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McKelvin boosts returns

Not many teams can lose their leading kickoff and punt returners and replace them with someone who might actually be better at both spots. That's the case for the Buffalo Bills, who now shift Leodis McKelvin into the return jobs due to the hamstring injury to C.J. Spiller. (Punt returner Roscoe Parrish, of course, is out for the year.) McKelvin had a 25-yard punt return and a 27-yard kickoff return Sunday vs. Detroit. He also had a 78-yard kickoff return for a TD called back by a questionable holding penalty.

"He’s going to have to carry the load for us in the return department here for a little while," coach Chan Gailey said of McKelvin. "It’s certainly a luxury to have somebody with his ability to be able to go back there to return kickoffs and return punts. We’ll continue to try to develop some other people. Hopefully we’ll get C.J. back sooner rather than later."

Sitting out Wednesday's practice were Spiller, Corey McIntyre, Cordaro Howard, Eric Wood, Shawne Merriman, Demetrius Bell and Spencer Johnson. Gailey said he expects all will be ready for Sunday against Cincinnati except Spiller, Johnson and Merriman.

On punt returns, if the Bills are looking to give McKelvin a rest they could use Fred Jackson or Donald Jones. Jones also can do kickoff returns.

---Mark Gaughan

Cincy blackout

The 1-8 Bills are not a good draw in Cincinnati. The Bengals will have their first local television blackout since 2003 on Sunday. There have been at least 12 games blacked out in the NFL through the first 10 weeks. Two of those have been in Buffalo. Four have been in Oakland. Three have been in San Diego. It looks like Jacksonville will have its first blackout this week vs. Cleveland.

---Mark Gaughan

Bengals run game

For the second week in a row, the Bills face a team that has a questionable commitment to the run game. Cincinnati is passing 62.8 percent of the time. The Bengals rank 26th in rushing yards.

The Bills' defense still ranks 32nd in the NFL but has dropped its yards per game allowed to 167 after improved performances the past two weeks against Chicago (135 allowed) and Detroit (71 allowed). The Bears rank 22nd in rushing and Detroit ranks 30th. So this is the soft part of the Bills' schedule from a run defense perspective.

Next week the Bills play Pittsburgh (13th in rushing), followed by Minnesota (10th) and Cleveland (12th).

The Bengals are talking about committing to the run more this week. We'll see if they stick with it.

---Mark Gaughan

Spiller, Johnson, Merriman all expected out for Bengals

Bills coach Chan Gailey said today he expects running back C.J. Spiller (hamstring) to miss Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"If you talk to C.J., C.J. thinks he's going to be hoping to practice, probably this week. Probably a realistic thing is he'll miss one [game], and then we'll see from there," Gailey said.

Spiller was injured on a 29-yard punt return in the second quarter Sunday against the Lions.

Gailey also said defensive end Spencer Johnson (hamstring) likely won't see the field against the Bengals.

"I think he's out at least one game and maybe two," Gailey said.

Linebacker Shawne Merriman's (Achilles tendon) debut with the Bills also sounds like it will have to wait at least another week.

"I probably don't think he'll get out there [to practice] this week, but I think there's a real good chance for next week," Gailey said.

---Jay Skurski

Fitzpatrick has hand heavily wrapped

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had his right, throwing hand heavily taped Monday in the locker room when speaking to the media.

Fitzpatrick said his hand was stepped on Sunday by Lions defender Corey Williams in the first quarter. Williams actually jumped offside on the play and ended up landing on Fitzpatrick's hand. The Bills' quarterback wasn't too concerned about the injury, though.

"It's just some swelling. It's nothing too big," he said.

Fitzpatrick said he didn't expect the injury to have an impact on throwing the ball. He did not come out of the game Sunday at any time.

---Jay Skurski

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Bills healthy for Lions

All of the BIlls' injured players took part in practice Friday except tackle Cordaro Howard and linebacker Shawne Merriman.

"Everybody practiced that we thought (would)," said coach Chan Gailey. "Even Cord (Howard) took some mental reps out there. We're going to list him as doubtful. If we had to have him he might be able to play."

Regarding cornerback Terrence McGee, who has missed five games after a knee procedure but who practiced all week, Gailey said: "He did everything on the field this week, so we're very hopeful it will hold up during the course of the game."

---Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan's Live Chat

Bills-Lions blacked out

Sunday’s game will not be televised locally after the Bills failed to sell the remaining tickets before Thursday's 1 p.m. deadline. The NFL requires games to be sold out 72 hours before kickoff to lift the TV blackout.

It is the Bills' second straight non-sellout in home games played at Ralph Wilson Stadium. They “hosted’’ Chicago last Sunday in Toronto’s Rogers Centre. The Bills’ Week Five matchup with Jacksonville ended a streak of 27 consecutive sellouts for the franchise.

Tickets, including club seats and other premium options, are still available.

---Allen Wilson

Merriman has strained Achilles

Linebacker Shawne Merriman will have to wait to make his debut with the Bills after suffering a strained right Achilles tendon about 15 minutes into his first practice with the team on Wednesday. It is the same injury that hindered him during the summer and the early portion of this season when he was with San Diego.

Bills coach Chan Gailey said after practice Thursday that Merriman is definitely out for Sunday's game against Detroit. Gailey added the strained Achilles is not a long-term injury, but he doesn't know when Merriman will play.

"We'll see what happens next week,'' Gailey said. "Or it might be the next, i don't know. We're going to get him well. That's the most important thing. Let's get him well before we put him on the field.''

Meriman spent much of the day in the training room getting treatment and was not available for comment.

He and rookie right tackle Cordaro Howard (shoulder) were the only players not practicing Thursday.

---Allen Wilson


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