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The specter of the No. 1 draft choice the Buffalo Bills gave away to acquire J.P. Losman is going to force them to get the rookie onto the field just about as soon as he's ready.

The reason the Bills drafted Losman was so their quarterback of the future would get a year of development in the Bills' system.

Quarterbacks take a long time to mature. Don't wait until the 2005 draft, the thinking went, because then the young quarterback would be more or less useless until 2006. With a good year of development, he will be more ready to hit the ground running -- and throwing -- in 2005. That's perfectly sound logic, although the price they paid to get Losman no doubt will be debated for years to come.

Here we are seven weeks into the season, and the No. 1 pick the Bills surrendered to Dallas looks like it might be a top-five pick in April. So if the Bills don't let Losman get every bit of experience he can acquire this year, then the argument could be made that they should have just waited and drafted a quarterback with their high pick in 2005.

Obviously, it's way too early to gauge what draft spot the Bills will earn for Dallas, what quarterbacks will be available at that spot and how those quarterbacks compare with Losman.

Nevertheless, it all adds up to getting Losman on the field to speed up his growth process. His progress already was slowed by the broken leg he suffered in preseason. Coach Mike Mularkey indicated this week Losman is at least two or three weeks away from being ready to get on the field. The Bills probably wouldn't want to throw him to the wolves at New England on Nov. 14.

But the St. Louis game at home on Nov. 21 might be a good time for his debut, no matter what happens on the field between now and then. ~
Legal but dirty

It probably won't happen, but the NFL should take a long look next offseason at adjusting the rule on cut blocking. There ought to be a way to outlaw the block Denver tackle George Foster put on Bengals defensive tackle Tony Williams on Monday night. Williams was blocked low by Foster and suffered a broken and dislocated ankle on the play. It was a legal block because Williams was not engaged with another Denver lineman, and it wasn't considered a "roll-up" block, where the contact is followed by blocker rolling up on the back of the legs of the defender. But it was unnecessary and was close to being a roll-up from behind.

Williams is the second player Denver has put out for the season with such tactics. The other was Jaguars end Paul Spicer.

Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher didn't like it.

"I saw the play and I would not condone it," Cowher said. "Is it illegal? No. Is it necessary? I don't think so, personally, having played the game. I know if I would have lost one of our players with that type of play, I would be very upset about it."

The "having played the game" reference could be viewed as a shot at Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who never played in the NFL.

Shanahan defended himself this week by showing the media some tapes of other teams employing cut blocks.

"That will be something the (NFL) competition committee will probably look at," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.

Dolphins' D-line

Miami defensive tackle Tim Bowens is out for the season with a herniated disc in his back and has told some teammates that he might retire, which would be a blow to the Fish. Bowens, 31, is a two-time Pro Bowler. The Dolphins' defensive line has fallen apart. The other starting defensive tackle, Larry Chester (knee), is out for the year. End Adewale Ogunleye was dealt to Chicago.

Ride 'em Cowboy

Part of Dallas' defensive struggles stem from second-year cornerback Terence Newman, who isn't playing up to expectations. When the Cowboys' season began, Newman was supposedly the only sure thing at cornerback. But the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft has become the player opponents have targeted most for big plays. He has one interception, two pass deflections and has been beaten for six touchdown passes. Last season, Newman led the Cowboys with four interceptions, earned All-Rookie honors and was a Pro Bowl alternate.

"I haven't played particularly well," Newman said. "I am supposed to one of the leaders in the secondary. It's frustrating. You've got guys depending on you. I feel like I let them down. It's depressing."


ABC's John Madden on how long he wants to be in the booth: "Forever. There's no heavy lifting here. I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I went from a player to a coach to a broadcaster. I've been at recess my whole life. I never had to work."

Player to Watch

Steelers S Troy Polamalu, No. 43

Data: 5-10, 212; first-round pick in 2003

Scouting report: The former USC Trojan is having a good year at strong safety, with two interceptions. His 26-yard return for a TD clinched Pittsburgh's win over Cincinnati. He was the 16th overall pick last year and is a ferocious hitter. Polamalu will be tested in run support today by the Patriots' Corey Dillon.

Onside kicks

Priest Holmes (690) and Curtis Martin (683) rank first and second in rushing. Martin began the season at 31, Holmes at 30. They are trying to become the second back since Marion Motley in 1950 to begin the season at least 30 years old and lead the league in rushing. Motley had 810 yards for the Browns in 1950 when he was 30. If Holmes or Martin finishes on top, he will become the oldest rushing leader in NFL history. Walter Payton gained 1,684 yards as a 30-year-old in 1984 but did not lead the league.

Dolphins receiver David Boston, rehabilitating a knee injury in Vermont, found time to knock out a 59-year-old gate agent at Burlington International Airport last week. According to three witnesses, Boston, late for a departing flight, tried to sneak past attendant Ed Gorchinski, then punched him in the face. Boston has a court appearance Dec. 7.

The Arena Football League's Grand Rapids Rampage is trying to wipe out the memory of last season, when it won only one game. So the franchise sent out rolls of toilet paper to its season-ticket holders with "1 and 15" printed on each sheet. The message: It's time to put last season behind us.

Why did the Jaguars sign ex-Bills camper Jason Gildon this week? They're without six of the defensive linemen they brought to training camp -- two were cut and four are hurt.

Road teams are 47-55, a .461 winning percentage that for an entire season would rank fourth since the league's 1970 merger. The last time visitors were this successful was 1986, when they went 104-118-2, or .469.

In Green Bay's victory over Dallas, Ahman Green joined Bo Jackson as the only backs in history with two touchdown runs of at least 90 yards.

To best take advantage of their most popular home game of the season -- and to keep a flood of silver-and-black clad fans away from Qualcomm Stadium -- the Chargers put special rules in place for today's game against the Raiders. Tickets could only be purchased in combination with an equal number of tickets purchased to one or more other games.

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