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Embarrassed players lick their wounds ; Bills team looking at uncertain future

Paul Posluszny stood in the locker room, his face bruised and neck lacerated. It was a portrait of the Buffalo Bills' season.

This was a beat-up football team, and on Sunday, it got beaten up.

The Jets pounded the Bills, 38-7, in a season finale as lopsided as the final score indicated.

The only good thing you could say about the season is it's finally over for the Bills (4-12), who finished with their worst record since going 3-13 in 2001.

It's one thing to lose your final game of the season, and it's quite another to lose the way the Bills did. They weren't even competitive against a Jets team that played mostly backups.

After an 0-8 start, the Bills seemed to gain some traction by winning four of their next six games. But in their final two tests of the season, they failed miserably.

The Bills were thrashed by the Jets and New England Patriots by a combined score of 72-10.

Head coach Chan Gailey said after the game that maybe the team isn't as far along as he thought. His players didn't argue that point.

"We do have a long way to go," Posluszny said. "We saw flashes of us heading in the right direction, but it wasn't constant enough to say we're on the right path. [Sunday's loss] showed that. We had an opportunity to finish out the year strong and get a win and be positive going into the offseason and we blew that opportunity.

"It was disappointing on all fronts. I really don't know where to go from here. I just have a lot of work to do and we don't know when we're going to play football again."

And now the Bills head into an offseason of uncertainty. The roster could be markedly different with 11 players due to become unrestricted free agents. There's also the specter of a possible work stoppage if the players' union and the owners don't agree to a new collective bargaining agreement.

For a soon-to-be free agent like safety Donte Whitner, there was a very real feeling that this could be the last time he puts on a Bills uniform. In a tweet before the game, Whitner said, "Its game gameday so I'm happy but its also a sad day for me im gonna miss going to battle with my brothers "

Whitner is disappointed that contract negotiations with the Bills had been at a standstill, and it has him questioning the team's commitment to bringing him back.

"We had time to get it done, but it's tough because I get an opportunity to see what my actual value is on the market and my own worth," he said. "It's all business now. I want to stay here, but now I've been through 16 games, I'm healthy and I have to see what's on the market and see how things go from there."

Posluszny has no idea what the future holds for him, either. He wants to stay in Buffalo, but no CBA means it will be a while before he knows where he'll play in 2011.

"I don't know," he said. "I would like to stay in Buffalo to see this thing through, but that's up to [General Manager] Buddy Nix and Coach Gailey to see if they want me to be a part of this thing or not."

Even if Posluszny and Whitner return, what kind of team will they come back to? Judging from Sunday's performance and others like it, the Bills have a long way to go to close the gap on the Jets and Patriots in the AFC East.

The Bills did make some progress, but it was diminished by two blowout losses to end the season.

"It's almost like you take two steps forward and take two more back," said safety Jairus Byrd. "That's kind of where we are right now. We just have to keep fighting because those two teams [the Jets and Patriots] aren't going anywhere. They're at the top of our division, so we've got to figure out how to beat them and go from there. If we can't beat teams in our own division we're not going to be a winning team or a playoff team."

In summing up the Bills' season and their future prospects, Eric Wood put it all in perspective.

"I think we showed a lot more promise than we did last year and showed some serious character," he said. "But character doesn't keep you a job in this league. You got to have talent to win some ball games."

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com