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BILLS EYE SHEPPARD TO GUIDE OFFENSE

A candidate for the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator position has surfaced in Seattle.

He is Mike Sheppard, quarterbacks coach of the Seahawks, and he's a respected proponent of the West Coast offense.

A source in Seattle told The News that the Bills asked the Seahawks for permission to speak with Sheppard on Monday. Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren is scheduled to return from vacation today and will need to approve it.

Sheppard, 49, has coached for 26 years, the last eight in the NFL. Before joining Seattle, he was offensive coordinator under Kevin Gilbride for two seasons in San Diego. He also was an aide with Baltimore and Cleveland.

Another NFL assistant the Bills are believed to have an interest in is former Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, who will not return to the Lions.

The 47-year-old Zorn, a former Seattle Seahawks star quarterback, was under contract in Detroit, but he has been told he will not be part of the coaching staff of new coach Marty Mornhinweg. Zorn has received generally positive reviews for his handling of Lions quarterback Charlie Batch the past three years.

Sheppard and Bills coach Gregg Williams crossed paths briefly last year when Sheppard interviewed for the Tennessee Titans' offensive coordinator job. Mike Heimerdinger got that position.

Ironically, Sheppard would have been a strong candidate for the Bills' job if New York Giants aide John Fox had landed in Buffalo, and he might have been considered if the Ravens' Marvin Lewis had gotten a head job. Sheppard worked with both Fox and Lewis in the college ranks.

The Bills also are considering former Bills star Joe Ferguson for a quarterbacks coach position. Ferguson resigned from his post as QB coach at the University of Arkanasas last month.

The Bills re-signed three members of their practice squad, including former University at Buffalo fullback Josh Roth, who led the Bulls in rushing in his final two seasons. Also coming back are guard Corey Hulsey and defensive end Jarrett Procell.

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