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HENRY ANXIOUSLY WAITS FOR DEAL

Travis Henry met Corey Dillon a couple of weeks ago in Orlando, Fla.

If anybody can appreciate how the estranged Buffalo Bills running back feels, it's New England's star rusher.

"I ran into Corey, and he encouraged me," Henry said earlier this week from his Orlando home. "He told me he was in the same situation last year. It was tough. He wanted out of Cincinnati and wasn't going back. He told me I have to be patient."

Dillon got traded from the Bengals to the Patriots on April 14 last year. Henry is praying a deal happens before the NFL draft April 23. But it's not easy for him to be patient when he's hoping for the trigger to be pulled on a deal sending him to Arizona for tackle L.J. Shelton.

"I don't understand why the deal hasn't been made," Henry said. "My understanding is Arizona wants to do it player for player. There's no other holdup on their end. They don't want anything else."

Henry was referring to a comment Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe made in a radio interview two weeks ago about the Cards, at one point, seeking more in return than just Henry.

Henry likely will be on edge the next couple of weeks. There's plenty of posturing to be done before a trade is made. This is a deal that still has a chance to be made, but the likeliest time would be on draft day, when the NFL teams are on the draft clock.

Here's why it would make sense for Arizona. The Cardinals are a 6-10 team that has numerous holes. Filling its gaping running back void would allow it to address other gaps, such as cornerback, tight end, offensive tackle and defensive tackle. Arizona traded No. 1 corner Duane Starks, and No. 2 David Macklin is ordinary at best.

While Arizona could get one of the top three elite running backs in the draft when it picks No. 8 overall, teams usually can get better value with a big man or a cornerback in the first 10 picks.

Consider: Of the 29 starting running backs (minus Arizona, Miami and Tampa Bay), 19 were selected in the second round or later.

That includes Kansas City's Priest Holmes, who entered the league as a rookie free agent. Second-round draftees among the starting backs include Curtis Martin (Jets), Dillon (Pats), LaMont Jordan (Raiders), Tatum Bell (Broncos), Tiki Barber (Giants) and Clinton Portis (Redskins). Third-rounders include Duce Staley (Steelers), Domanick Davis (Texans), Brian Westbrook (Eagles), Julius Jones (Cowboys), Ahman Green (Packers), Chris Brown (Titans) and Kevan Barlow (Niners). Fourth-rounders include Rudi Johnson (Bengals), Lee Suggs (Browns) and Stephen Davis (Panthers).

Obviously, the Cards could wait until the second round and hope a J.J. Arrington of California is still around. But Henry is proven and would allow another position to be filled with a second-rounder. If the Cards don't get a back at No. 8, maybe they will be more eager to deal.

From the Bills' perspective, Shelton may or may not be the long-term answer at left tackle. Cards coach Dennis Green is a good judge of talent. He's willing to let Shelton go. But part of that is due to the fact Green's new broom is sweeping clean. As an aside, a deal may have to coincide with the reworking of Mike Williams' contract to create more cap space (which probably will happen either way). One question for the Bills is: How much better are they going to get in return for Henry in this depressed back market?

"I'm preparing myself for the worst, which is not showing up and not going back there," he said. "But at the same time, I'm real excited about Arizona wanting to make a deal. I am so pumped up about the possibility of going there. I'm ready to let loose. And I would give them my all -- every ounce I've got."

Mrs. Wilson stars

Mary Wilson, wife of the Bills' owner, helped the United States to a second-place finish last week at the Maureen Connolly Cup international tennis matches in Perth, Australia.

Teams from eight countries around the world competed in the event for elite tennis players in the 55-and-over age group. Wilson, who once played in the Wimbledon tournament, was one of four players who received the honor of playing for the U.S. squad. Wilson is ranked 12th in the world in the 55-and-over group, according to the International Tennis Federation.

Wilson helped the United States advance to the semifinals with a third-round win over New Zealand. After the U.S. first-singles player lost, Wilson won at second singles. Then she teamed with Brenda Carter to win the doubles match over New Zealand, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. The U.S. team defeated Great Britain before losing to Australia in the championship.

Ruud boy

The Bills do not have a big need at linebacker, so there's little chance they will create a father-son legacy by drafting Barrett Ruud, a Nebraska 'backer who is likely to be a second-round draft pick this year.

Ruud's dad, Tom, was the Bills' No. 1 choice in 1975. He was a flop in three seasons with the Bills. The Ruuds, however, bleed Nebraska red.

Barrett has two uncles who also played for the Huskers -- John Ruud (Class of '79) and Bob Martin ('75). His great grandfather Clarence Swanson ('21) played for Nebraska, too. Barrett's younger brother, Bo, played for the Huskers the last two seasons.

Onside kicks

The Bills' Troy Vincent and Takeo Spikes just finished a three-day training program at the Wharton Business School in Philadelphia. It was a customized workshop targeted to the needs of NFL players interested in owning, operating or building their own businesses.

The Saints are trying to deal defensive end Darren Howard for a high draft pick -- a first- or second-rounder. If they were able to make a deal it would give them an extra pick to improve the defense and also provide ammunition for a potential draft-day trade. The Saints have been burned the last two drafts as their top targets (Dewayne Robertson in 2003 and Jon Vilma or D.J. Williams in 2004) have been picked right from under their noses.

The Baltimore Ravens approached the Eagles about a trade for stud defensive tackle Corey Simon last week. The Eagles designated Simon as their franchise player, though he has yet to sign the $5.13 million one-year tender offer. He is represented by Roosevelt Barnes, who is close with Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome. The Eagles reportedly would accept less than the franchise compensation (two No. 1s) for Simon. But the Ravens still would have to strike an expensive long-term deal with him.

The cell phone Joe Horn used on the field after scoring a touchdown two years ago was sold for $645 at a charity auction to a Mississippi lawyer.

The Bears have the fourth pick in the draft, which they hope is good luck. They have taken three Hall of Famers with the fourth overall pick -- Gale Sayers in 1965, Walter Payton in 1975 and Dan Hampton in 1979. Chicago also drafted third overall in 1965 and picked Dick Butkus. The man running the Bears' draft that year was George Allen, the future Hall of Fame coach.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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