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PREGAME SHOULD BE EMOTIONAL

The Buffalo Bills are expecting an emotional pregame ceremony Sunday when they face the Indianapolis Colts at the RCA Dome.

The NFL has numerous special pregame plans aimed toward honoring the victims of last week's terrorism and saluting the heroes of the rescue and recovery mission.

"I think it will definitely be different than any other national anthem that has gone on since the Gulf War," said quarterback Rob Johnson. "It will be pretty emotional, I bet. I think once the pregame festivities are over it'll be back to normal."

The NFL also will tape this week with national recording artists two special presentations of "America the Beautiful" that will air in stadiums and on all CBS and FOX telecasts prior to kickoff of the Sunday afternoon games. It's believed Billy Joel will perform for 1 p.m. games and Ray Charles will perform for 4 p.m. games.

All fans attending NFL games will receive 4-foot by 6-foot American flags. The NFL has purchased 1 million flags to pass out. Those teams not playing at home this weekend will distribute American flags the following week. Fans also will receive a four-page pamphlet with the words to the "Star-Spangled Banner," "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful."

All game telecasts Sunday afternoon will open with a 60-second piece prepared by NFL Films recognizing the unprecedented events of the past week. The piece also will air in the stadiums. There also will be a moment of silence.

"I think it's a unifying spirit, a unifying way to show solidarity over what's taken place and it's a message that's being sent to everyone in this country and worldwide of how unified we are," coach Gregg Williams said.

Shocking development of Wednesday's practice: Fullback Larry Centers actually dropped a pass. It was believed to be the first one he has dropped since the first night workout at St. John Fisher on July 30.

"It's not surprising," deadpanned glue-fingered tight end Jay Riemersma, "considering he has the second-best hands on the team."

Centers has 689 career catches. He needs 11 to become the first running back ever to reach 700. No. 2 on the running back receptions list is Keith Byars with 610.

The Bills have two players on their injury report. Defensive end Bryce Fisher is questionable in the wake of thumb surgery. Center Bill Conaty is probable with a sore leg. Both practiced Wednesday. Defensive tackle Pat Williams sat out Wednesday's practice due to inflammation in his ankle. He probably will be added to the injury report today.

The Colts list two starters as injured. Defensive end Chad Bratzke (sore ribs) is questionable and right tackle Adam Meadows (shoulder) is probable. Both are expected to play. Backup defensive end Mark Thomas (hip) is questionable. Backup linebacker Sean Harris (neck) and backup corner Rodregis Brooks (ankle) are doubtful. Receivers Reggie Wayne and Terrence Wilkins and defensive end Lionel Barnes are probable.

Gregg Williams, speaking to Colts media, on the need of Johnson to get rid of the ball:

"I think there's a personal responsibility of himself to get rid of the ball quicker in some instances, and some of those things are just a fact of life in what defenses do as it gets ready to play against offenses each and every week. I think this offense is set up to get rid of the ball quicker and has better answers for him. But he is a player who really has a tough time giving up on a play. He always wants to make a play down the field and I think that's a positive trait, but one that has to fit in with the constraints of your offensive system and that's not to take negative yardage plays. He understands that."

The Bills will hold their fourth annual NFL 101 Football Clinic for Women from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Bills Fieldhouse at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Registration is limited so those interested should call 689-6981 Ext. 101 or 112 to reserve a spot. The cost is $40.

The hands-on event allows participants to learn all aspects of football while interacting with both current and former Bills players. Participants will experience football plays, strategies, and other nuances of the game.

Proceeds from the event will go to the American Cancer Society as part of breast cancer awareness month. A portion of the proceeds also will go to the Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation.

"Money raised from this fun and unique event stays local to support breast cancer research, all education, early detection, and post diagnosis programs offered by the American Cancer Society," said Gretchen Leffler, regional executive of the American Cancer Society.

"We tell the women that when we're done maybe they can go home and try to teach their husbands something," said former Bills tight end Charley Ferguson.

The event is sponsored by the Bills, Zweigle's, the Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

Williams on left tackle John Fina:

"I think John has some very good plays, he's had some good performances this year, and he's struggled, just as the whole offense has struggled at times. I don't think it's on any one person, I don't think John Fina is the person that causes you not to score touchdowns. I think as a group offensively we have to get better, and as a coaching staff we have to do things to help people who are struggling and it's not just John."

Under the rescheduling plan, the Colts meet Denver in the RCA Dome on the Jan. 5-6 weekend.

A season-ending meeting with the Broncos would be preceded by a Dec. 30 trip to St. Louis. The Colts also face three more difficult road games during the second half of the season: New Orleans (Nov. 18), Baltimore (Dec. 2) and Miami (Dec. 10).

Those three teams, along with the Rams, combined for a 44-21 record in 2000.

"Our schedule in November, December and now January is going to be brutal," quarterback Peyton Manning said.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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