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Kelsay won't yield No. 90 to Mario Williams' number is undetermined

Buffalo Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay says he's not giving up his No. 90 jersey for Mario Williams, the team's star free-agent acquisition.

Kelsay says Williams understands his position and hasn't asked for the number, which Williams wore through six seasons with the Houston Texans.

The team is expected to assign a number to Williams very soon. Williams signed on March 15, and his jersey was expected to be unveiled by now. Fans eager for new Bills merchandise are waiting to get their hands on a jersey for the big defensive end.

"The team told us something would need to be decided on fairly soon," Kelsay said. "I spoke with Mario. I actually brought it up to him, he didn't bring it up to me. He completely understood."

"I've worn it my entire career here," said Kelsay. "A lot of times in a situation like this, the guy will buy it from you. But I'm not really interested in that."

Kelsay is entering his 10th season and is the second-longest tenured Bill on the team, behind only punter Brian Moorman.

"People who have never played don't realize how attached you can actually get to a number," Kelsay said. "Having played with it my whole career, it was something I don't really want to part with and he completely understood. That was basically it."

Williams wore No. 9 in college at North Carolina State. He wore No. 82 for Richlands (N.C.) High School. NFL rules require defensive linemen to wear a number between 60 and 79 and 90 and 99. Kelsay said he had no idea what number Williams would pick.

There's a suspicion Williams may opt for No. 92, which currently is worn by third-year defensive lineman Alex Carrington. The Bills have no unassigned numbers between 90 and 99.

Whatever number Williams takes, the Bills surely will want him to stick with it. It's not often a veteran player decides to switch numbers while staying with the same team. When it happens, the player is required to buy up all the unsold jerseys of the old number. Depending on inventory, that could wind up costing a minimal amount or a couple hundred thousand dollars' worth. Prominent players can afford it. The bigger problem is fans who have bought the jersey don't like to have an outdated jersey of a star player who is still on the team and wearing a new number.

The Bills' administration has taken the position that a uniform number is an issue that veteran players should resolve between themselves.

Kelsay said Williams did not press him on the matter or lobby him for No. 90.

"He never did," Kelsay said. "Money's not the issue. I just would like to finish my career out with that number. He completely understood and that was that."

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com