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ZEIGLER'S FIRST START AS NFL CENTER IS A BUMPY LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Dusty Zeigler had a massive bag of ice wrapped around his left arm Saturday night.

"Just bumps and bruises from the game," Zeigler said with a faint smile after the Buffalo Bills' 31-10 preseason-opening loss to the Denver Broncos.

For Zeigler, it was a night of bumps, bruises, and plenty of growing pains in his first extended action as an NFL center. The man chosen to replace retired Kent Hull, one of the games' best centers for the last 11 seasons, had his share of struggles before giving way to Jerry Ostroski and Bill Conaty in the second half. He made some assignment errors and had a fumbled snap exchange with Billy Joe Hobert.

"The first couple of series I was nervous and certainly that was a factor in my messing up some (line) calls or whatever," Zeigler said. "As the game went on, I felt a little more comfortable. I felt a little bit better about things.

"Hopefully the rest of the preseason games will work out that way."
Antowain Smith wasted no time putting in his claim for the workhorse running back role the Bills envisioned for him when they made the former University of Houston star their first-round draft pick.

Smith carried eight times for a game-high 52 yards. He made the night's biggest play for Buffalo when he exploded through a hole and made a nice cut to his right on the way to a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter. On his first carry, Smith gained nine yards, followed it with a one-yard plunge for a first down, and then caught a 10-yard screen pass for another first down.

"I think things went really well for me," said Smith, whose playing time was extended because Thurman Thomas was sidelined with sore ribs. "The offensive line did a great job of coming off the ball, opening up some holes and allowing my natural ability to take over."
The Bills are picking up right where they left off last season as one of the top sacking teams in the league. They had five sacks Saturday night by five different players -- linebackers Bryce Paup, Gabe Northern, and Dan Brandenburg, and defensive linemen Phil Hansen and Esera Tuaolo. . . . Cornerback Ken Irvin led the Bills with six tackles, followed by linebacker John Holecek with five.

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