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Healthy Gandy ready for Sweet 16th start

When he was released by the Chicago Bears last season, left tackle Mike Gandy had the uncomplimentary reputation of a player who couldn't stay healthy. That hasn't been an issue this season with the Buffalo Bills.
Gandy will start his 16th consecutive game on Sunday in the Bills' regular season finale against the New York Jets. In fact, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Gandy hasn't appeared on an injury report or missed a snap in practice this season.

"This year shows that's a fluke statement, whoever said it," Gandy said on Thursday. "I don't look at anything as unfair, it is what it is. I played this whole year without any problems, I haven't missed any practices, any reps in the game or any plays or anything. It's hard to stay in there because you get banged up so much, but I've been fortunate and lucky this year."

Gandy endured a roller-coaster stay during his time in Chicago.

The Bears drafted Gandy out of Notre Dame in the third round in 2001, but he was inactive for every game. During training camp in 2002, Gandy's name surfaced in trade talks when the Washington Redskins had trouble signing rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey. Gandy showed some promise at tackle, but was inconsistent and never truly settled into a role before he was released by Chicago in a salary cap savings move in November 2004.

Gandy was signed to the Bills as a "street free agent" because he was not on any team's roster at the end of the season. He started 30 games for the Bears the last three seasons, including five games the first half of the 2004 season at left guard but was hampered by a hamstring injury.

"He's a tough guy, and he just fought through it," said Bills left guard Bennie Anderson. "He wasn't always healthy, but he didn't miss any time."

Clearly Gandy is having a Lazarus moment, but it's also obvious that the Bills need to upgrade the offensive line. Finding a top notch left tackle is an offseason priority.

The Bills will pick between the sixth and 14th slots overall in April's NFL draft. If the season ended today, they would have the 12th pick based on record and tiebreakers.

The draft is deep at offensive tackle starting with Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Cal's Ryan O'Callaghan, Boston College's Jeremy Trueblood and Auburn's Marcus McNeill. If the Bills find a top left tackle, that could leave Gandy competing for a spot at guard.

Gandy's signed through next season.

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Pro Bowl punter Brian Moorman gave away a few thoughtful, and posh, gifts to the Bills punt coverage unit.

He gave them high-end Movado and Tagheuer watches, which generally sell for more than $1,000.

"I've said a thousand times that I wouldn't be in the Pro Bowl without them," Moorman said. "It's something to remember the season by."

Said Bills long snapper Mike Schneck: "It was very generous. It was something he didn't really need to do. We all get paid to do the job, and that's all we should need. But to have a guy like Brian represent us really represents the whole special teams. He felt the need to do that and we really appreciate that."

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Jets coach Herman Edwards and his wife, Lia, flew on a private jet Tuesday to Tampa, Fla., where they attended the funeral of James Dungy, the son of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.

Edwards and Dungy have been friends since 1977 when they played in college all-star games together. Asked about receiving a dose of reality upon hearing the news of his best friend losing his son, Edwards said he doesn't allow football to cloud his view of life.

"You get a bit of reality, but I'm always involved in reality and I live my life that way," he said. "There is some perception in reality and the reality is the fact that at times you think you control everything and you really don't."

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There were no changes to the Bills injury report from Wednesday. Quarterback J.P. Losman (thigh) is probable and practiced, tackle Mike Williams (chest) is questionable and Coy Wire (hamstring) is out. Neither Williams nor Wire practiced.

Veteran Kelly Holcomb again took the snaps with the first team and will likely start because of the injury Losman suffered against the New England Patriots three weeks ago. For the Jets, safety Oliver Celestin (ankle) was downgraded from probable to questionable.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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