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OFFENSIVE LINE WON'T BE AT FULL STRENGTH VS. CHARGERS

The Buffalo Bills' offensive line once again will be depleted when it takes the field Sunday in San Diego.

Reserve Jon Carman will be forced to start at right tackle because rookie starter Jonas Jennings is listed as doubtful with a sprained arch.

Carman has the unenviable task of blocking ex-Bill Marcellus Wiley, the Chargers' left defensive end. Carman was cut at the end of preseason, then signed to the Bills' practice squad. He was added to the active roster just before the Pittsburgh game.

"He's a great player," Carman said of Wiley. "He has great hustle, and he's always motoring to the ball."

After Jennings got hurt against Jacksonville, the Bills played rookie Marques Sullivan for a series or two. Carman played most of the final three quarters.

"Jon is more of a natural right tackle," coach Gregg Williams said. "Marques has played most of his career at left tackle. But both of those guys have to be ready to go and they'll get time there."

Williams on helping Carman against Wiley: "We'll do some things in the protection part of it where they'll get help at times. We'll move the pocket at times. There will be some times where they're by themselves. The big thing is keeping Marcellus, or whoever is there, on edge of not knowing exactly where the protection is going to come from."
Guard Jerry Ostroski, who broke his right leg in preseason, has joined his offensive linemates in meetings discussing the game plan this week. He thinks he definitely will be back in the lineup in November. In fact, Ostroski hopes he might be back in two weeks.

"It's tough to say, but I'm hoping for two weeks," said Ostroski, who had one plate and seven screws inserted in the leg. "I'd be surprised if I wasn't back in two weeks. . . . But that's me personally, not medically speaking.

"I never thought I was going to be gone for the year," Ostroski said. "I don't know how to explain it. It's just the way I've always been, a fast healer. Things are starting to come around for me."

Williams said once team doctors determine Ostroski is healthy, he will be back in the lineup.

"I'm excited to get in there with Billy (Conaty) and Jonas Jennings and all the other guys. I'm just excited to play," Ostroski said.
Rob Johnson and his father, Bob, are longtime friends with Chargers coach Mike Riley. Asked if his father roots for the Chargers with Doug Flutie at quarterback, Johnson said: "I don't talk to him about that. I'm sure he doesn't. I don't know."

Johnson thinks the quarterback rivalry is being overemphasized this week.

"It's not like it's a hot topic around the nation. People in California I talk to say, 'Oh, you guys are playing San Diego this week? Cool. You have tickets for me?' It's not Flutie vs. Johnson like everyone is saying here. It's not that big of a deal."

Other questions and answers from Johnson's news conference:

Will a win over San Diego silence the Flutie fans? "I don't really care about that. It's another win. Fans are going to support who they want to support."

Will you talk to Flutie before the game? "I don't see most other quarterbacks in the league before the game. I saw Mark (Brunell) last week because we're pretty good friends. That's the only quarterback in five games this year I've talked to (before the game)."

On the comment by Bills owner Ralph Wilson in the spring that this is like a Super Bowl: "Ralph can say whatever he wants to say. He owns the team. He makes the big decisions. That was a long time ago. I know this is an important game for him. It's an important game for all of us. We're trying to get another win and get back into the AFC East race. He's got personal issues, the stuff between him and Mr. (John) Butler is between them."
CBS isn't making a big deal of Sunday's Bills-Bolts matchup. The network is sending one of its lowest-profile announcing crews to the game. The play-by-play man is Craig Bolerjack, and the analyst is Trevor Matich.

The Sporting News Web site had a poll this week asking fans which game they were most looking forward to this weekend. The games: Dolphins-Seahawks, Jaguars-Ravens, Niners-Bears, Patriots-Broncos, Raiders-Eagles, Saints-Rams and Vikings-Buccaneers. Bills-Chargers wasn't on the list.
Besides Jennings and Ostroski, it appears defensive tackle Leif Larsen (elbow) also will miss the game. He's listed as doubtful. Phil Hansen, recovering from a dislocated elbow, practiced fully Wednesday and expects to play. He's listed as questionable. Receiver Jeremy McDaniel (high ankle sprain) also practiced. He's questionable.

Chargers star linebacker Junior Seau did not practice due to a sore groin he suffered Sunday against Denver. He's questionable. Ex-Bill Sam Rogers broke his thumb in practice Wednesday, but the Chargers said he should be ready for Sunday's game. Starting tight end Freddie Jones is questionable with a sore ankle. Chargers starters listed as probable are safety Rodney Harrison (concussion), cornerback Alex Molden (knee) and tackle Vaughn Parker (hamstring).
The Bills worked out for 2 1/2 hours Wednesday. There was a No. 7 Bills jersey draped on one of the tackling dummies during practice. . . . Ruben Brown was sporting a No. 78 Bruce Smith jersey. He said he would not be paying any royalties to Bruce for wearing the number.
Heritage Centers will hold its sixth annual Jumbogate event Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium and the team's field house. Fans can watch the game in either location, and proceeds benefit the centers, which provide programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. Field house tickets are $15. A VIP suite ticket in the stadium is $30. Tickets are on sale at Wegmans or through 833-8603, Ext. 247.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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