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Palmer's knack for making plays earn him a reserve role

The NFL is full of players who for whatever reason didn't get drafted and yet were able to beat the odds and earn a roster spot.

Linebacker Ashlee Palmer wasn't sure if he would join that list. It was a long day and a half of waiting to hear if the Buffalo Bills would keep him.

"I couldn't sleep a wink on Friday," Palmer said. "It was very nerve-wracking."

Turns out, Palmer didn't need to worry after all. He not only made the team, he earned the backup spot behind weakside starter Kawika Mitchell.

"I just wanted to go out there and put something on film so they could have a good evaluation of myself," said Palmer, who joins the list of undrafted rookies who have made the Bills' opening-day roster in six of the last eight years. "I gave it all I've got, played hard and just tried to show them that I could be one of the players that they may want on their team."

Palmer, who played at Mississippi, immediately made an impression with the Bills' coaches in the rookie minicamp and organized team activities.

The 6-foot-1, 236-pounder continued his strong play during training camp and the preseason games.

"He's a really good athlete," said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "We saw athleticism, we saw size and speed. He learned the defense relatively quick. We saw him in the first preseason game and he was a hitter.

"I remember we had several situations where it was third down and short, and he came through and blew the fullback up and he loved it. When we sent him on pressures he had a knack for beating his blocker. So that jumped out at us, and we said, 'This kid's got something.' "

Palmer showed he has what it takes to make it in the NFL. His goal now is to show he has what it takes to stick around for a long time.

"Nothing is guaranteed in this league," he said. "I just have to keep working and keep improving to stay here."

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Call it a force of habit, but every time Fred Jackson walks into the locker room this week he looks and expected to see Marshawn Lynch. Or at least hear him.

"He's a guy who is always cracking a joke or giving somebody a hard time," Jackson said. "So it's definitely weird not having him in here."

Jackson is the interim starter while Lynch serves his three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. He's not allowed at the team facility during that period.

"We had a conversation about two days before he was supposed to be out of here, and he said it was going to hurt," Jackson said. "This is like your second family. Any time you have to be away that long it's going to be difficult. I'm sure it's tough for him, but he'll get through it.

"Not having Marshawn for these three games definitely leaves a void. But we have to hold it down until he gets back."

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Cornerback Drayton Florence (knee) and tight end Derek Fine (hamstring) didn't practice again on Friday. Bills coach Dick Jauron indicated that it is doubtful either player would be available for Monday night's game at New England.

Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson's chance of playing Monday is improving after practicing on a limited basis for the third straight day.

Among the key players on the Patriots' injury list are wide receiver Wes Welker (knee), cornerback Shawn Springs (knee), running back Sammy Morris (finger) and cornerback Terrence Wheatley (knee). All four were limited in practice Friday. Their status for Monday night remains uncertain.

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Wide receiver Lee Evans and punter Brian Moorman were named team captains for the fourth straight year Friday. Quarterback Trent Edwards was selected as a captain for the second year in a row. He and Evans will be the offensive representatives.

Moorman is joined on special teams by safety George Wilson, who was chosen last year as well. Linebackers Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell are the defensive captains. The Bills' captains were selected by a vote of the players.

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Veteran offensive tackle Jon Runyan met with the Bills on Friday, his agent confirmed. Runyan, who has started every game since 1997, is looking for a new team after he wasn't re-signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Runyan spent nine of his 13 seasons in Philadelphia.

The Bills are one of four teams reportedly interested in Runyan, who spent his entire career at right tackle. He worked out for the Eagles on Thursday. No team is expected to sign Runyan until Tuesday when his contract wouldn't be guaranteed through the season.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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