots safety Brandon Merriweather last Sunday. Heap's status for Sunday could be revealed Friday, though the Ravens might wait until Sunday.
Six key players who were limited Wednesday – running back Ray Rice (ankle), wide receiver Derrick Mason (ankle/finger), outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (back), safety Haruki Nakamura (back), cornerback Josh Wilson (hamstring) and defensive end Paul Kruger (sprained medial collateral ligament in left knee) – were upgraded to full participation Thursday. Free safety Tom Zbikowski (bruised heel) did not practice for the second consecutive day.
Bills nose tackle Kyle Williams did not appear Thursday during the period of practice the media is allowed to view. Williams' absence was due to a minor ankle injury sustained during Wednesday's practice. Coach Chan Gailey said the injury isn't serious and added there is "a legitimate chance'' Williams will play Sunday even if he doesn't practice today.
Rookie outside linebacker Arthur Moats was listed as limited, but Gailey said Moats did just about everything the last two days. Moats, who missed the Jacksonville game with an injured elbow, should play against the Baltimore Ravens. He has plenty of incentive to do so. Baltimore is less than a three-hour drive from his hometown of Portsmouth, Va.
The only players who didn't participate Thursday were corneback Terrence McGee and right tackle Cornell Green. Both have already been declared out for Sunday.
Will the Bills get their first win this weekend when they visit Baltimore? The News' football writers talk about the team's chances -- with a bonus look at Saturday's Missouri-Oklahoma clash in the Big 12.
Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who absorbed a big hit to the head at New England on Sunday, sat out practice Wednesday with a sore neck. Starting Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski (foot) didn't practice. Other Ravens starters on the injury report who were limited included: running back Ray Rice (ankle), linebacker Jarret Johnson (back) and receiver Derrick Mason (ankle, finger).
Ravens right tackle Jared Gaither, the subject of much offseason trade speculation, remains out this week due to chronic back issues. Gaither has yet to play this season.
The Bills are expected to have everybody available except Terrence McGee and Cornell Green.
Head coach Chan Gailey and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick spoke on Wednesday ahead of Sunday's Bills-Ravens game in Baltimore. For more on the game, don't miss this week's installment of the video preview featuring The News' football writers.
The Bills defense ranks 32nd against the run. Baltimore's offense ranks 16th in rushing and fifth in yards per carry.
Bills defenders say they have to stick to their own assignments and trust their teammates will do theirs in order to see improvement.
Said Chris Kelsay: "I thought throughout the season, if you go back and look at all the X plays, whether it’s run or pass – I mean big plays against us – I’d say 90 percent of the time it’s our fault. It’s not what they did, it’s what we didn’t do, guys being out of the gaps, over-pursuing, not playing the right coverages, whatever it may be. They’re taking advantage of mistakes we’re making, which good teams do. But it’s correctable things."
Said Andra Davis: "It all depends on being accountable to each other, the guy next to us, and not try to do too much. Throughout the bye week as we looked at the film we just saw so many instances where one guy tried to do too much or was not where he was supposed to be. There was a breakdown. In this league guys are too good. One missed fit and a guy can go for 50 or 60 yards. Last week there were plays where we were stopping the run pretty good but Jones-Drew had a cutback. They had a few reverses. Plays like that kill your average."
Former Bill Willis McGahee has been the change-of-pace backup to Ray Rice in the Baltimore Ravens' backfield this season. McGahee has 40 carries for 143 yards and three TDs through six games. Rice has 115 carries for 451 yards. McGahee didn't even play in last week's game at New England. But Ravens coach John Harbaugh says Willis will get more action this week.
Said Harbaugh: "I’m very pleased with Willis. Willis has been fabulous the last two years. He’s worked very hard. He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him right now, and that’s saying a lot because he was in shape when I got here. He has to be a big part of what we’re doing for the rest of the season. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get him in. That’s my fault. I took responsibility for that. He should have played more against New England. He’s going to play against Buffalo and he’s going to play down the road as we go."
McGahee got a career-low 109 carries in 2009 for 544 yards but he got the ball a lot near the goal line and scored 12 touchdowns. Rice had 1,339 yards rushing last year and made the Pro Bowl.
For the record, Bruce Smith was ranked No. 31 in the NFL Network series on the 100 greatest players of all time. O.J. Simpson was 40th. ... No doubt, he would have been a bit higher if his life had not taken its tragic turn. ... The series continues Thursday at 9 p.m. with Nos. 21-30. The previous 10: 31, Bruce Smith. 32, Jim Parker. 33, Sid Luckman. 34, Deion Sanders. 35, Chuck Bednarik. 36, Raymond Berry. 37, Jim Thorpe. 38, Lance Alworth. 39, Gino Marchetti. 40, O.J. Simpson.
In terms of exciting sports days, the NFL trade deadline ranks right up there with the day after the MLB All-Star game.
Another snoozer of a deadline day came and went Tuesday without the Bills making a move. The only trade reported so far, by ESPN's Adam Schefter, was that of defensive end Alex Magee, from Kansas City to Tampa Bay for draft "considerations."