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Chan Gailey addresses why Tarvaris Jackson can't play

By Tim Graham

PHOENIX -- Based on the fan reaction I see on Twitter, Facebook and in my email inbox, the prevailing theme about Tarvaris Jackson is that he must not have the wherewithal to learn the Buffalo Bills' playbook.

That's a totally unfair assessment, a pure guess from those struggling to find a good reason why the quarterback the Bills spent a seventh-round draft pick to acquire and are paying $1.75 million has been deactivated for every game.

For insight, I asked Bills coach Chan Gailey to address this unable-to-learn-the-playbook sentiment specifically. Here is Gailey's response Monday at the team's hotel in Phoenix:

"I don't think that is in any way true. He works every day with David [Lee] and learning the calls and stands back there, doing the mental gymnastics of playing the position. But until you see him take reps with our guys, with our receivers, throwing our routes and doing our reads with our protection calls, you don't know if he's got it. Mentally, it's easy to stand back there, but doing it when you got 3.8 seconds to get it all done, it's a little bit different. It wouldn't be fair to put him in there right now."

Jackson is in a bad spot because he was acquired a week before the regular season. Once the season commences, the starting quarterback gets almost all of the practice snaps, and the primary backup gets a handful.

Fans are curious about Jackson because the Bills obviously identified backup quarterback as an area of concern when they traded for him and cut Vince Young. The timing of the move also saved Tyler Thigpen's job.

With starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick playing erratically -- he has five touchdowns and no interceptions with a 112.1 passer rating in two victories, seven touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 68.7 passer rating in three losses -- many fans want him replaced by someone, but not Thigpen.

That makes Jackson's unavailability a warm topic.

"He's learning," Gailey said. "I mean, he can't get reps. That's the problem with being the third quarterback. You can't get reps in practice. There's just no way to get reps. I hate it for him. I hate it for us. There's just no way to get around it right now."


Ryan Fitzpatrick | Tarvaris Jackson | Tyler Thigpen | Vince Young
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |