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Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith will not play in Saturday's preseason finale against Pittsburgh.

The Bills' star is going back home to be with his father, George, who is very ill in a rehabilitation center in Norfolk, Va.

George Smith, 79, has been fighting a long-term battle with emphysema.

"He's a very sick man. It's pretty much a touch-and-go situation," Smith said after Thursday's practice.

Smith plans to return to Buffalo early next week.

"I'll be back in time to start preparing for the Colts," Smith said. "But the most important thing is me having peace of mind where my father is concerned. God forbid something were to happen and I didn't take his illness seriously enough and never saw him again. I just can't take that chance, no matter what the cost."

Smith had spent two days with his father earlier this week but got a call from his mother asking him to return.

"He was in the hospital about two weeks ago . . . and I told my mother to let me know on a day-to-day basis. He'd go up and down. They released him from the hospital. But the second day out he had a seizure and they put him back in.

"I know I have a family here," Smith said of the Bills. "There are some individuals here who are just like my brothers -- Andre, Thurman -- who have been part of my family for more than a decade . . . Ted Cottrell. It was definitely good to be around them and feel their genuine concern."
The Bills still are waiting for a full medical report on right guard Joe Panos, who went to an out-of-town specialist Thursday due to a series of "stingers" he has received.

A stinger is a shock to the neck area that can cause numbness in the extremities.

"We're concerned but we don't think it's major," said coach Wade Phillips. "We'll find out. He did it lifting weights in the summer, and we've been monitoring it all along. . . . He's had more than one. If you just have one and it goes away, that's fine. If you have a couple then we want to make sure."

Phillips said Dusty Zeigler will start in Panos' spot, and both he and Jamie Nails will play a lot. The starting of Zeigler is a departure from the depth chart. Nails had been the No. 2 behind Panos and saw spot duty at the position all last season. However, Nails, who is listed at 354 pounds, is heavier than the Bills would like him to be.
Phillips said Doug Flutie will start at quarterback and be backed up by Rob Johnson. Alex Van Pelt might see action, as well. Phillips said how long Flutie plays depends on the game situations and "what we get accomplished."

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