AFC East Notes & Quotes

As the Dolphins prepare to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, we take a quick trip around the AFC East to see what's going on with the Patriots, Jets and Bills.

BUFFALO BILLS

The team's already shaky blocking situation got worse Thursday when the Bills placed veteran left guard Chris Villarrial and tight end Ryan Neufeld on the season-ending injured reserve list.

Villarrial, who missed one game with a chronic tendon injury in his left ankle, has played the past four games but has been far from 100 percent. He had to leave last week's loss at Indianapolis in the first half and did not return. He faces surgery.

Villarrial, who will be replaced in the starting lineup by second-year pro Duke Preston, started 39 of 41 possible games for Buffalo since signing as a free agent in 2004. He spent eight seasons with Chicago.

Villarrial, 33, has contemplated retirement in the recent past. He's one of Buffalo's most consistent performers and locker room leaders.

"It's too bad. He's really pushed that thing," said coach Dick Jauron, who coached Villarrial with the Bears. "He's played through it, he's played through the pain. It has restricted him. It has reduced his strength in there, and he's a very powerful guy, he's a very proud guy."

Neufeld, meanwhile, aggravated a foot condition in his heel against the Colts and also left the game early. Though listed third on the depth chart at tight end, the sixth-year pro has the unit's lone TD catch and is also a strong blocker and special teams player who will be missed.

The Bills are likely to promote Brad Cieslak from their practice squad before Sunday's game at Houston to take Neufeld's roster spot.

As far as the rest of the offensive line, Buffalo has three healthy backups in veteran Tutan Reyes and rookies Aaron Merz and Brad Butler.

With Preston now in the lineup, only one position on the line -- center Melvin Fowler -- has been untouched by change since the start of the season.

"It's never what you want to have happen, but it's what happens in our business," Jauron said of the injury rash. "We need to plug Duke in and go, and just move forward, and that's what we're going to do. Duke played most of the second half of this last game. He's got to step up and perform."

The Bills won't get any sympathy from a Houston team that is missing both starting offensive tackles, both starting defense tackles and its nickel cornerback.

BILLS NOTES

-- G Chris Villarrial, who has a tendon injury in his right ankle, was placed on injured reserve, a move that ends his season. The 11-year pro has started 39 of a possible 41 games for Buffalo.

-- TE Ryan Neufeld, a key blocker and special teams performer, has been lost for the season with a heel injury. He was placed on injured reserve Thursday.

-- G Duke Preston will start at right guard the rest of the season for an injured Chris Villarrial, who was placed on injured reserve.

-- WR Josh Reed, who bruised a kidney two weeks ago against Green Bay, will miss his second game on Sunday at Houston. Reed is improving, however, and resumed light work on his own on the field this week. He has yet to be cleared for contact, however.

-- RB Willis McGahee, who has three broken ribs, will miss his second start Sunday at Houston. McGahee is improving, coach Dick Jauron said, but he's far from being ready to resume practicing, even in non-contact drills. It's likely McGahee will be out several more weeks.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

The Patriots needed some depth at the quarterback position. The team had only carried two quarterbacks since the start of the season, but it added some insurance at that position by brining in veteran Vinny Testaverde earlier this week.

Testaverde, who recently turned 43, brings 20 years of NFL experience with him to New England. The Buccaneers selected him with the first overall pick in the 1987 NFL draft. Testaverde spent six years in Tampa Bay before moving on to Cleveland, where Bill Belichick was the head coach. The veteran also played for the Jets when Belichick was the assistant head coach, so this marks the third go-round between the two. Testaverde's two previous stints with Belichick give him a leg up on learning the Patriots' offensive system.

"He's been in our system before," Belichick said. "He knows our offense. He's played in it. I have a good background with Vinny. I know what kind of person he is, what kind of worker he is. I think he brings a lot of intangibles, and I think he brings good playing skill. He's big. Strong. He has a good arm. Like I said, he played in the system for three years at the Jets when Charlie (Weis) and I were down there with Bill (Parcells) in '97, '98 and '99."

The grizzled veteran played for the Jets in 2005, serving mainly as a backup. His one shining moment last season, however, did come in a Monday night meeting against the Patriots. In that game, Testaverde hit receiver Laveranues Coles for a 27-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter, setting an NFL record for most consecutive seasons throwing a touchdown pass with 19.

Testaverde -- who was drafted before Patriots No. 2 quarterback Matt Cassel reached the age of 5 -- signed with the Patriots because he still loves the game of football.

"I have no idea," Testaverde joked when asked why he came to New England. "I was playing some good golf. I guess I'm here because golf season is over and nothing else is going on in my life. But, all kidding aside, a lot of my friends and family asked me why I am still doing this, and the simple reason is because I still think I can go out on the field and be productive if need be. I can come in and hopefully help this team get to their goal. And I'm here because I love playing football. That's the bottom line."

