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Shaq Lawson set to return, but not as the starter

Doug Whaley's comment that Shaq Lawson would start "off the bus" went up in smoke when the first-round pick needed an offseason shoulder surgery. But as Lawson returns to practice this week, it now appears he won't start at all – though that's a good problem for the Bills to have.

Coach Rex Ryan reiterated Monday that even though Lawson now is eligible to play after spending six weeks on the physically unable to perform list, he won't be starting when he returns to games. The outside linebacker position belongs firmly to Lorenzo Alexander, who leads the NFL with eight sacks.

"He’ll have an opportunity to get in there and play and hopefully [he] can spell Jerry [Hughes] and Lorenzo some in base situations and then probably contribute heavily on the sub team as well, our pass rush team," Ryan said, adding that it remains to be seen if he'll play Sunday against Miami.

"He has not had one day [of] NFL practice," Ryan said, "but we will see how he is. Then we will look at it as the week goes on to see if he will play. I thought initially, we waited this long for our first round pick, but we have to do the smart thing and what is best for the young man also."

Alexander, the oldest player on the team, is having a career year at age 33. He entered the season with only nine sacks in 12 years as a professional.

"I guess the big question right now would be, is he going to start in the Pro Bowl?" Ryan said last week when asked what would happen when Lawson returned. "Because that is how he’s playing.”

[RELATED: Lorenzo Alexander's journey from special teams ace to NFL sack leader]

Lawson was drafted 19th overall out of Clemson. He has been working out but hasn't been allowed to participate in an official practice yet. The Bills had Monday off after winning Sunday.

Ryan also said Monday the team's other two players who are eligible to return to practice this week, receivers Kolby Listenbee (hernia) and Marcus Easley (knee), aren't ready to practice yet.

Ryan had no update on the injury that took tight end Charles Clay out of Sunday's game. He also said there is no specific timetable on when he expects defensive tackle Marcell Dareus back from his hamstring injury.

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