Bills RB Spiller starts showing Thriller potential

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C.J. Spiller never allowed himself to get down while spending much of the past two seasons biding his time on the Buffalo Bills' sideline.

And once the second-year running back finally got his opportunity, there was no way he was going to blow it - even if it meant chasing down his own fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.

''It just goes to show, you never quit on the play,'' Spiller said, when reminded of how he capped a 35-yard touchdown run by scooping up the loose ball before sliding out of the end zone in a 23-17 loss to the Titans last weekend. ''I was happy I was able to recover it.''

Spiller's score was the longest run of his NFL career, though it wasn't executed anywhere near how the Bills drew it up.

Then again, very little of Spiller's career path has been conventional, and he's just beginning to show glimpses of the dynamic potential that was evident during his prolific four-year career at Clemson.

Despite being selected ninth overall in the 2010 draft, Spiller endured a mostly forgettable rookie season. He then spent much of this year playing behind workhorse Fred Jackson, the Bills' first-half MVP who broke a bone in his right leg three weeks ago.

''Patience is key,'' Spiller said on Wednesday. ''I never got doubtful. I always knew the man upstairs has great plans for me. I always knew my time was going to come.

''I just didn't know when.''

Spiller's time is now as the Bills (5-7) prepare to play at San Diego (5-7) on Sunday while attempting to end a five-game skid that's all but mathematically ended their playoff hopes.

Just don't call these final four games meaningless to Spiller.

''I know what I'm capable of doing, but it's another thing to actually go out there and have fun and try to take advantage of it,'' he said. ''Losing a great player like Fred, everybody writing us off, thinking we weren't going to be the same. ... Yeah, I just want to go out there and show people.''

In two starts, Spiller has combined for 138 yards rushing, which more than doubled the 115 yards he had in in his first 10 games.

The 83 yards he had against Tennessee were a career-best, and also included a 25-yard gain.

These were the types of electrifying runs Spiller was known for at Clemson, where the 2009 ACC player of the year finished with 51 touchdowns, including 32 rushing.

His transition to the NFL hasn't been easy.

Spiller got off to a slow start last year as part of a three-running back rotation before the Bills traded Marshawn Lynch to Seattle. Jackson eventually claimed the starting job and kept it through this season. He was among the NFL's rushing leaders before getting hurt in a 35-8 loss at Miami.

Though Jackson's injury has derailed the Bills' postseason chances, it allows the team to get a lengthy look at what Spiller can do.

''He's really shown us something,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. ''We're expecting a lot of big things out of him. And hopefully, we've just seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of his production and his explosiveness.''

It helps that Spiller finally has a set role. A rash of injuries had Spiller splitting time at receiver, where the Bills lacked a bona fide deep threat. He struggled making the adjustment and has 21 catches for 116 yards.

Spiller's been far more comfortable lining up in the backfield.

''We're trying to find ways to improve our team. We're trying to find ways to propel us into next season,'' receiver David Nelson said. ''Having C.J. and Fred back there, that one-two punch is going to add some things to our offense.''

Whatever it takes, said Spiller, who's finally begun to enjoy himself.

''It felt good to get out there and make some runs, make some big plays,'' Spiller said. ''It's been a long time since I've done that. It felt exciting.''

Notes: SS George Wilson returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since missing the past three games with a neck injury. He has a chance to play this weekend. ... FS Jairus Byrd's status is uncertain after he missed practice with a shin injury. ... The Bills travel to the West Coast for the first time since a 48-10 loss at San Diego on Nov. 20, 2005. Coach Chan Gailey is having the team travel on Friday, a day earlier than normal, to get acclimated to the time change.

Tagged: Bills, Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller

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