While Testaverde may still love to play football, Belichick hopes he never has to take a snap as long as he's in New England. The Patriots coach told Testaverde that when the team signed him, and the veteran has no problems with his limited role.

"He told me he just wanted me to come in the game in an emergency situation," Testaverde said. "Obviously, you have Tom Brady as the starter and Matt Cassel, who is a young player who has a lot of ability. But hey, over the years as a player, if you understand your role, you have a better chance to be successful and help the team."

At first there were some questions as to why Testaverde was being brought in at this point in the season after the team went with only two quarterbacks for a majority of the year. There was speculation that Brady may be injured or the coaching staff lacked confidence in Cassel. Belichick immediately put those speculations to rest at his press conference the day after Testaverde was signed when he definitively explained the veteran's role with the Patriots.

"Did I say that?" Belichick replied when asked if Testaverde was brought in to compete with Cassel for the backup job. "Well, I'm not saying that. I didn't say it and don't even start that. He's an emergency quarterback. He's the third quarterback. He'll be inactive for every game as the third quarterback unless something happens to the other two guys. I don't know how I could possibly be any clearer about that. I don't think there's any need to ask that question six more times to get the same answer either. He's the third quarterback."

Testaverde came to New England for the same reasons Junior Seau did, to help the team win and finally chase down that elusive Super Bowl ring.

"I'm here to help in any way I can," he said. "If that's taking some snaps on the scout team and helping Matt out so that he can also better prepare himself with what he has to get done, that's fine. I just love being around football. I enjoy it. I feel like I can still do it, so I'm going to milk it to the very end. A Super Bowl ring would be great. There's no better place to have an opportunity like that than here in New England with the Patriots. It's a first-class organization."

PATRIOTS NOTES

-- DE Ty Warren (shoulder), CB Asante Samuel (knee) and S Eugene Wilson (hamstring) weren't dressed in their full practice gear, wearing sweatpants instead of game pants Thursday. That could be a sign they are limited in the things they can do at practice.

-- S Rodney Harrison was the lone player not present for the media-access portion of Thursday's practice. Harrison will miss his second consecutive game, as he's been listed as out on the Patriots injury report with a broken shoulder.

-- DL Ty Warren (shoulder) missed last week's game and is listed as questionable for Sunday's meeting with the Packers. Without him in the lineup, the Jets had success running the ball on the Patriots.

-- S Eugene Wilson (hamstring) has missed the past three games and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

-- CB Asante Samuel (knee) is a new addition to the Patriots injury report. He's listed as questionable for this week's game at Green Bay. The Patriots can't afford to be without their top cornerback against the Packers with an already injury-riddled defensive backfield traveling to take on the red hot Brett Favre.

-- Rookie TE David Thomas (groin) was added to the injury report on Thursday. Thomas is probable for this week's game.

NEW YORK JETS

After two games in 2006, Laveranues Coles was leading the NFL with 253 receiving yards. He accomplished that on only 14 catches, for an 18.1-yard average.

Since then, he has had only 382 yards on 37 receptions. That's a 10.3-yard average. Part of the reason that Coles' catches have been of the shorter variety is the fact that he has battling a calf injury that has limited him in practice until this week but hasn't kept him from starting.

The other major factor is quite simple, quarterback Chad Pennington noted.

Defenses "definitely are aware of Laveranues," Pennington said this week. "He has received more double coverage. So our opportunities to hit big plays haven't been as plentiful as in the beginning of the season. We had a chance to have two big plays Sunday (against New England), and we just didn't hit them."

Coles, who complained about not being on the field for enough plays after the Jets' 41-0 loss at Jacksonville on Oct. 8, hasn't said anything of that nature since. His health is improving, because on Wednesday he practiced fully for the first time since the Jets' last practice for the first meeting against New England on Sept. 17. If his calf has improved, so might his average very soon.

"When we get our opportunities," Pennington said, "both Laveranues and I, we have to take advantage of them, because we know they're going to be few and far between. If we hit at least one of those plays, he has another big game, probably close to 100 yards. So we have to continue to work on our chemistry.

"But at the same time, when they're doubling him, it's a good thing for us because our other playmakers have a great chance to make something happen."

Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets' No. 2 receiver, has 41 receptions for 531 yards, a 13.0 average. He has had 18 catches in the past three games, and his role should continue to expand.

JETS NOTES

-- WR Justin McCareins has only four receptions in the past seven games, but he did have three catches against New England last week.

-- WR/PR Tim Dwight (thigh) practiced on a limited basis Thursday and should be available Sunday.

-- WR Laveranues Coles (calf) is listed as probable after being listed as questionable for the past seven games. He practiced fully Thursday.

-- RB Cedric Houston (knee) practiced on a limited basis Thursday and is listed as questionable. Houston hasn't played since being injured against Indianapolis on Oct. 1.

-- FB B.J. Askew (foot) is listed as questionable, and he didn't practice fully Thursday.


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