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Bills lost Wake sweepstakes

When I was in Arizona the week of the NFC Championship in 2008, a reporter told me about a linebacker in town for a workout with the Cardinals after flying in from Buffalo, where he auditioned for the Bills.

Cameron Wake said his visit with the Bills went well, but he had other trips to make before deciding where he was going to sign.

Word is the Bills were among several teams that made an offer for Wake, who had torn up the CFL with 39 sacks in two years and twice winning the league's defensive player of the year award. However, he opted to take his talents to Miami, which signed him to a reported four-year, $4.9 million contract with a $1 million signing bonus.

The Bills can only wonder what might have been now as they have watched Wake become a premier pass rusher for the Dolphins. He leads the NFL with 14 sacks going into Sunday's game with the Bills and needs five more to break the franchise single-season record.

Wake is an amazing story. He went undrafted coming out of Penn State and no NFL team offered him an invitation to training camp after the Giants cut him in the spring. He went to work as a mortgage broker and fitness trainer for two years before getting a chance to play in the CFL for the British Columbia Lions.

Wake's first year in Miami was played behind Jason Taylor and Joey Porter. But Wake still had 5.5 sacks, with three of them coming against the Bills in a 38-10 Dolphins win.

The Dolphins wanted to get him on the field more, so they sent Taylor and Porter packing prior to this season. Needless to say, it was a gamble that paid off.

---Allen Wilson

Whitner: Mum's the word on contract

One day after voicing his displeasure over stalled contract negotiations, Bills safety Donte Whitner did an about-face Friday and told reporters he wouldn't be talking about it anymore.

It's a prudent decision. Talking contract while the season is still going on does not put Whitner in a positive light with the team, fans and especially his teammates.

That doesn't change the fact that Whitner wants to be one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL, which would put his annual salary in the $7 to $8 million per year range. The Bills obviously have fallen well short of that, hence Whitner's gloomy disposition on Thursday.

It's hard to understand why Whitner would be so upset. He should be excited about heading into free agency, where untold riches await. He's 25 and and just entering his prime, so he will attract interest from other teams. In fact, some team might meet his asking price even if the Bills don't.

I get that Whitner wants to remain a member of a Bills team he thinks is headed in the right direction, but if a more established playoff contender waved a big contract in his face he'd be a fool to turn it down.

We can debate all day long whether Whitner is worth what he's asking for. Antrell Rolle (Giants), Adrian Wilson (Cardinals) and Troy Polamalu (Steelers) all signed deals in the last three years that pay them more than $7 million a season. Each got a huge signing bonus, too, with Wilson's $18 million guaranteed topping the list.

The difference between Whitner and those guys is they have been to Pro Bowls and either played in or won Super Bowls. Whitner's body of work just doesn't measure up.

However, an agent has an obligation to get the most money possible for his client. So if Whitner can get someone to give him, say, a five-year, $36 million deal, more power to him.

---Allen Wilson 

Injury update

Not counting guys on injured reserve, the Bills go into Sunday's game at Miami in pretty good healthy. Everyone on the injury report practiced fully Friday except center Geoff Hangartner, who will be inactive with a knee injury. The rest of Sunday's inactive list will be healthy scratches.

---Allen Wilson

Mark Gaughan's Live Chat

Whitner's future

Bills safety Donte Whitner revealed last week that his agent and the team have been in negotiations on a new contract. He expressed optimism that a deal would get done before he became an unrestricted free agent in March. Now he isn't so sure.

Prior to Thursday's practice, Whitner said contract talks have stalled to the point where he could end up leaving the Bills via free agency after the season.

"Things are not going the way I want them to go or getting it done,'' he said. "It might come to me actually hitting the free agent market because we’re far off. We’re far off in dollars, we’re far off in everything, so that’s what it’s going to be.''

Whitner first gave everyone an indication that contract negotiations weren't going well when he posted the following message on his Twitter account early Thursday morning:

"Been up since 5 watching Dolphins film...received some not so good info yesterday Bills fans... My future here.... :-(''

Whitner said his agent, Tom Condon, was scheduled to speak to the Bills again today.

Whitner is in the final year of a contract he signed as a rookie in 2006. The sixth year of the deal was voided after achieving a certain percentage of playing time.

Whitner expressed his desire to stay with the Bills, who he believes are finally headed in the right direction under first-year head coach Chan Gailey. But Whitner' said the chances of a deal getting done before the end of the season does not look good.

"If it continues to go the same way, then obviously I’m going to have to hit the market and see my true value and see how other teams view me and how they value me,'' he said. "I don’t really think there’s a lot of time to really play around. I want to be here and let’s see if Buffalo wants me to stay here.''

We'll have more on this story in Friday's Buffalo News.

---Allen Wilson

TEs not on loose

The Bills are likely to finish last in the NFL in catches by tight ends this season. The Bills have 19 catches by their TEs. Next lowest are Arizona's TEs and Denver's TEs, both of which have combined for 24 catches.

Today's story in the Buffalo News takes a closer look at the Bills' use of tight ends this season.

Actually, the numbers on the use of the tight ends are a further indictment of the design of last year's offense. The Bills used the tight ends a ton last year and got few plays out of them. They're using them very little this year and getting few plays out of them. It's a net gain this year. The Bills used a two-tight-end formation on 373 of 911 plays last season (41 percent). They used four wide receivers on just 18 plays last year (1.9 percent). Instead of putting Roscoe Parrish on the field, they had Derek Schouman out there (or somebody else).

