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Spiller gets another opportunity to replace Jackson

The Sports Xchange

Forgive running back C.J. Spiller for sensing deja vu. Stepping in for an injured Fred Jackson, unfortunately for the Bills, is becoming routine.

Spiller will start against the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's home opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium and remain the team's main ball carrier for at least three weeks and maybe as long as six as Jackson recovers from a sprained right knee suffered against the New York Jets.

Last season, Jackson suffered a broken leg against Miami, thrusting Spiller into the No. 1 role for the final six games. The 2010 first-round pick didn't disappoint, as he finished with 561 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 107 carries, a fine 5.2 yards-per-carry average.

After Jackson went down in the second quarter on a tackle by Jets safety LaRon Landry, Spiller stepped in and rushed for a career-high 169 yards on just 14 carries, the lone bright spot in a 48-28 loss. That included a 56-yard touchdown burst.

"You just (have to) be ready," Spiller said. "You prepare just like you are going to be the starter. You never know what is going to happen on any play. We did not think Fred was going to get hurt on that play or in the first game, but if I had not prepared like I was going to be the guy then I would not have been ready. I prepared like I was going to be the guy. I was ready and I stepped in. That is pretty much my mindset since I began playing the game of football."

It was the most rushing yards by a Bills player since Jackson gained 212 against the Colts on Jan. 3, 2010.

While Jackson will not be shoved to the side when he regains his health, Spiller has a chance to perhaps secure the starting job on a permanent basis over the next month. With the passing game losing wide receiver David Nelson for the year with a torn ACL and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick coming off a three-interception performance against the Jets, the running game is expected to get extra attention with Spiller as the workhorse.

It's a chance for him to prove he can handle a 25-carry workload and make tough yards as well as big-play yards. At 5-11, 200 pounds, Spiller still isn't considered a No. 1 ball carrier in many critics' eyes.

"Well, he carried the load the last part of last season so that is nothing new for him," coach Chan Gailey said. "I think he will be able to handle that. His confidence level is high and our confidence in him is extremely high. I wish that was our biggest problem."

After laying an egg against the Jets, a division opponent, the Bills have put themselves in an early "must-win" situation against the Chiefs, who are coming off a 40-24 loss to Atlanta.

"We just have to come out and play like we are capable of," said Fitzpatrick, who is feeling support for him wane among the fan base. "There is a lot of disappointment in this locker room as well. The only thing you can do is correct your mistakes and get better. We still have a ton of confidence. We just have to go out there, win and play well. That corrects everything."

And Spiller just has to run well.

"I am still learning," he said. "You can never get complacent or say you just arrived and know everything. Every day I am trying to learn something new and figure out how I can better myself as a player and as a person. That is the beauty of playing the game.

"I think everybody in this building and hopefully my teammates knew what type of player I was. It was just the opportunity. Like I said, it was having a guy playing last year at an unbelievable level and we went with the hot hand. I do not think anybody was discouraged with the way I can play. Those guys they are on the practice field with me and see what I can do out there. From the outside, yeah they are probably going to have to say so but I never let those outside people affect me. Never did and never will. I just come to work every day and try to get better."

41st regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 22-17-1. Clubs met in last year's opener for both teams with the Bills winning a 41-7 laugher at Arrowhead.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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