ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Receiver Roscoe Parrish will miss four to six weeks after having surgery to repair ligament damage in his right thumb, leaving the Buffalo Bills without their fastest and one of their most elusive threats.
Coach Dick Jauron made the surprise announcement Wednesday, a day after Parrish had what was described as a brief but intricate operation. Jauron said Parrish told him he was hurt early in the fourth quarter of a 24-23 win over Oakland last weekend.
Parrish continued playing despite the injury and scored on a 14-yard catch, which cut the Raiders' lead to 23-21 with 4 minutes left. He finished the game with three catches for 42 yards, all coming in the fourth quarter when Buffalo rallied to score 17 points in the final 8 minutes.
Jauron didn't know the exact nature of the injury, but said Parrish had no ligament support in his thumb if it moved a certain way. The decision to have surgery was made when team doctors raised the possibility of Parrish missing the rest of the season if he reinjured the thumb, Jauron said.
The AFC East-leading Bills, off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1992, play at winless St. Louis on Sunday. Parrish could potentially miss only three games because Buffalo has a bye week after playing at Arizona on Oct. 5.
Fullback Darian Barnes missed practice Wednesday after hurting his right foot against the Raiders. Barnes showed no signs of a limp while running on the sideline. Barnes said medical tests were negative and anticipates playing this weekend.
With Barnes as their only fullback, the Bills had reserve offensive lineman Jason Whittle practice at the position.
In Parrish, the Bills lose their No. 3 receiver and one of the league's top punt-return threats. Parrish has seven catches for 60 yards this season and ranks third in the NFL, averaging 15.2 yards per return after three games. He also scored on an electrifying 63-yard return in a season-opening 34-10 win against Seattle.
Rookie receiver James Hardy is expected to move up to fill the No. 3 spot behind starters Lee Evans and Josh Reed. Hardy, the Bills' second-round draft pick, has had difficulty making an immediate impact. He has two catches for 19 yards and a touchdown, but does not possess the breakout speed to stretch the field that Parrish does.
The Bills' offense is off to a hot start, producing 285 yards or more in each of its three games after reaching that mark only six times last season. The offense has also scored seven touchdowns after managing just 20 last season.
Parrish missed practice and did not make himself available for comment. Jauron met with him earlier in the day and said Parrish was not experiencing much pain.
"We're just hoping it heals real fast and we get him back on the field," Jauron said.