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Preston tightening his hold on center job

It appears Duke Preston has played well enough the past two weeks to vault into the starting position at center.

Preston was working with the first unit again Wednesday, even though Melvin Fowler was not listed on the Bills' injury report. Fowler sat out the San Diego game two weeks ago due to a sore elbow. He was limited in practice last week but played the second half against the Dolphins after Jason Whittle went out with an injury.

Preston had a solid showing against San Diego star nose tackle Jamal Williams and held his own against Miami's Jason Ferguson last week.

"It looks like that might be where it's going," Preston said when asked if he were starting. "I come in every day and do what I'm asked, do what I'm told."

Preston is listed at 326 pounds, Fowler at 310. Preston had started nine games the previous three seasons, but none at center.

"It's been a long time coming," Preston said. "This is my fourth year and my sixth game [this year] was my first start at center. I came here to be a center."

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Defensive end Aaron Schobel did not practice. He did test his injured foot by bolting out of a three-point stance several times during individual work at the start of practice. But it does not look like he's likely to face the Jets.

Asked if he would return, Schobel said: "Eventually, I just don't know how soon. We'll see what it does over the next couple days. It's better, I just don't know how much better or how much longer it's going to take. Like I said a couple weeks ago, I'm no doctor. Hopefully it'll be better by this week, but we'll see.

"It's annoying. I never had missed a game until this point. I haven't missed since high school freshman year. It's hard to deal with stuff like this, but that's part of this game."

Cornerback Terrence McGee practiced fully and said his knee was feeling better than last week. Asked if he would be ready for the Jets, he said: "I hope so, that's all I can say. Right now, I am just working trying to get ready for Sunday."

Whittle (thigh), injured in Sunday's game, was able to practice fully Wednesday. Guard Brad Butler (sprained knee) remains out but was watching practice. Safety John Wendling (ankle) was limited in practice. Cornerback Ashton Youboty (foot) took part fully.

It appears the Jets may be without starting linebacker David Harris (groin). He would be replaced by David Bowens. Starting tight end Chris Baker (hip) was limited, and backup tight end Bubba Franks (hip) did not practice. Starting safety Eric Smith (concussion) did not practice.

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Bills quarterback Trent Edwards turns 25 today. Edwards was limping a bit after practice.

"He came in on Monday morning and his foot was sore in the ankle area and he can't remember when it happened or how it happened," coach Dick Jauron said. "So he's gotten treatment the last two days. We think he'll be fine. It didn't reduce his reps at all."

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Running back Marshawn Lynch was excused from practice for personal reasons.

Said Jauron: "We excused him from practice. It was not injury related. It was personal. He had reasons to not be here and he should be back tomorrow."

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The Bills will hold their annual Gift of Warmth collection drive at the Jets game Sunday. Fans are encouraged to bring new hats, scarves, gloves or other warm clothing for children to the stadium to be collected at the gates by volunteers for the Salvation Army. Monetary donations also will be collected. The Bills and M&T Bank are sponsoring the drive.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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