Our guess: A Henry/Huntley combo

Richard Huntley could be the Bills' feature back this season. Or he could be a third-down back. Or he could be a special teams ace. Shawn Bryson could be here, or he could be gone. So we really don't know how they'll use any of the gaggle of running backs on their roster.


An educated guess would be that Travis Henry will continue to play the feature role, with Huntley as a third-down back and special teams player. That could cut into the playing time of Henry, Bryson and Sammy Morris, with one of them -- mostly likely trade-bait Bryson off the roster. And we haven't even said anything about Curtis Alexander, currently leading the NFL Europe League in yards from scrimmage and second in rushing.

Huntley, an unrestricted free agent who led the Carolina Panthers in rushing with 665 yards last season, became the latest addition to the already crowded backfield by agreeing to terms on a contract believed to be for one year at about $600,000.

When asked if Huntley's signing would make trading Bryson more likely, Bills president Tom Donahoe said, "Not really. Names come up in conversations, and most of it is just conversation."

Said Bryson, "I try not to focus in on that because I can't control it. Nobody has said anything to me about a trade. I just want a chance to play; that's all."

Huntley, 29, played for both Donahoe and Bills offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride when they were with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That included 1999, the best of Huntley's six NFL seasons (567 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry) until last year.

Said Gilbride, "He gives us another guy who can get time in a play-in, play-out role. Because Jerome Bettis was the starter and first- and second-down back in Pittsburgh, he became the third-down back, which is not really how we're projecting him here. We'll use him wherever he fits in the mix. And he can make contributions in the kicking game because he's a linebacker type who can make tackles."

Gilbride added that he expected an open competition for the starting running back job among the 5'11", 225-pound Huntley, Henry and Bryson. "I think it's always been that way. We'll let them compete," the coordinator said, "and when the pads come on in training camp, it will become clear who's the starter, who's the backup and who's the third-down back."

Henry left practice Wednesday after bruising a quadriceps muscle, but the injury was not considered serious.

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