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Safety Wilson gets Payton man of year award

Safety George Wilson was named the team's 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year, the team announced Wednesday.

The award honors players who demonstrate outstanding balance in their lives between civic and professional responsibilities. It's the second time Wilson has won the honor. The first was in 2009.

"It's a great honor," Wilson said. "As my platform broadens because of football I just try to shine my light onto the communities that have done so much to help me be the man I am today."

Wilson this year received the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership Award, given annually to individuals across the country who improve the lives of people by providing opportunities to engage in sports or fitness programs. Wilson was one of only 38 people nationwide to get the award this year.

For the past six years, Wilson has been a spokesperson for the Bills Play 60 Campaign, which encourages children to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. He has interacted with thousands of children, encouraging them to engage in healthy lifestyles and helped introduce the program in a kickoff celebration for more than 2,700 students.

Wilson is one of the Bills who purchases 20 tickets to every home game and donates them to the Buffalo Public Schools. For the past three years, Wilson has served as a spokesperson for the American Red Cross blood drives at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He served as a spokesperson for the Buffalo Bills Kids Escaping Drugs Campaign this year, helping to raise more than $8,000. He mentored a group of 15 young men from a local community center in Buffalo. He was chosen as a national spokesperson for the United Way and participated in a five-day training session on literacy education in Washington, D.C.

Wilson also started the George Wilson S.A.F.E.T.Y. Foundation -- Saving Adolescents From Everyday Trials of Youth -- to help support his mission of serving young people in the community.

On the field, Wilson leads the Bills in interceptions with four and is second on the team in total tackles with 96. Wilson will receive $1,000 for the charity of his choice from NFL Charities and is eligible for the league-wide NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year honor.

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Maybe it's wishful thinking on his part, or maybe he's thinking too logically, but Bills receiver Stevie Johnson isn't thinking Sunday's season finale at New England will be his last game in a Buffalo uniform.

Johnson, whose contract is up at the end of February, admitted he considered the possibility that last week's game against Denver could have been his last at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"Since last week playing at The Ralph, I thought about it -- walking on the field, walking off the field, looking around, looking at the crowd," Johnson said Wednesday. "It was kind of crazy because it seemed like four years went by pretty fast, me playing only two years of it. Being in this city and how they adopted me, I thought about it. I don't think I'll be somewhere else next year. I'm still pretty sure I'll be here next year. But if not, it's a pretty crazy feeling."

The Bills have not been able to reach a contract extension with Johnson. If no deal is reached by February, they still could keep him in the fold for 2012 by using a franchise tag on him. However, that will be expensive -- roughly $9.5 million.

Johnson said his viewpoint is not based on any progress in contract talks. Why does he think he will be back? "I don't know," he said. "I just feel like being here four years and with the coaches that I have here, with the players, with Fitz signing his deal, you would think you'd have the one-two punch. When Fitz came on, I came on. So you would think they would keep it together."

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The Bills had some good news on the injury front in regard to guard Kraig Urbik, who hurt his knee in Saturday's win over Denver. Urbik has damage to his meniscus, or cartilage, but did not have ligament damage. He's not looking at a significant rehabilitation.

The Patriots will do some shuffling on the offensive line for Sunday's game against Buffalo. Star guard Logan Mankins is expected to be out with a knee injury. He did not practice Wednesday. Donald Thomas, a former Dolphin who hadn't started a game since 2009 before Saturday, likely will take Mankins' spot. Left tackle Matt Light missed last week's game with an ankle injury suffered in pregame warm-ups. He was limited in practice. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer did not practice due to back and foot injuries. Vollmer has been injured for long stretches of the season. He has played in only six games.

Rookie first-round draft pick Nate Solder has seen extensive action at tackle all year. He would fill in for Light. If both Light and Vollmer can't play, then rookie fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon would get pressed into service on the right side. He played part of the Denver game two weeks ago and all of the Miami game last Saturday.

Despite the patchwork line, Pats QB Tom Brady still passed for 304 yards in the 27-24 win over the Dolphins. Brady also missed practice today, but his absence was listed as not football related. Brady landed hard on his non-throwing shoulder in Saturday's game and was favoring it afterward.

Other Pats starters who were limited in practice included: WRs Wes Welker and Deion Branch, C Dan Connolly, G Brian Waters, LBs Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes, CBs Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington and safeties Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo.

For Buffalo, receiver Brad Smith sat out with a sore hamstring.

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The Bills signed kicker Brandon Coutu to the 53-man roster and placed Dave Rayner on the injured reserve list. Coutu (pronounced Ca-TWO) entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2008. He spent all of that season on the Seattle roster but was inactive every game. He was on the Jacksonville practice squad this year before being released Dec. 17.

Bills coach Chan Gailey said uncertainty over Rayner's sore groin prompted the move. Rayner missed two field goals then made four against Denver.

"He came up sore again Monday and he's not sure he can be 100 percent," Gailey said of Rayner. "And you can't take a chance when you walk out there if it's one kick and done on a cold day or something like that, you can't afford to have that so that's why we had to make the move."

Bills linebacker Chris Kelsay had three sacks in the win over Denver Saturday after a scoring change by the NFL. Kelsay's hit on Tim Tebow that resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown by Spencer Johnson was changed. It was ruled a sack and a forced fumble. Johnson gets credit for returning the fumble recovery for a score.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com