Buffalo Bills C Wood out with knee injury

The Buffalo Bills will have to continue their late-season

playoff push with a limping leading receiver Stevie Johnson and a

banged-up offensive line.

Starting center Eric Wood said Monday he expects to miss between

two and four weeks with a partially torn ligament in his left knee.

Coach Chan Gailey said starting right tackle Chris Hairston is

unlikely to play against St. Louis on Sunday because of a deeply

bruised right ankle.

As for Johnson, he’s still experiencing tightness in his left

hamstring. He’s expected to miss practice time this week, though

Johnson remains confident he can play through the injury.

”I’m not worried too much,” said Johnson, who has five

touchdowns and leads the team with 55 catches and 705 yards. ”I

know I’ll be out there on Sunday, even if it was worse than what it

is now.”

Johnson, who’s also been bothered by a nagging groin injury,

felt his hamstring stiffen after scoring on a 13-yard catch early

in the third quarter in a 34-18 win over Jacksonville on

Sunday.

Wood and Hairston were also hurt during the game.

On the bright side, No. 2 receiver Donald Jones is expected to

return after being held out Sunday with a calf injury.

The Bills (5-7) remain on the fringes of the AFC playoff hunt in

preparing to host the Rams (5-6-1).

The injuries to Wood and Hairston leave the Bills with one

backup lineman, tackle Thomas Welch. The team is expected to sign

another lineman before returning to practice on Wednesday.

Shortly after Gailey said the Bills were preparing to free up a

roster spot to add a lineman, the team announced it had released

veteran linebacker Kirk Morrison. The eighth-year player had proven

to be the odd-man out after being listed inactive for all 12 games

this season.

The Bills re-signed Morrison to a two-year, $4 million contract

in March to provide them an experienced backup behind starter Nick

Barnett. It was a disappointing finish to Morrison’s two years in

Buffalo. After spending five seasons as a starter in Oakland and

one in Jacksonville, Morrison appeared in just 14 games – all as a

backup – with the Bills.

Buffalo’s re-shuffled offensive line will feature Sam Young

taking over for Hairston, and right guard Kraig Urbik expected to

shift to center. That means David Snow is expected to take over at

right guard. Snow is an undrafted rookie out of Texas who opened

this season on Buffalo’s practice squad.

For Wood, the knee injury is the latest setback for the second

of Buffalo’s two 2009 first-round draft picks.

He missed the final seven games of last season after requiring

surgery to repair a torn right knee ligament. Wood also missed the

final six games of his rookie season after breaking two bones in

his left leg.

Wood said he won’t require surgery because the injury is to his

MCL. And he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to play

in the final two games of the season.

Wood was hurt with under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

He was blocking a Jaguars player, when defensive lineman Jeremy

Mincey dived into his leg while attempting to tackle running back

Fred Jackson.

Knowing that he was hurt, Wood was so frustrated by being

injured yet again that he stayed in for one more play before

alerting the trainers.

”I was in disbelief,” Wood said. ”I was in denial that I got

hurt. So I just kept paying because I was like, `There’s no way I’m

staying down on this field. There’s no way this is happening

again.”’

He credited the knee brace he now wears as preventing what could

have been a more serious injury.

Wood was relieved to know the injury wasn’t major, because he

wasn’t looking forward to spending yet another long offseason

recuperating as he did last year. Wood wasn’t fully cleared for

practice at the start of training camp, and was eventually eased in

at center.

”It’s just stupid stuff that keeps happening. I played 49

straight games in college and never got banged up,” said Wood, who

played at Louisville.

”Maybe my luck ran out then.”

NOTES: Gailey said CB/return specialist Leodis McKelvin’s stiff

back is feeling better after he was forced to leave Sunday’s game

in the first quarter. … Gailey said there’s a fear veteran DE

Chris Kelsay’s neck injury could be season-ending. Kelsay has

missed three of the past four games since tearing a ligament. He

was spotted wearing a neck brace on Monday. … CB Aaron Williams

(right knee) has a chance to return this week after missing four

games.

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