NFL Nation: Bruan Scott
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills went into Sunday's game with a ramshackle roster.
They're even more dilapidated now.
In Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, the Bills have lost three more players at the two positions they were thinnest: linebacker and offensive line.
Defensive captain Kawika Mitchell was carted off in the first half with a leg injury that looked serious. This week, Mitchell was switched to middle linebacker to replace Marcus Buggs, who replaced captain Paul Posluszny, who suffered a broken forearm in Week 1.
Buggs was carted off the field with a leg injury in the second half.
Keith Ellison is in the middle now.
The Bills also lost right tackle Jonathan Scott with an apparent leg injury. Scott became a starter when Brad Butler went on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in Week 2.
Kirk Chambers, a veteran journeyman cut as the end of training camp, replaced Scott.
Buffalo also is playing without both of their regular starting safeties, Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
You often hear about football being a chess match.
Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins in Land Shark Stadium reminds me of the time my brother and I dug our old chess set out of the closet. About eight pieces were missing. So we rummaged through the old man's battery bin for some 9-volts and D-cells to fill out the ranks along with a couple of action figures.
I think Chewbacca to queen 4 won it.
The Bills and Dolphins will look similarly patched together.
Each team is enduring significant personnel issues. The Dolphins could be without their most important players on either side of the ball. Quarterback Chad Pennington is done for the year because of a right shoulder injury, and reigning AFC sack leader Joey Porter has been limited in practice by a hamstring problem.
Second-year quarterback Chad Henne will get his first NFL start.
"We believe he can do it, and we know he has the skills and the talent to do it," Dolphins outside linebacker Jason Taylor said. "We also know he’s going to go through some growing pains and make mistakes. Even the best quarterbacks in this league make mistakes.
"We’re there for him. I talked to him briefly and said, 'Go out there and do what you do. It's your team. We’re going to have your back, and we’re going to follow you.'"
The Bills' injury situation could help Henne big time.
Already without top linebacker Paul Posluszny, three-quarters of the Bills' starting defensive backfield could be sidelined. Right cornerback Leodis McKelvin was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Free safety Donte Whitner had thumb surgery and is expected to miss the game. Strong safety Bryan Scott didn't practice Thursday and is considered questionable.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams missed practice with a groin injury.
Buffalo's offensive line could be without starting left tackle Demetrius Bell. A groin injury kept him off the field for a second straight practice.
The Bills have already lost opening-day right tackle Brad Butler for the year. If Bell can't go, right tackle replacement Jonathan Scott will flip over to the left side. Kirk Chambers, released on roster cutdown day, would be the right tackle.
"It's a challenge, no doubt about that," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "But there's nothing we can do about it except to take the next step, see how the health is on Sunday and accept that fact that everybody in the league has injuries. Somehow you've got to get through them."
Whoever would have thought Jim Leonhard would be lamented as a player who got away?
|Vladimir Cherry/US Presswire|
|Jim Leonhard had had a nose for the ball during the postseason.|
Leonhard recorded seven tackles, an interception and half sack against the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round. He had five tackles, a forced fumble and recovery and a crucial 29-yard punt return to set up a field goal in Sunday's 13-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Not bad for a player whose adjectives have included walk-on, undrafted, waived and unwanted.
"Jim Leonhard, he's a football player, and that's what I like about Jim," Ravens receiver Derrick Mason told reporters Monday. "I just like him. Throw away the 40 times. Throw away how big you are, how fast you are. Throw away all that crap. I just want a football player. You give me a football player, and I can win you a championship.
"Jimmy, he's a football player. We've got a bunch of football players on this team. Some guys might not be the ideal size. Some guys might not be the ideal speed. But you know what? They're going to play football, and that's all I care about. Give me a football player and I can get a championship."
Leonhard was passed over by every Division I college and every NFL team at least once.
He was a walk-on at Wisconsin but became an All-American by his sophomore year. He went undrafted and signed with the Bills in 2005. He made the 53-man roster, but they waived him right before the 2006 season. Nobody claimed him. The Bills eventually re-signed him, but let him walk when his contract expired after last season.
The Ravens signed Leonhard in April. He became their starting strong safety when Dawan Landry suffered a season-ending spinal injury in Week 2.
Leonhard's 85 tackles ranked fourth on one of the NFL's most feared defenses. He also had a sack and an interception, but he has gone off in the postseason.
Leonhard couldn't have been expected to play a similar role for the Bills. Leonhard's supporting cast in Baltimore includes such stars as Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed, and there aren't any players who resemble them in Buffalo. Leonhard would be the third-best punt returner for the Bills.
But Mason's comments on Leonhard underscores what Bills fans have seen of him in the playoffs -- the type of blue-collar player Buffalo could've found a way to use.
"I'm a competitor, and like to go out there and win," Leonhard said. "Whatever it takes on this team to win is what I want to do. I was fortunate enough to be placed in positions to make plays, and the fumble bounces right to me and things like that.
"Like I said, it's all about winning on this team. Luckily, I was the guy to be in that position last week. You never know who it'll be this week."
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