This year they have used two tight ends on 77 of 792 plays (9.7 percent). They have used four wide receivers on 231 plays (29.2 percent).

There are 14 teams that are on track to have a tight end catch 50 passes this year. The last Bills tight end to hit the 50-catch mark was Jay Riemersma in 2001.

---Mark Gaughan


Practice heat

The cavernous Bills Fieldhouse was unusually warm on Wednesday. Coach Chan Gailey had the heat cranked up in preparation for Sunday's game in Miami. Normally it's a bit brisk in the fieldhouse, maybe 55 or 60 degrees. It felt like about 70 degrees or maybe a bit more in there today.

It was 23 degrees outside today. The forecast for Miami on Sunday calls for sunny skies and a high of 69 degrees, with a low of 44.

---Mark Gaughan

Carey out for Miami

The big injury on Miami's side for this week is to starting right tackle Vernon Carey, who was put on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury. He will be replaced by Lydon Murtha, a second-year player who was a seventh-round pick of Detroit's in 2009. It will be Murtha's third start.

Not practicing for the Bills Wednesday were tackle Demetrius Bell, guard Andy Levitre, linebacker Chris Kelsay and defensive back Drayton Florence. All are expected to be OK for Sunday. Center Geoff Hangartner (knee) is out.

Meanwhile, coach Chan Gailey said migrane headaches continue to be a significant problem for tight end Shawn Nelson, who was placed on the injured reserve list on Tuesday.

"He’s seeing a lot of people," Gailey said, referring to doctors. "It’s just one of those things that it hasn’t worked out for him to get healthy enough to play this year."

---Mark Gaughan

Fitz: Beard's days numbered

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said his shaggy beard will not survive the end of the season.

Asked if he would cut it after the season-finale against the New York Jets on Jan. 2, Fitzpatrick said: "Yes, definitely."

Fitzpatrick has been growing the beard all season. It's very full around the mouth and chin and kind of splotchy on the sides. He was asked Wednesday if he has been asked to take part in any Civil War re-enactment festivities. (He hasn't.)

"I think there are probably plenty of people who want me to trim it or cut it up, especially of the female variety," Fitzpatrick said. "I've gotten a lot of different comments and stuff, (like) how does your wife deal with that. But it's part of it. She's along for the ride."

Asked if his wife is counting the days on the calendar until he shaves it off, Fitz said: "Yeah. I think so."

---Mark Gaughan


Wood named to all-star team

Bills guard Eric Wood was named to the All-Fundamentals Team picked by USA Football and the NFL Players Association. Twenty-six NFL players were chosen in the annnual vote by a seven-person committee of former players and coaches. They're picked based on their ability to consistently execute the fundamentals of their positions and for making a positive impact on their communities.

The five offensive linemen on the team are: Wood and Kansas City's Brian Waters at guard, Kansas City's Casey Wiegmann at center, Tennessee's Michael Roos at tackle and Miami's Jake Long at tackle. Each player was cited for a particular attribute. Wood was singled out for pulling and run blocking.

The honor was particularly satisfying for Wood given the fact he came back from a broken leg suffered last November.

Said Wood: "You almost had to teach your leg how to do everything again. A lot of the muscle memory you take for granted. Playing ball your whole life you’ve got to get back to it. A lot of people have to do that coming off of injuries. Mine kept me out for six months or so, so that was a lot of time I had to make up quickly through training camp. ... I had to make sure I made progress through the season because at the beginning of the season I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be."

"Pulling is one of his attributes," said Bills line coach Joe D'Alessandris. "His technique is outstading on how he pulls and identifies on the move his target and then takes care of business at the point of attack."

Wood will play center instead of his normal guard position for a second straight week Sunday in Miami. He will face a tough nose tackle. Miami's Paul Soliai, 6-foot-4 and 355 pounds, is having a strong season.

Said D'Alessandris of Wood's play vs. Cleveland last Sunday: "We worked with him one day in training camp and said we may be put in that position sometime this season. We were and we didn’t miss a beat. He did a great job of orchestrating the offensive line, putting us in the right calls."

Miami's Long was cited for use of hands in pass protection; Roos for pass-blocking footwork; Waters fro run-blocking footwork; and Wiegmann for snapping and blocking. The quarterback on the team was Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Other members of the offense: WR Davone Bess (Miami), WR Kevin Walter (Houston), TE Jason Witten (Dallas), RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Jets), FB Vonta Leach (Houston).

The rest of the team: DL - Justin Tuck (Giants), Kyle Vanden Bosch (Lions), Haloti Ngata (Ravens), Jay Ratliff (Cowboys); LB - LaMarr Woodley (Steelers), Jonathan Vilma (Saints), Barrett Ruud (Bucs); DBs - Antoine Winfield (Vikings), Champ Bailey (Broncos), Antoine Bethea (Colts), Darren Sharper (Saints); P - Sam Koch (Ravens); K - Jason Hanson (Lions); LS - Patrick Mannelly (Bears); KR-PR - Josh Cribbs (Browns).

The voters: Former players Merril Hoge, Jason Belser, Tom Carter, Scottie Graham; former coaches Herm Edwards and Larry Keenan; and former team president Carl Peterson.

---Mark Gaughan




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