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Nickels will prove their worth

The nickel cornerback position will be a matchup to watch when the Buffalo Bills play host to the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

The Bills lost nickel cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas for the season to a groin injury suffered in the win over Miami. Thomas has given the Bills strong veteran play on quick receivers in the middle of the field for the past two seasons. He was placed on the injured reserve list.

The Patriots have one of the best slot receivers in the league in Wes Welker, who ranks third in the NFL in receptions with 61.

The Bills probably will use Jerametrius Butler as Thomas' replacement. Butler, signed by Buffalo on Sept. 25, is a seventh-year veteran who has seen spot duty the past five games. He spent the past six years with St. Louis.

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The Bills also placed tight end Matt Murphy on the injured reserve list. The Bills now have 12 players on IR. Signed to the active roster were tight end Brad Cieslak, tight end Tim Massaquoi and offensive lineman Christian Gaddis. Cieslak spent the previous two seasons with the Bills. He was cut on Sept. 1. Massaquoi was a seventh-round pick of Tampa Bay last year. Gaddis was promoted from the practice squad. Fullback Jonathan Evans was signed to the practice squad.

Defensive end Aaron Schobel missed practice Wednesday due to illness. Tight end Robert Royal (concussion) also sat out.

Pats free safety Eugene Wilson, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, did not practice. Starting guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) was limited.

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The Bills announced about 4,000 tickets remain for the Miami game Dec. 9. About 5,000 remain for the Giants game Dec. 23.

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The Bills will host the annual Gift of Warmth Collection to benefit the Salvation Army prior to Sunday's game. Fans are encouraged to make cash donations or bring new, warm clothing items such as hats, scarves, and gloves. They will be collected at all stadium gates.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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