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PAYTON BELIEVES FLUTIE BELONGS IN THE NFL

Doug Flutie's return to the National Football League received a Hall of Fame endorsement Friday.

Former Chicago Bears great Walter Payton, who played with Flutie in 1986 and was on the receiving end of Flutie's first NFL touchdown pass, said his former teammate is still capable of playing in the league.

"I think Doug received a lot of unfair criticism when he was here, but I always believed if a guy can play, he deserves a chance no matter how big or small he is," said Payton, the NFL's all-time leading rusher who does television color commentary for the Bears' preseason games.

"He's a great athlete, who as you can see, can still move pretty good out there," Payton continued. "I'd pay to see him in Buffalo in December running around on an icy field with guys trying to tackle him."

Flutie got a chance to play with most of the first-team offense for the first time against the Bears, and it clearly made a difference in his performance. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 49 yards.

"I just felt like it would be more fair to him to have that opportunity to work with a better group," Bills coach Wade Phillips said. "With the second group, he threw passes and the guy wasn't there because he ran the wrong route or did things that made him look bad. Playing him with a more confident group made him more confident and I think it showed."
All NFL teams must trim their rosters to 60 by Tuesday, but Phillips indicated he won't wait that long.

He said the team could announce its cuts as early as today. The coaches spent Saturday reviewing film of Friday's game before making a determination on who will be released.

The players are scheduled to have meetings at the Bills' stadium today and will practice Monday afternoon.
Alex Van Pelt played just one series, but it was enough to convince him that he's ready to get back in the backup quarterback competition.

"It felt good to get out there and finally have a chance to compete," said Van Pelt, who was 2 of 3 for 31 yards while guiding the Bills on a nine-play, 59-yard drive that ended with a 36-yard field goal by Steve Christie.

If there were any doubts about the soundness of his surgically-repaired right shoulder, Van Pelt might have eased them a bit with a long incompletion beyond the outstretched hands of wide receiver Kamil Loud.

"I think that was the adrenaline rush more than anything," Van Pelt said. "I still have some work to do to get stronger, but this was a positive start."

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