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Bills still surprised by P Moorman's departure

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was among several Buffalo Bills players expressing shock and surprise Wednesday, a day after the team cut veteran punter Brian Moorman.

And that - coupled with Buffalo (2-1) preparing for a key early season showdown against AFC East rival New England (1-2) on Sunday - leaves rookie punter Shawn Powell having big boots to fill.

''I'm grateful for the opportunity that I have, and I'm going to make the most of it,'' Powell said after taking part in his first practice a day after Moorman was cut. ''If I can have half the career that Moorman had, it will be successful.''

During his 12 years in Buffalo, Moorman was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, a respected leader, and became one of the Bills most popular players because of his on-field ability and off-the-field work with several local charities.

Moorman didn't last long without a job. His agent, Ron Raccuia said, Moorman traveled to Dallas and signed with the Cowboys on Wednesday night to fill in for injured punter Chris Jones.

Moorman's release in Buffalo, however, did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

''It's a tough situation,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I definitely think the whole locker room was shocked in terms of that going down after three games and him being here for 12 years.''

While wishing Moorman well, Fitzpatrick didn't believe the Bills' decision to cut a team captain would be disruptive.

''It's the NFL and unfortunately you move on,'' he said. ''Those decisions happen upstairs. You roll with it. You move on and you don't try to look back.''

Defensive end Chris Kelsay learned of the move when he ran into Moorman at the Bills' facility.

''I was surprised,'' Kelsay said. ''It's the nature of the business that we're in, and you hate to see a guy like that go.''

Bills general manager Buddy Nix described the move as being a tough decision, but one the team felt it had to make in seeing an opportunity to improve the position.

Powell was an undrafted rookie out of Florida State, who returns to the Bills after being one of the team's final cuts before the start of the season. At 6-foot-4, 243-pound Powell set a Seminoles career record by averaging 44.2 yards per punt.

Moorman leaves Buffalo having set two career franchise records by averaging 43.92 yards a punt and most punts (862).

Though Moorman's numbers were dropping, questions have been raised as to whether it was entirely the punter's fault.

Two people familiar with the Bills punting strategy going into their 24-14 win at Cleveland on Sunday questioned whether Moorman was set up to fail by special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven.

The two people spoke on the condition of anonymity in fear they could be punished for revealing what took place during closed meetings.

Both people said DeHaven informed his players he would be OK with 30-yard punts so long as Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs didn't get his hands on the ball. They then questioned why DeHaven would criticize Moorman's performance on Monday, when it appeared the punter followed his coach's orders.

Moorman finished averaging 34.8 net yards on six punts against Cleveland. Three punts went out of bounds, while Cribbs returned three for 43 yards - the longest a 27-yarder.

The Bills said DeHaven wouldn't be made available to comment until Friday, when the team's assistant coaches are made available to reporters.

Moorman hasn't commented since being released.

Coach Chan Gailey called Moorman's consistency as being an issue and said he ultimately made the decision to cut the player.

Moorman's numbers have slipped since DeHaven's arrival in 2010. The drop is based in part on the Bills having consistently asked Moorman to kick directional punts to offset any potential deficiencies in Buffalo's coverage units which are still attempting to gel early in the season.

Moorman and DeHaven never developed any type of close relationship. The two were rarely seen chatting on the field during practice or training camp. That was a switch from the bond Moorman had established with his two previous coordinators, Bobby April, who's now in Philadelphia, and Danny Smith, who's now in Washington.

The Redskins expressed interest in acquiring Moorman in a trade shortly after the 2011 lockout ended. The Bills rejected the offer in part because they felt Moorman's experience and leadership were valuable to a young patchwork special teams unit.

Moorman was open to being traded and reunited with Smith, because he realized his future in Buffalo was uncertain.

This is DeHaven's second stint in Buffalo. He previously served as the Bills special teams coordinator form 1987-99. His tenure ended after what's now known as The Music City Miracle. The Bills allowed the Tennessee Titans to pull out a 22-16 victory by scoring on a kickoff return in the final seconds of the 2000 AFC Wild Card playoff.

Bills place-kicker Rian Lindell didn't see Moorman showing any signs of age.

''No, he certainly hasn't lost anything as far as leg. He hasn't gotten that age thing yet, he's ignored it,'' Lindell said. ''I miss him. He's a good dude. But he's doing well. I can always just pick up the phone and call him.

''That's just how it goes in this league.''

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Bills, Cowboys, Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Chris Kelsay, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shawn Powell

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