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Tuna is new reason to detest Fish

I tried. But regrettably, my attempts to reach Bill Parcells were unsuccessful. The Big Tuna doesn't do interviews these days. You'd have better luck trying for a one-on-one with Osama Bin Laden.

Parcells is the Dolphins' executive vice president for football operations. It's a fancy way of saying that anyone in the operation who doesn't share Bill's football philosophy is escorted to the nearest exit.

The man is too far up the football food chain to chit-chat with the peons in the media. A team spokesman said Parcells leaves that drudgery to the coaches and players. Parcells never relished the process, anyway, except when he was bullying some beat writer to fall into line. But he's there, all right, overseeing the reconstruction of a once-great Miami franchise. As Giants coach, Parcells handed Buffalo its most painful loss in Super Bowl XXV. He ran the Patriots and the Jets. After an unremarkable run in Dallas, he's back to torment us anew.

Parcells has now run the show for all three of the Bills' current rivals in the AFC East. Buffalo is the only town in the division that hasn't been ennobled by the presence of football's bombastic genius. It's Hannibal Lecter, coming back for one more taste.

What better way to begin this three-week division caravan than by taking on Parcells' gutted and refurbished Fish this afternoon? People said the rivalry faded when Don Shula, Dan Marino and Bryan Cox moved on, giving Buffalo fans no object for their communal loathing.

But with the Bills on the rise and Parcells lifting the Dolphins off the mat, Buffalo fans might sense some of the old animosity beginning to stir.

"I think with Parcells being there, people might get back into it more," said Thurman Thomas, the Bills' Hall of Fame running back (and briefly, a Dolphin). "When you mention Parcells around here, you know what kind of words come out of people's mouths. There's some history there."

Thomas lives in Buffalo full time now, and spends time around the Bills. He said the rivalry isn't quite the same with the younger set. Forget the Marino era. Most of this group doesn't even remember Ricky Williams running for 228 yards here in 2002.

It would have helped, of course, if the games actually meant something. Neither team has played a playoff game since Miami lost a divisional playoff to the Ravens at the end of the '01 season.

"Yeah," Thomas said. "They have to be right up there in second place behind us. But I do know this. When I had dinner with Trent [Edwards] last Sunday, he said to me, 'I'm already thinking about Miami. That was two hours after game. But that's just him.' "

Rivalry or not, the Bills know the Dolphins are a different team this year. Parcells doesn't have to say a word. When you watch game film, you can hear his football voice, screaming off the screen. This is a Parcells team, an expression of his football vision.

"Oh, yeah," said defensive end Chris Kelsay. "You can tell. When you see Miami on film this year, you see a renewed sense of energy and work ethic and attitude. It's a completely different team, even in their mannerisms and the way they play."

"Physical," said left guard Derrick Dockery. "A very physical group. They want to come in and establish their standard of play, which is winning the line of scrimmage. We have our hands full."

Parcells made a quick statement by taking Jake Long, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound left tackle, with the first overall pick of the draft. A year earlier, the Dolphins had chosen Ted Ginn, an undersized wideout, with the ninth overall pick. A sizable difference, you must say.

The Dolphins traded for veteran nose tackle Jason Ferguson to help their run defense, which was last in the league in '07. They're now 12th against the run. They had their worst game of the season last week against the Ravens when Ferguson -- who is questionable for today with an oblique injury -- went out with an injury.

So it's not the same Miami team that went 1-15 a year ago. The Dolphins are 2-4, with wins over the Pats and Chargers, last year's AFC title game participants. With a bounce here or there, they could easily be 4-2.

Evidently, that was this week's theme from coach Dick Jauron. He said they could be 4-2. His players said it. In fact, tackle Langston Walker thought they actually were 4-2. The point is, they're acting as if Miami is breathing down their necks.

The Bills are 5-1, atop the division. It's like the start of a second season -- three games in a row against AFC East rivals. Today, Parcells; then the Jets and Brett Favre, followed by Bill Belichick's Patriots. Two dictators and a diva. A Mount Rushmore of NFL legends.

"We have an opportunity to control our own destiny," said safety Donte Whitner. "The last two years, we weren't able to do that. We were hoping that teams knocked off other teams. We don't want to depend on somebody else to get us where we want to go.

"Parcells, then Favre, then the Patriots," Whitner said with a smile. "You know, it's going to be fun. It's the National Football League, and every week is a big one. It definitely feels like that this year."

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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