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WITH SEASON NEARING, BRUCE PARTICIPATES IN PRACTICE

Every year, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his hole in Pennsylvania and casts a shadow determining whether there will be six more weeks of winter.

The Buffalo Bills use a defensive end, Bruce Smith, to find out how close they are to the regular season.

The 10-time Pro Bowl selection participated in his first full practice Monday, signifying that the opener must be near.

The 14-year veteran left without speaking to reporters.

"Take the same comments he said last year and it's the same this year," running back Thurman Thomas joked as he and Smith walked off the field. "Hey Bruce, didn't you start about this time last year?"

Yes. It also doesn't seem to matter.

Smith missed much of training camp last year in a contract dispute but wound up with two sacks in the opener against Minnesota. The year before, he missed most of training camp but had two sacks and a forced fumble against the New York Giants in the first game.

The defensive end has been sidelined for most of training camp this season after undergoing surgery on his right knee. He went through drills as the Bills began preparations for the preseason finale Friday against the Washington Redskins.

"Bruce Smith looked good," Bills coach Wade Phillips said. "He's a great player, obviously. He moved around well. He's obviously in great shape, and he always is. He's a true professional. He got out there and did some things and looked like he did before."

Smith has had seven surgeries -- five on his knees and two on his shoulder. He might see limited action against the Redskins and is expected to start in the season opener Sept. 6 against San Diego.
The Bills made two more cuts Monday, releasing running back Rene Ingoglia, a Rochester native, and tight end Jerry Ross, to trim their roster to the NFL mandatory of 60 players.

Ingoglia was cut by the Bills in training camp last year before being signed for the final six games. He was not activated for any of the games.

Seven more players will be cut Sunday, when teams submit their final rosters to the league. Five players who have less than three years experience could be placed on the practice squad.

"This last game, we're going to try to look at everybody we can," Phillips said. "I don't want to play the starters quite as long as we have."

Those released Sunday were: quarterback Todd Collins; wide receivers Jerry Reese, Paul Turner and Mitchell Galloway; running backs Carl McCullough and Mark Nohra; tight end Pat Fitzgerald; defensive backs Hassan Shamsid-Deen, Sean Woodson, Adrion Smith and Duane Stewart; defensive linemen Shane Doyle, Herb Howard and Hardy Mitchell; linebacker Willie Rodgers; and kickers Gerald Carlson and John Phair.

Center Dusty Zeigler (ankle) sat out Monday's practice and could miss the Redskins' game. Guard Joe Panos (knee) suited up and participated in some drills but probably won't play Friday. The Bills are optimistic both will be back in time for the regular season opener.
Former Bills coach Marv Levy visited the stadium Monday to take care of some personal business. While he was there, he had laughs with a few players and secretaries.

He spoke briefly with several defensive linemen passing through a room en route to a meeting. When defensive end Phil Hansen and tackle Sean Moran walked by, Levy joked, "I just came in to make sure you guys weren't late."

"It's good to see them," Levy said. "I don't want to be hanging around and looking over the shoulder and standing on the sidelines in practice. It's counter-productive for everybody to be a consultant. I don't have any official tie with the Bills."

The Bills have set aside a small office for Levy so he can answer mail that comes to the stadium. Levy has speaking engagements around the country, about one a week. He also still has his local radio show and might land a weekly show with Empire Sports Network.

Levy spent five weeks in Chicago and did the color commentary of Friday's game against the Bears for Channel 7. He still lives in Hamburg.

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