Buffalo Bills right guard Joe Panos is hoping that a bulging disk in his neck will improve with rest and rehabilitation or he faces the possibility of season-ending surgery.
Panos said Wednesday that doctors have set a timetable for him to make improvement before deciding whether to operate. He would not specify how long the doctors and Bills officials would be willing to wait, but indicated the decision won't be made soon.
"If it doesn't get better in a certain amount of time, it means it's not going to get better unless there's surgery done," Panos said. "It's always in the back of my mind. As long as my health isn't at risk, as long as I don't have to worry about getting paralyzed, then I'm not worried about it. If I get surgery later on, I get surgery later on. My safety is not in jeopardy, and that's the most important part."
Panos was advised by doctors to skip the Bills' opener Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The six-year veteran said he could play under the most dire circumstances, such as the Bills not having any reserve linemen on their roster. Dusty Zeigler and Jamie Nails will play in his place.
Panos has been experiencing some pain because the disk is pushing on a nerve. The bigger problem is a lack of strength it causes in his right arm and shoulder.
"It's very frustrating," he said. "I look fine, but every time I go in the weight room or get on the playing field, one side of my body is weaker than the other. I can go in the weight room for 20 hours a day, and nothing would change."
The Bills signed defensive tackle Geno Bell on Wednesday and assigned him to the practice squad.
Bell spent last season with the New York Jets after making the team as an undrafted free agent from Arkansas. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder was deactivated for the first five games, released and later re-signed to the Jets practice squad last season. He was among the Jets' final cuts on Sunday.
The Bills have one open spot remaining on their practice squad.
Bills coach Wade Phillips still hasn't explained why he released preseason rushing leader Anthony Gray and assigned backs Lennox Gordon and Brian Edwards to the practice squad.
"I try to keep players who I think are our best people in all aspects of the game," Phillips said. "I'm not going to run the kid down. I like him, but I like the two we kept better."
Bills linebacker and special teamer Dan Brandenburg returned to practice after being hampered by a sprained ankle. He is expected to play Sunday afternoon against the Colts.
The Colts will be without former Bills back Darick Holmes (ankle), linebacker Jeff Brady (knee and ankle) and cornerback Paul Miranda (ankle).
Don't expect many sacks Sunday against the Colts. Except for Troy Aikman of Dallas, Bills quarterback Doug Flutie and Peyton Manning of the Colts were the two passers most difficult to sack last season.
Flutie was sacked 12 times, or once every 30.5 times he dropped back to pass. Manning was sacked 22 times, or once every 27.1 attempts, which was impressive for a rookie. Aikman was sacked once in every 36.0 attempts.
"Our offensive staff does a great job preparing our team each week to protect our quarterback," Colts coach Jim Mora said. "Our offensive line did an excellent job last year, but it's not only that. Peyton does a nice job knowing where he has protections, and he gets rid of the ball quickly. He doesn't hang onto it and try to make something happen that really isn't there."