The Associated Press
Niagara Gazette — ORCHARD PARK — Coming off a lopsided loss to New Orleans, coach Doug Marrone and the Buffalo Bills are fired up to kick off the second half of their season by hosting unbeaten Kansas City.
“I’m ready to go,” said an animated Marrone during Monday’s news conference. “I don’t want to miscommunicate that I’m disappointed in our record. I’m disappointed. We’re all disappointed. But there are things that I’m also excited about with this team. I’m excited to go into the second half of the season.”
Resilience has been a buzz word around Buffalo (3-5). Losers of three of their last four, the young Bills will have their resolve tested by the Chiefs.
“Guys are still confident,” said running back Fred Jackson. “We’ve got a good opponent coming in this weekend that gives us an opportunity to go out and win against a team that’s 8-0, give them the first loss of the season and try and build on that.”
Buffalo has dealt with a barrage of injuries to skill positions. Already missing quarterback EJ Manuel (knee) and running back C.J. Spiller (ankle), the Bills now are monitoring receivers Stevie Johnson and Marquise Goodwin after injuries in Sunday’s game.
Marrone said X-rays on Goodwin’s left elbow came back negative and that both receivers would be limited when the Bills return to practice Wednesday. Johnson’s hip flexor is a little less certain, but the receiver is optimistic.
“Right now, I feel it a lot, but as the week goes on with treatment, I should be good and ready to go on Sunday,” said Johnson, who didn’t know if he’d need an MRI.
The Bills coach also said the team will be “ramping up” Manuel this week in an effort to get him back on the practice field. The rookie continues to recuperate from a right knee injury suffered against Cleveland in Week 5.
In the case of Spiller, Marrone said they’d be working him out Monday and Tuesday. Jackson and quarterback Thad Lewis are also playing hurt. Injured linebacker Manny Lawson nearly played Sunday, according to Marrone, and they’re hopeful he’ll be ready for Kansas City.
Johnson said the Bills acknowledge their injury troubles, but aren’t focusing on them.
“It can happen to any team,” Johnson said. “It probably is happening to every other team, but we’re talking about it now and we’ve got to just get over it. There’s nothing we can really control. We’re out there and playing football and this is what happens when you play in this league.”
Johnson said the improving Bills are geared up for any week, but especially excited to take on a Chiefs team that became the first team in NFL history to start a season 8-0 after holding the league’s worst record the previous season.
“A team could be winless and we want to get a win, especially at home in front of the fans or after a loss, so we’re excited for this challenge,” Johnson said. “With them being undefeated, that’s even better.”
Marrone said his excitement comes from his experience. The first-year Bills head coach feels his team is reaching a tipping point.
“I’m excited because I know,” Marrone said. “I’ve been through this before. We keep going the way we’re going, it’s going to start falling our way and we’re going to start winning football games. If we go the other way, there’s no chance you can win. None. Zero. None.”
Meanwhile, safety Jairus Byrd’s status is in question as the National Football League trade deadline approaches at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Pro Bowl player was franchise-tagged and conducted a lengthy holdout, not reporting to camp until Aug. 20.
“I haven’t really given too much thought,” Byrd said. “I’m focusing on winning games here, and if something happens, it happens. Right now my focus is with my teammates here and just trying to win games.”