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Chris Mohr has the busiest punting leg in the NFL.

It is a dubious distinction.

The reason Mohr leads the league with 44 punts is because the Buffalo Bills' offense ranks so low in production. He is only 10 punts shy of his 16-game total in 1991, his first season in Buffalo.

"I'd prefer to pay him to do nothing," coach Marv Levy said only half-kiddingly.

But even with the Bills leaning so heavily on his ability to give opposing offenses the poorest field position as possible, Mohr is holding up well. He certainly has done little, if anything, to hurt Buffalo's defense, which ranks sixth in the NFL.

"We're just struggling offensively," Mohr said Thursday, as the Bills completed their second day of full-scale preparation for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. "And I just look at it as a challenge that I can maybe help pick up the slack and help the defense out by pinning the opponent deep in their territory. It's more incumbent upon us, as a punt team, to get field position because our defense is playing great right now."

Mohr's statistics are solid. He ranks 10th in the AFC with a gross average of 42.8 yards per attempt and eighth with a net average of 35.5. He leads the league in punts inside the 20 with 14.

In last Sunday's loss to Miami, Mohr had a season-high gross average of 47.1 yards on seven attempts. In the fourth quarter, he kicked an 80-yarder that is the longest punt in Bills' history. Mohr actually booted the ball 61 yards, with a 5.1-second hangtime, and had a 19-yard roll. His previous long of 73 yards came when he was punting for Alabama in a game against Notre Dame.

"Chris has probably done more for us than we give him credit for," defensive end Phil Hansen said. "Steve Christie saved our butts a couple of times this year with field goals, and Chris Mohr is having his best kicking year yet, as far as I'm concerned."

Mohr's forte is hang time, which does nothing for his stats but gives the Bills a better chance to set up their coverage. He averaged more than five seconds on four punts against Miami and topped five seconds on seven of 11 punts against Indianapolis two weeks ago.

"I've been more happy with being able to mix up my punts than anything else," Mohr said. "When it calls for long punts, I've been able to hit them long. When it calls for hang time, I've been hitting some good hang times. And my control has been good. I've been landing my pooch punts where I want to land them."

Mohr actually prefers to be more active. In his early days with the Bills, the offense moved so well, he was barely needed.

"Back then, it was the third or fourth quarter before I'd punt," he said. "That seems to weigh on you a little more than going out there the first or second series to punt. Because the more you sit on the sidelines, the more apt you are not to punt as well because you don't get that first punt out of your system.

"When you're out there -- as opposed to punting into the net on the sidelines -- you're seeing the actual punt and you can get into a groove."

His only poor performance came in the season-opener against the New York Giants, when he hit a low kick that reached rookie Amani Toomer well ahead of the Bills' coverage, and helped result in his 87-yard return for a touchdown.

"We set a goal for ourselves ever since that game that we were going to rededicate our punt game, starting from the second game on, and just throw that one game out," Mohr said. "We've challenged ourselves and so far we've answered the challenge. The guys are doing great.

"Miami rushed every time last Sunday and our guys did a good job of protecting and covering."

Mohr said he had problems with concentration against the Giants because he was preoccupied with the fact his contract is due to expire after the season. He said he was pressing himself to have a strong season to encourage the Bills to retain him.

"Being relaxed is especially important for a punter or a kicker because we have to be in rhythm," Mohr said.

"So, after that game, I just made a point to myself that I just had to block out that contract stuff and know that it will take care of itself. Ever since the third game of the season (against Pittsburgh), I've been more relaxed and been hitting it a lot better."

Mohr said he didn't expect his contract to be addressed until after the club dealt with higher-priority free agents.

"All I've done is express to them that I want to finish my career in Buffalo," he said.

The coaches would like nothing better than for that to happen.

"He's just doing what he's done every year since he's been here," special teams coach Bruce DeHaven said. "Maybe it's magnified because he's punting more right now. But I just don't think there are very many punters in the league that are in his class."

"I think Chris is doing a super job," Levy said. "He's outstanding inside the 20, he kicks for great height, he gets the ball away quickly. I think he's a great punter."

He's also an extremely busy one.
Linebacker Sam Rogers tried to practice Thursday, but couldn't and is unlikely to play against the Jets. Rookie Gabe Northern is expected to start in his place.

Defensive end Bruce Smith (ankle) returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's session and should be fine for Sunday.

Wide receiver Andre Reed missed the last two days of practice while attending the funeral of his father, Calvin, who died late Sunday in Allentown, Pa.

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