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New safety alignment is made to stick

It looks like the Buffalo Bills are staying with their safety realignment.

Versatile Donte Whitner said he spent a lot of time playing free safety again in practice Wednesday, and Bryan Scott filled the strong safety role. The Bills used that combination with success in their 23-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

Scott essentially replaces Ko Simpson in the lineup. Whitner has played strong safety his first two-plus seasons, but he has the range and coverage skills to play free safety, as he showed against the Chargers. Simpson went to the bench Sunday in favor of Scott, who did a good job on Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.

"It just gives me the opportunity to make a play on some of those balls, some of those receivers coming across the middle, to just be physical," Whitner said. "That's what I like to do. And [I can] help some of the corners line up and mention some of the things we're supposed to be thinking about pre-snap."

The Bills would like to get some more big plays out of the free safety position.

Bills coach Dick Jauron declined to say that the change was permanent after practice. The Bills thought that Scott's size allowed him to match up effectively with Gates.

"I think a lot of it will depend on what we want to do in that week," Jauron said, when asked if Scott would have as significant a role going forward. "We feel like we have five good safeties."

Simpson suffered a hamstring injury in the loss at Arizona. After sitting out the bye week workouts, he was able to return to practice last week.

Asked about Simpson before the Arizona game, Bills secondary coach George Catavolos said, "I think Ko is doing an adequate job. He could be in on more plays. He knows what he has to improve on. He always plays with very good effort. . . . He has to get into some more plays. I think he's shown progression. He's got excellent range when he plays half-field [in a two-deep zone] and middle one-third [in a three-deep zone]. . . . He's got to smell out the plays better. He's getting more physical. . . . He just has to keep working on it."

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Bills cornerback Terrence McGee returned to practice Wednesday. Jauron said he was somewhat limited. However, McGee looked pretty good running around early in the workout. McGee missed the past two games with a sprained knee.

Defensive end Aaron Schobel and guard Brad Butler both did not practice. Schobel again was walking around with a protective boot on his left foot. He has a ligament strain in his big toe and missed the San Diego game. Due to the bye week, Schobel has been off the foot for three weeks. It appears the Bills may err on the side of caution to try to make sure it is not a lingering problem the entire season.

Butler has a sprained knee, Jauron said. If he does not practice today, veteran Jason Whittle likely would get the start against Miami.

Cornerback Ashton Youboty (foot) did not practice. Center Melvin Fowler (elbow) was limited.

Meanwhile, Miami could be without starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who injured an oblique muscle in his midsection against Baltimore on Sunday.

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The Bills activated linebacker Marcus Buggs off the practice squad to take the spot of injured John DiGiorgio, who is out for the year with a torn ligament in his right knee. Buggs, from Vanderbilt, was a rookie free agent signing in May. He's 5-foot-10 and 223 pounds. The Bills signed defensive end Marcus Smith to the practice squad. An Arizona product, he spent all of last season on Dallas' practice squad. He's 6-3 and 286.

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Bills QB Trent Edwards is one of three finalists for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week award. Fans can vote for the award through 11 a.m. Friday on nfl.com.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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