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IRVIN HAS SURGERY, IS OUT FOR SEASON

The Buffalo Bills claimed the No. 1-rated defense in the NFL after Sunday's 31-21 win over Arizona.

But the ranking comes at a cost -- the loss of Ken Irvin. The cornerback, who injured his left ankle in the second quarter, underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn ligament in his foot. Irvin is out for the season. Rookie Antoine Winfield will take his spot at left corner while Donovan Greer will take Winfield's spot on dime and nickel packages.

"Kenny's injury is a lot like Steve Tasker's," said Bills' head coach Wade Phillips. "I wasn't here, but they say it's like Shane Conlan's. Phil Simms had it. I think Phil Hansen had it. . . . All came off it just fine, but it takes a while."

Meanwhile, Andre Reed underwent a CAT scan Monday afternoon to check his ribs.

"We don't think Andre's (injury) is of a serious nature," Phillips said. "He did get a pretty good shot in the ribs . . . and he's sore, but he should be all right."

The good news for the Bills: Robert Hicks, who has been out with an ankle injury, could play in New England on Sunday and Bruce Smith was healthy enough to play and finish the Arizona game.

Antowain Smith is still questionable this week as Phillips wants his turf toe to heal completely.

Thurman Thomas' halftime speech inspired the locker room, but didn't necessarily address the Bills' play-calling.

"Thurman is a fiery, emotional leader . . . (but) it didn't have anything to do with the game plan," Phillips said. "It was just playing the game and playing with intensity. That's why he's a leader. He's able to say some things. Some other players could say a lot of stuff, nobody would listen. Thurman says something, they listen."

He did the talking on the field, too. In his second game back since suffering a liver contusion on opening day, Thomas had 13 carries for 53 yards.

"We practiced him more in the running game because we knew Antowain (Smith) wouldn't be in there," Phillips said. "He's slicing through and finding places that nobody else can find and he knows where the first down is, can get through and make it for us. I thought he got his timing better in the running game also."

Bills quarterback Doug Flutie and his band, The Flutie Gang, will perform at a holiday party tonight at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center to perform and promote their new CD, "Ramblin' Scramblin' Man."

At the event the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism will announce the creation of $400,000 in grants to various non-profit organizations locally and nationally.

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