Niagara Gazette

November 18, 2013

Banged-up Bills get chance to rest during bye week

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

ORCHARD PARK —  Slowly shuffling his way through the Bills locker room Monday, Kyle Williams acknowledged how much he was looking forward to getting a week off and the opportunity to put his feet up.

His surgically repaired yet still sore right foot, in particular.

"I need it," the defensive tackle said. "I think we all do."

Williams and his teammates are finally getting a chance to rest and recover with Buffalo entering its long-awaited bye weekend.

The break comes as a much-needed reward for Williams, who played a dominant role in helping the Bills (4-7) snap a three-game skid with a 37-14 win over the New York Jets on Sunday.

The eight-year veteran had two of four sacks to give him a career-best seven this season. He also had a hand in one of four takeaways. Williams forced quarterback Geno Smith's fumble during a decisive three-minute span in which Buffalo scored 17 points late in the first half.

It wasn't until in the locker room afterward when it became apparent how much pain Williams has been experiencing since having surgery in February to remove bone spurs. Not looking forward to wearing his stiff dress shoes, Williams asked teammate Alan Branch if he could borrow his sneakers.

"It's going to continue to heal," said Williams, who had a similar operation on his left foot the previous season. "But my right foot's sore every day, especially after the game."

Williams normally gets Wednesday off in practice each week to get an extra day of rest. Now, he'll get a full seven days before Buffalo returns to practice to prepare to host Atlanta in the Bills annual "home" game at Toronto on Dec. 1.

"I think it's important for all of us to be able to get off our feet, heal as much as we can," Williams said. "You've been going since training camp. So even if it's just a few days, it's time to decompress, get away from it, and then come back next week ready to go."

Coach Doug Marrone is on board in giving his players and staff a chance to get away from football with Buffalo one of the NFL's last four teams getting a break this weekend.

Rather than hold practice, Marrone has limited the schedule to conditioning sessions and team meetings before players depart on a four-day break Wednesday.

"We're not going to tax them before they leave," said Marrone. "I think it's more important to get everybody rested and ready to make a strong finish."

Beating the Jets has instilled a fresh breath life in the Bills, who had lost five of their previous six games.

Injuries played a factor during the slump, with rookie starting quarterback EJ Manuel missing four-plus games with a sprained right knee. After struggling in a 23-10 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 10, Manuel rebounded by going 20 of 28 for 245 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets.

"I give a lot of credit to the coaches and the team," Marrone said. "It's been a tough couple of weeks for everybody. And I think the coaches and players have handled it real well. It was very important to come away with a win."

With five games left, the Bills aren't entirely out of the playoff picture, but are going to need make a run to avoid extending the NFL's longest active postseason drought to 14 years.

Williams isn't the only player needing time to heal.

Marrone expects to get his top two receivers back after Stevie Johnson missed one game with a groin injury, and rookie Robert Woods missed two games with a sprained left ankle. And then there are running backs Fred Jackson (sprained left knee) and C.J. Spiller (sprained left ankle), who have both continued playing despite nursing injuries.

The running attack has been slowed of late. Buffalo finished with a season-low 68 yards rushing against the Jets. That marked the fourth time in five games the Bills haven't broken 100 yards.

Spiller said the run game needs to be fixed, before adding that his first priority is taking time off.

"We've been going at it for a long time, so it's going to be good for some guys to get away and refresh," Spiller said. "The last thing you want to do is fry your brain."