Joe Panos is feeling a little apprehensive these days. Can you blame him?
The past year has been very frustrating to the Buffalo Bills' veteran right guard, who has endured one injury after another since joining the team three seasons ago.
After missing all of last year after neck surgery, he had to sit out the first two games this season with a torn ligament in the arch of his right foot. He was prepared to play in last week's loss to the New York Jets, but sprained the same foot in practice.
Now healthy, Panos expects to return to full-scale workouts this week. But he won't allow himself to get too excited about it.
"The last time I got fired up to play, I got hurt again," he said. "It's just been one thing after another, from my neck to my foot to my foot again. It's tough not being out there. I waited the whole year last year, so three games this year is enough.
"I know God's got a plan for me. I'll just have to hang in there a little longer. My time will come."
If Panos gets through upcoming practices without any setbacks, he probably will start against the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday.
The offensive line has had its share of struggles this season, particularly in the running game. The Bills are ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing.
Panos doesn't expect to come in and make all the difference, but his toughness should give the line a boost.
"I'm going to go out and play my game, which is throwing this old body around, playing until the whistle and taking a shot here or there to make defensive guy turn around and watch his back to know where I am," he said. "But my biggest goal is to get through this week healthy. I just hope the injuries are finally behind me so I can do something to help this team."
The Bills got some good news this week as linebacker John Holecek was able to practice on his left ankle that was injured against the Jets.
Holecek said he has a slightly torn ligament in the ankle, but it shouldn't keep him from playing against the Colts.
"Obviously, it's going to take a little time until I'm back to 100 percent," he said. "But I'm practicing fully and doing full-speed cuts, so I'm not worried about it.
"I have a lot of time to heal, so I'm fully confident that I'll be ready to go."
Rookie Sammy Morris was hoping to have a role in the Bills' offense, but he never excepted the expanded load he received last Sunday. Morris got the start at fullback and participated in 37 of the team's 59 snaps.
"It's just a great feeling as a rookie to have a chance to play and start at this level," Morris said. "I was a little nervous, anxious and excited at the same time. But I had to put everything in perspective and focus on doing my job."
Morris caught a 6-yard pass on the first play of the Bills' opening drive, which ended with a touchdown.
He said having a chance to handle the ball right away helped eliminate his early-game jitters.
"Coach (Joe) Pendry told me before the game that the first play we're going with I would probably be the first look on that. I kind of had to brace myself for that and not be too excited and bobble the ball. Rob put a nice ball out there and I was able to make some good yards."
The Bills' defense continues to rank high in most of the NFL's key statistical categories.
Buffalo is third in the 31-team league against the run (second in yards per carry), seventh versus the pass and fifth overall.
Opposing offenses have converted just 10 of 43 third downs (23.3 percent) against the Bills. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense (7 of 39, 17.9 percent) has done better.
On the offensive side, quarterback Rob Johnson is the NFL's fourth-ranked passer. His 109 rushing yards are second only to Chicago's Cade McNown's 140 among the league's quarterbacks.
Not surprisingly, the Bills' special teams are last in the league in kickoff return average (35.7 yards). The Bills are 31st in punt return average (3.2) and 30th in kickoff returns (17.7).
Punter Chris Mohr is a notch below his normally high standards. His gross (39.7) and net (33.7) are 29th in the league.
Coach Wade Phillips spent part of his weekend at the University of Texas-El Paso, where his son, Wesley, is a backup quarterback. UTEP (1-2) hosted Hawaii on Saturday. . . . Johnson went back to his home in California. . . . Doug Flutie went back to his Natick, Mass., home. He also was planning to attend the 50th birthday party of Boston native and Aerosmith band member Joe Perry. The group Cheap Trick was scheduled to perform at the party.