---Bills running back C.J. Spiller and New Orleans Drew Brees were named the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week for games played on Dec. 22-26.
Spiller totaled 111 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the Bills’ 40-14 win over Denver while Brees completed 23 of 39 passes for 307 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 45-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Brees set a new single-season passing yardage record, eclipsing Dan Marino’s mark set in 1984.
---Tom Brady is probable for Sunday’s game against the Bills and that’s pretty much all the information Bill Belichick will provide.
The Patriots quarterback injured his left shoulder last Sunday and reportedly underwent X-rays that came back negative. When asked before Friday’s practice what Brady was able to do during Thursday’s session Belichick said, “Play quarterback, the usual thing.”
The usual thing has Brady close to becoming the third quarterback to pass for over 5,000 yards. He’s 188 yards away from Dan Marino’s old mark of 5,084 yards which was broken on Monday by the Saints Drew Brees.
---QB/WR Brad Smith today was officially ruled out for Sunday’s game at New England by Bills coach Chan Gailey. Gailey was holding out hope Smith would be available, but Smith has missed practice all week with a hamstring injury.
Left tackle Demetrius Bell (knee) and center Kraig Urbik (knee) are also out for Sunday’s game, while wide receiver Ruvell Martin (hamstring) and running back Johnny White (concussion) are probable.
Bills coach Chan Gailey said after practice today receiver Brad Smith is not expected to play against the Patriots Sunday.
"It looks like he's not going to make it," Gailey said. "We're holding out hope, but I just don't see how he can. He's got a hamstring that just won't go away."
Veteran Derek Hagan, who has caught six passes in the past three games, will pick up most of Smith's snaps at wideout opposite Stevie Johnson. The only other Bills to sit out practice Thursday were linemen Demetrius Bell and Kraig Urbik, both of whom are out.
Meanwhile, Gailey was not worked up about the fact Patriots quarterback Tom Brady missed practice Wednesday, and his absence was listed as "non-football" related. Brady went to have a sore shoulder looked at by a doctor, according to ESPN and Comcast cable reports. Brady was back on the practice field today.
Lo and behold, Brady is listed on the injury report today as being due to a left shoulder injury.
"Well, he must be sick," Gailey said sympathetically, in reference to Brady's absence Wednesday.
Starting guard Logan Mankins and starting tackle Sebastian Vollmer both did not practice and are likely out for the game.
The Patriots will do some shuffling on the offensive line for Sunday's game against Buffalo. Star guard Logan Mankins is expected to be out with a knee injury. He did not practice today. Donald Thomas, a former Dolphin who hadn't started a game since 2009 before Saturday, likely will take Mankins' spot. Left tackle Matt Light missed last week's game with an ankle injury suffered in pregame warmups. He was limited in practice today. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer did not practice due to back and foot injuries.
Vollmer has been injured for long stretches of the season. He has played six games. Rookie first-round draft pick Nate Solder has seen extensive action all year. He would fill in for Light. If both Light and Vollmer can't play, then rookie fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon would get pressed into service. He played part of the Denver game two weeks ago and all of the Miami game last Saturday.
Despite the patchwork line, Pats QB Tom Brady still passed for 304 yards in the 27-24 win over the Dolphins. Brady also missed practice today, but his absence was listed as not football related. Brady landed hard on his non-throwing shoulder in Saturday's game and was favoring it afterward.
Other Pats starters who were limited in practice included: WRs Wes Welker and Deion Branch, C Dan Connolly, G Brian Waters, LBs Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes, CBs Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington and safeties Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo.
For Buffalo, receiver Brad Smith sat out with a sore hamstring.
Maybe it's wishful thinking on his part. Or maybe he's thinking too logically. But Bills receiver Stevie Johnson isn't thinking Sunday's season finale at New England will be his last in a Buffalo uniform.
Johnson, whose contract is up at the end of February, admitted he considered the posibility that last week's game against Denver could have been his last at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"Since last week playing at The Ralph, I thought about it – walking on the field, walking off the field, looking around, looking at the crowd," Johnson said. "It was kind of crazy because it seemed like four years went by pretty fast, me playing only two years of it. Being in this city and how they adopted me, I thought about it. I don’t think I’ll be somewhere else next year. I’m still pretty sure I’ll be here next year. But if not, it’s a pretty crazy feeling."
The Bills have not been able to reach a contract extension with Johnson. However, they still could keep him in the fold for 2012 by using a franchise tag on him in February.
Johnson said his viewpoint isn't based on any developments in contract talks. Why does he think he will be back? "I don’t know," He said. "I just feel like being here four years and with the coaches that I have here, with the players with Fitz signing his deal, you would think you’d have the one-two punch. When Fitz came on, I came on. So you would think they would keep it together."
The Bills have signed kicker Brandon Coutu to the 53-man roster and placed Dave Rayner on the injured reserve list. Coutu (pronounced Ca-TWO) entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2008. He spent all of that season on the Seattle roster but was inactive every game. He was on the Jacksonville practice squad this year before being released Dec. 17.
Bills coach Chan Gailey said uncertainty over Rayner's sore groin prompted the move. Rayner missed two field goals then made four against Denver.
"He came up sore again Monday and he’s not sure he can be 100 percent," Gailey said of Rayner. "And you can’t take a chance when you walk out there if it’s one kick and done on a cold day or something like that you can’t afford to have that so that’s why we had to make the move.”
For the second straight year, the Buffalo Bills do not have a representative voted onto the AFC Pro Bowl squad.
It's just the fifth time in franchise history the team hasn't had a player selected for the league's annual all-star game. Before the 2010 season, it had been 24 years since a Bill wasn't named to the squad. The only other times in franchise history came in 1985 and '86, 1970 and the inaugural season of 1960.
It's not surprising the Bills were shut out. After running back Fred Jackson was placed on injured reserve after a Week 11 loss to Miami, he became ineligible for the team. Jackson would have been a shoo-in for the squad if he weren't to have gotten hurt, as he was second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,376) through 10 games.
Bills center Eric Wood also could have made a strong case for the team, but he too was lost to a season-ending injury during a Week 10 loss in Dallas. Players placed on injured reserve during the season become ineligible for the Pro Bowl.
The biggest snub for the Bills would be guard Andy Levitre. The third-year pro has started all 47 games of his career, and proved his versatility this season by starting at left tackle and center because of injuries. The Bills' line has given up 21 sacks, tied for fewest in the league with Tennessee, and has paved the way for a rushing attack that ranks 11th in the NFL (121 yards per game).
The Buffalo Bills will be down another three players for their season finale Sunday in New England.
Tight end Mike Caussin (right knee), center Kraig Urbik (right knee) and left tackle Demetrius Bell (knee/ankle) will all miss the last game of the 2011 season. All three suffered serious injuries in Saturday's 40-14 victory over Denver in the home finale.
Coach Chan Gailey, however, was less than clear on whether the injuries would require surgery (Caussin said on his Twitter account he has a torn ACL, so he will).
"Possibly all three. I'm pretty sure," Gailey said, before adding, "I'm not sure."
If Bell and Urbik do require surgery, that's three of the team's starting five offensive linemen from the season opener who face rehabilitation from surgery during the offseason (starting center Eric Wood had surgery in November for a torn ACL).
Bell is an unrestricted free agent, while Urbik is a restricted free agent. The audio link is below to hear the rest of Gailey's interview with the media from today.