Ralph C. Wilson Jr. restored some order to the ugliest week of the Buffalo Bills' season Thursday by backing his head coach and showing respect to his most tenured player.
The Bills' 87-year-old owner suspended receiver Eric Moulds for one game without pay after a half-hour meeting with the 10-year veteran. The decision will cost Moulds one game check of $93,750, based on his 2005 salary of $1.5 million.
Wilson wanted to see Moulds face to face before announcing a decision, and Moulds appreciated the chance to get a hearing with the owner.
But in the end, Wilson supported Mike Mularkey's decision to discipline Moulds for his actions on the sideline during Sunday's 24-23 loss in Miami.
Moulds took himself out of the game in the first half and said he had an argument with receivers coach Tyke Tolbert on the sideline. Mularkey was angered that Moulds took himself off and would not go back in the game when asked to do so. Moulds sat out the second quarter and a long stretch of the second half. Moulds' adviser said Moulds came out of the game due to pain in his Achilles tendon and that the disagreement was a misunderstanding.
While Wilson obviously sided with Mularkey's version of events, he portrayed the suspension as a compromise.
"We discussed the situation that happened on Sunday in Miami," Wilson said. "He gave me his side of the story. I also, of course, talked to coach Mularkey and got his side of the story. So I said, 'Eric, I'm like Solomon. I'm trying to cut the baby in half.' "
Wilson called Moulds "a friend" and noted that Moulds had not practiced this week and would not be ready to play Sunday against the New England Patriots.
"From there on, he's back and will play the final three games of the season, in which I hope we do better than we have so far in this season," Wilson said.
Wilson did not take any questions after making his statement, which came just minutes after the end of the meeting with Moulds.
Moulds said Wilson made him feel appreciated despite the discipline.
"The thing he told me is that he's in my corner and he appreciates everything that I've done over the past 10 years," Moulds said. "He said I'm one of the players that he knows goes out and plays every play. For him to say that, it meant more to me than anything."
Moulds leads the Bills in catches with 54 for 511 yards, but he has been frustrated by the state of the Bills' pass offense, which ranks 29th in the NFL.
Moulds has seen the ball less from J.P. Losman than he did from backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb. Moulds has 27 catches from each QB. Losman has started eight games, Holcomb four.
Moulds has been the target of 93 passes, according to STATS Inc., a sports information service. That's down 18 percent from last year. The Bills' passing numbers overall are down 13 percent.
Moulds, 32, has a year to go on a contract he renegotiated in February. However, the final three games of this season are certain to be his last as a Bill because his $11 million salary cap figure for 2006 is too high for the Bills to sustain.
Moulds is the second-leading receiver in Bills history with 648 catches for 8,791 yards. Both marks trail only Andre Reed.
Sam Aiken, who has three catches on the season, worked in Moulds' place in the starting lineup at practice Thursday.
Bills players maintained Thursday they are focusing on the Patriots, not the suspension distraction.
"It's just like when a player gets injured," said defensive tackle Sam Adams, who has butted heads with Mularkey the past month. "If he can't play, he can't play . . . so then everyone else has to rally.
"We have good young talent here that's getting the opportunity to play. They have to step up and show they can play."