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NO PRO BOWL, NO PROBLEM FOR BILLS' FINA

John Fina won't be accompanying Buffalo Bills' offensive linemate Ruben Brown to the Pro Bowl, but such recognition has never been that important to him.

It's the praise of his coaches and teammates that Fina desires. He's getting plenty of that these days.

"There are some other guys on the offensive line who are good enough to go to the Pro Bowl and probably deserve to go," Brown said. "John Fina is one of those guys. He is having an outstanding season."

Bills coach Wade Phillips believes Fina is having the best season of his career. With the offensive line going through spells of inconsistency and with guys going in and out of the lineup, the eighth-year left tackle has been a constant.

"John Fina has played well. I've said that all year." Phillips said. "He has done a good job, and I think people are starting to notice that."

People are paying more attention to Fina because he has lined up against the opposing team's best pass rusher. One week he's locked up against Miami's Jason Taylor, then it's Michael McCrary of Baltimore or Simeon Rice of Arizona.

"There is no week off in the NFL at any position," Fina said. "Some guys are a different threat than others, so you have to be prepared for a lot of things. There are guys who come inside more, some who like to come up the field and some who are strong and like to bull rush a little bit."

This Sunday, Fina takes on New England's Willie McGinest, who leads the Patriots with eight sacks. They certainly aren't strangers given some of their fierce battles over the years.

Fina said McGinest is one of the toughest defensive lineman he's had to face.

"Willie's a terrific player," Fina said. "He can beat you with speed, he's tremendously strong and he makes great use of his hands. He's also a very smart player, who doesn't get suckered in easily. He's going to provide the ultimate challenge. But then, every week is a challenge."

To this point, Fina has been up to those challenges. Taylor was a non-factor in the Bills' two wins over the Dolphins. McCrary, a Pro Bowler, didn't dominate when the Bills beat the Ravens. Rice was hardly visible as Buffalo took care of the Cardinals last week.

Even McGinest found little success in his previous meeting against Fina this season. McGinest had just four tackles and was credited with a sack when Flutie fell on a fumble during a 17-7 loss to the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"He doesn't let his guy make many plays," Phillips said of Fina. "How many times does his guy make a tackle? How many times does he give up a sack? Not very often. He doesn't make many mistakes."

Fina has been called for just one holding penalty this season, a remarkable feat considering he plays perhaps the most demanding position on the offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder will never be known as a physically dominant tackle. For him, it is a game of smarts and good technique.

Add that to his increased strength, and you have the makings of an offensive lineman who can excel equally as a run blocker and pass protector.

"He's always been a very agile, smart player," Phillips said. "But he's worked in the offseason to get stronger. He's bigger and stronger than he's ever been."

Fina said his size really hasn't changed much the past three years. But he has matured physically, and he feels that's made a big difference in his performance.

"I think it's taken me a little longer than some other guys to get the strength and size," he said. "It's taken me some time to put all of it together, but I'm getting there."

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