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Bills P Moorman feels at home in return to Buffalo

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)

It has taken punter Brian Moorman no time at all to settle back in with the Buffalo Bills.

He's already moved into his old locker, two stalls from the equipment room. He's got his old No. 8 jersey back, thanks to rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel's gracious offer to switch.

And on Sunday, when Buffalo (2-3) hosts Cincinnati (3-2), Moorman will be back inside Ralph Wilson Stadium dealing with the swirling winds he grew accustomed to mastering during his previous 12-plus-year stint in Buffalo.

''It feels like I never left,'' Moorman said this week, after re-signing with the Bills. ''Just glad to be here. Glad to be home.''

The only thing Moorman's missing is his old home.

''Unfortunately, we sold that,'' the 37-year-old said. ''Luckily, I've got a good friend that doesn't happen to be here that has a house I can stay in.''

Moorman figured he was leaving town for good when the Bills cut him three games into last season. He was replaced by Shawn Powell. Moorman now finds himself back replacing Powell, who was cut after a 37-24 loss at Cleveland.

Powell struggled with hang-time and angling punts away from Cleveland's Travis Benjamin, who returned seven punts for a franchise-record 179 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown. It was a season-long problem for Powell, who's 35.2 net-punting average ranked 32nd out of 33 NFL punters.

''When you're covering balls that are under 4 seconds, it's very difficult to cover,'' coach Doug Marrone said. ''It's only a matter of time in this league before you get exposed.''

The strong-legged Moorman hardly had that problem in Buffalo, where he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He and former special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven, however, never saw eye to eye, which led to Moorman's departure.

Moorman finished last season with Dallas, and was out of work after failing to land a job with Pittsburgh last summer. After cutting Powell, Moorman was invited in for a tryout and beat former Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe for the job last weekend.

''You stay in shape, and you never who might call,'' said Moorman, who spent three days a week practicing punts at a high school near his home in Jacksonville, Fla. ''I couldn't have been happier whenever the phone rang.''

Little did he anticipate it was going to be the Bills.

''I stopped trying to figure out this business a long time ago,'' he said.

Growing up in Kansas, where he was a punter and track star at Pittsburg State, Moorman quickly warmed to Buffalo after breaking in with the Bills in 2001.

He remains a fan favorite in Buffalo because of his performance on the field, and his charitable work in the community. Moorman's P.U.N.T. Foundation is still associated with Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Women's and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

Moorman owns numerous team records, including highest career punting average (43.92 yards) and most career punts inside the 20 (243).

Running back Fred Jackson was among the veterans pleased to welcome back Moorman.

''It's big for us. A guy who's been around and who knows what it's been like around here,'' Jackson said. ''He's highly motivated. Wants to get something done. It's always fun to get back a guy like Brian, somebody that's huge not only in this locker room but in the community. And he's a weapon for us.''

Marrone might not have coached Moorman, but he was well aware of the player's reputation in Buffalo.

''Obviously, he's a great fit for this team,'' Marrone said. ''We know we have a great chance to win with him.''

Long-snapper Garrison Sanborn was so pleased with the signing that he switched lockers so Moorman could have his old one back.

''I told the equipment guys before he got here: `Shoot, if he wants it, give it back to him,''' said Sanborn, who lives 20 minutes from Moorman in Jacksonville. ''We work real well together. So it's nice to have him back.''

Moorman never realized how much he had been missed until old friends and teammates started welcoming him back.

''The outpouring of support that I've had since I got back has kind of rendered me speechless,'' Moorman said. ''It's a big boost to me to know that people are excited that I'm back. I just want to go out and try to do my part with field position and help bring home a victory.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: Fred Jackson, Shawn Powell, Bills, Brian Moorman

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