Bills Notebook: Search continues

Coaches canned, Schobel to mull retirement decision, Incognito loves the snow, coaching search continues and much more...

--All of Dick Jauron's former assistant coaches, most whom are under contract through 2010, were given permission by the Bills to interview with other teams a day after the season ended with a win over Indianapolis.

Rather than keep his status unclear, respected special teams coach Bobby April exercised a clause in his contract, which had two years remaining, and terminated his association with the team "so that everyone else in the league would know where I stood."

April, 56, won't be without a job long. His special teams had an unprecedented run of success in Buffalo, ranking No. 1 in overall performance in 2004, 2005 and 2008 in rankings put out by the Dallas Morning News.

--P Brian Moorman added to his long list of team records by finishing the season with a net average of 40.2 yards. He's the first Bill to top the 40-yard mark.

"To be able to net 40 yards in Buffalo is a real accomplishment, not just for me, but the punt team and for Coach April," Moorman told buffalobills.com. "I think it's a testament to how well he prepares them and how much pride those guys take in special teams. So I thank them for making me look good."

--Buffalo's free agent list is out: Unrestricted free agents are DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, DB Todd Johnson, OL Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, OL Kendall Simmons, LB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, OL Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, S George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty; restricted free agents are TE Derek Schouman and OL Jonathan Scott; and exclusive rights free agents are LB Marcus Buggs, LB Jon Corto, OL Christian Gaddis, RB Justise Hairston, DB Cary Harris and TE Jonathan Stupar. Some unrestricted free agents will be restricted if a new labor deal isn't struck by March.

--DE Aaron Schobel reiterated his plans to return home to Texas and mull his future. He said he remains serious about the possibility of retiring after nine seasons and 78 career sacks, second all-time on the Bills.

"I've got to go home and figure out what I want to do, what's best for my family, best for me and best for the Bills," said Schobel, who will sit down with owner Ralph Wilson at some point.

Schobel has three school-age children and no longer wants to shuttle them between Texas and western New York. If he retires, the Bills will have to add finding a proven pass rusher to their long to-do list. Schobel led the Bills with 10 sacks after missing 11 games a year ago with a severe foot injury.

--Free agent guard Richie Incognito, who signed with the Bills late in the year after he was released by the St. Louis Rams, enjoyed playing in last Sunday's Snow Bowl at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills defeated the Indianapolis Colts 30-7 in a steady snowfall and minus 2-degree wind chill.

"That was my first snow game," said Incognito, who was used to playing in the Rams' home dome. "It's something you dream about as a kid. To have a physical performance like we did is very satisfying in that weather. That was awesome."

The Bills rushed for 248 yards with RB Fred Jackson gaining 212 on 33 carries to go over 1,000 for the season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nobody likes uncertainty but nobody is promised a job next year. You don't know who's going to be here, or what's going to happen. The best thing to do is take the offseason, get your mind clear, stay in shape ... We're going to do everything possible to get to where we need to go because our fans deserve more - and we deserve more." -- S Donte Whitner.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Bills officially interviewed their former defensive coordinator and interim head coach Perry Fewell for their head coach opening on Monday and team officials were scheduled to fly to Minneapolis on Thursday to speak with Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Minnesota head coach Brad Childress confirmed that Frazier would interview with the Bills in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Fewell, meanwhile, has interviews scheduled with the New York Giants and Chicago Bears for their defensive coordinator openings.

The Bills are scrambling to fit in interviews with coaching candidates whose window to speak with other teams closes next week by NFL rule when the divisional playoff round begins. Another possible candidate is San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

Off-limits this week since their teams are playing in the wild-card round but on Buffalo's radar are New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and Arizona assistant head coach Russ Grimm.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix has expressed that a coach with previous NFL head coaching experience has an advantage to being hired in his eyes. But that list isn't as star-studded as once thought with coaches such as John Fox in Carolina, Tom Coughlin with the Giants and Lovie Smith in Chicago holding on to their current posts.

Ex-Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who spoke with Buffalo's chief executive officer Russ Brandon several weeks ago, signed to coach Washington. Ex-Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher, meanwhile, reportedly met with Brandon and team owner Ralph Wilson but remains undecided about his future coaching desires.

Ex-Baltimore coach Brian Billick's name continues to be linked to Buffalo as well but Buffalo's interest appears lukewarm.

After failed experiments with Gregg Williams and Mike Mularkey in the recent past, Buffalo giving a current coordinator its head coaching post won't be a popular move with fans. One possibility is Marty Schottenheimer, a close associate of Nix from San Diego, being lured out of retirement. His son Brian would serve as offensive coordinator/assistant head coach then take over for his dad in one or two years.

TEAM NEEDS

Outside linebacker: The Bills not only finished 30th against the run, they had just one sack by an outside linebacker (backup Chris Draft) in 2009. In addition, starters Kawika Mitchell (knee) and Keith Ellison (quad) are coming off season-ending injuries.

Left tackle: Bills quarterbacks were sacked a league-high 46 times. Only Pro Bowler Jason Peters thinks trading Jason Peters to Philadelphia was a good idea.

Wide receiver: The Bills' passing offense ranked 30th and that was with Terrell Owens, who isn't expected to be re-signed. James Hardy, who came off ACL surgery, would be his heir apparent but remains unproven. And Josh Reed is a free agent.

MEDICAL WATCH: For one of the few times in the 2009 season, the Bills reported no injuries in their final game against the Colts. The team ended the season with a club-record 21 players on injured reserve. Two defensive players had surgeries late in the season and will be questionable for early offseason workouts. CB Terrence McGee had surgery to repair a damaged rotator cuff and is in a sling. Rookie FS Jairus Byrd underwent a procedure to fix a hernia in his groin area that bothered him since training camp.


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