He’s become the forgotten man in the battle for the starting quarterback job with the Buffalo Bills.

But Craig Nall hopes to re-enter the race soon.

Nall, the fifth-year man from Northwestern State, has missed 12 practices since injuring his left hamstring during an afternoon workout July 29.

He admits the injury has been frustrating.

“It’s not just that I’m missing the reps, it’s that those guys (J.P. Losman and Kelly Holcomb) are getting extra reps,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m getting those reps, too, standing back here and watching if they make a mistake. I’ll try and learn from that. I’m writing down what’s going on, I’m being attentive and I’m taking all the mental reps.”

Nall has increased his workload with trainers on the sidelines throughout the week. He hopes to return to full practice Monday, though he added he won’t push it.

“We’re hoping to get in on Monday, but at the same time it’s just not ready to go. I’m not going to press it, you know, (and) have a recurring injury.”

Nall fully expects to return to the quarterback race when he’s fully healthy.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said when asked if he thought he still had a chance to win the starting job. “I’ve just got to come in, pick up where I left off and eliminate mistakes. I’ve been in the meetings and everything, so I know what’s going on in our offense. It’s just a matter of going out there and getting a couple of reps and doing it.”

• • •

Dick Jauron’s first test as coach of the Bills certainly won’t be an easy one.

In facing the Carolina Panthers, the Bills will debut their new offense against one of the best defenses in the league.

“They are an outstanding team,” Jauron said. “Unless I am mistaken, they were in the NFC Championship game a year ago which makes them a pretty good football team. We’re looking forward to it.”

The Bills defense can rest a little easier knowing Panthers’ receiver Steve Smith will miss the contest. The Pro Bowler is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Jauron believes seeing live competition will benefit his squad.

“I think anybody that we play will be a good test,” he said.

• • •

St. Louis Rams defensive end Matthew Rice had a monster game Thursday night with three sacks against Indianapolis.

What makes that even more interesting is that Rice is an undrafted rookie out of Penn State who spent time with the Bills during spring organized team activities.

The Bills, of course, have a question mark at fourth defensive end behind Ryan Denney, Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel.

Mark Word, Eric Powell, Ryan Neill, Jason Hall and Joshua Cooper are all competing for the spot.

Contact Jay Skurski at 693-1000, Ext. 117.

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