Moulds In The Doghouse

The Buffalo Bills already have issues on offense, the last thing they need is a situation with their top playmaking receiver. Get inside for details on the situation which led up to the decision to suspend Moulds for the game against the New England Patriots.

Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Eric Moulds is in coach Mike Mularkey's doghouse.

When and if he gets out is up to what transpires during a meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon *(See below) involving Moulds, Mularkey, general manager Tom Donahoe and owner Ralph Wilson.

Moulds was benched for the second quarter of last Sunday's dramatic 24-23 loss at Miami and barely played in the second half after a verbal argument with receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. The Bills wound up blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter.

After the game, Mularkey said Moulds took himself out for some plays, something Moulds disputed. He said the coaches wanted to go with younger players and he questioned the play-calling, suggesting the Bills should've run the ball more and killed more time off the clock. The game turned when quarterback J.P. Losman threw an interception to Sam Madison on a first-and-goal pass at the Dolphins' 1-yard line late in the third quarter.

"I don't want to comment, I don't want to be a situation like T.O." said Moulds, referring to the embattled Philadelphia wide receiver who was suspended four games and will be deactivated for the Eagles' final five.

Moulds added: "We're out in spread formation trying to do some crazy stuff and turning the ball over and keeping the defense on the field for God knows how many minutes. You can't win games like that."
It's possible Moulds could be suspended for Sunday's home game against New England (7-5) - a loss would officially eliminate Buffalo (4-8) from the playoff picture - or longer. He also could be fined.

Mularkey met with Moulds on Monday evening and told the 10-year veteran and the club's second all-time leading receiver that his fate would be determined later in the week. Tuesday, the Bills phoned and told him not to report to the stadium until Thursday, when Wilson would be in town.

Mularkey refused comment on Wednesday but said contrary to numerous media reports, he never has used the word "suspension" in regards to Moulds.

"I would definitely talk to all the right people and make sure it was done correctly if that ever was the case," he said in regards to doling out suspensions.

Moulds, one of the club's most respected leaders, said he was shocked and confused over the developments.

He admitted to having an argument with Tolbert when Tolbert asked him to come out of the game during a particular situation to be replaced by Sam Aiken. But contrary to one report, Moulds did not refuse to go back into the game. He had a sore Achilles' tendon and told Tolbert he had to have a trainer check it out quickly. The situation deteriorated from there.

"I haven't had a problem with a coach since I've been here 10 years," Moulds told Buffalo television station WKBW. "If the coaches have a problem with me, that's fine, I'll take the suspension if that's the case. But at the same time, I've been loyal to this team and this community. And they've done the same to me.

"That's the most frustrating thing for me right now. I've been here for 10 years and I've never had a problem. And all of a sudden, there is a problem. I think it's frustrating for my family and the fans."

Since joining the Bills as a first-round pick in 1996 out of Mississippi State, Moulds has played for two general managers, four head coaches, six offensive coordinators and eight starting quarterbacks. Despite the constant upheaval, he's become the club's second all-time receiver with 648 catches and 8,791 yards, marks second only to Andre Reed (941 for 13,095).

Moulds holds single-season records for catches (100 in 2002 and 94 in 2000) and caught a pass in a record 121 consecutive games until last Sunday.

He spent Wednesday at home fielding calls from concerned teammates, who fear the popular Moulds will wind up his illustrious Bills career on the suspended list for essentially doing what many have done - lose his cool in the heat of battle. Moulds is expected to be a salary-cap casualty in March due to his $11 million cap figure.

"I would love to play Sunday," Moulds said. "If it's the last four games of my career here, I would love to finish those games. Like I said, it's out my control. The coaching staff ... I'll respect their decision, whatever it is. But I'd like to finish strong and be able to do the things I've done in the past. But it's not up to me."

Why Moulds is being made an example has confused many of his teammates.

"I have not seen him do anything to warrant a suspension," said Bills free safety Troy Vincent, president of the NFL Players Association, who dealt personally with the Owens situation.

Vincent said he didn't notice Moulds and Tolbert engaged in an argument during the Dolphins' loss but that arguments between players and coaches are common.

"You hope it never happens," Vincent said. "But we're in a professional arena and personalities flare up time to time. Again, nobody wins in this situation and at this point in the season when we're looking for a win, we need everybody. We can't afford to lose good football payers and Eric's not just an average player, he's (been) a great player ever since he's been in the NFL."

First-year starting quarterback J.P. Losman said he's a lot more at ease when Moulds is in the lineup.

"It's a comfort zone," said Losman, describing Moulds' presence in the lineup. "Anytime you get one-on-one over there (with Eric), it's a given. He's going to be open and it's going to be a completion, that's just the way it's been here for a long time."

Greg Johnson, Moulds' personal advisor, disputed a report that Moulds refused to go back into the game in Miami and was being disciplined for insubordination.

"It's not true. There was a play that they wanted him to go in, and he said, 'I will, but I tweaked my Achilles' and I wanted the trainer to look at it.' (Coach) Tolbert asked him but he never refused to go back in. It wasn't, 'Ah (the heck with it), I'm not going in.' Eric would never do that. That's crazy," Johnson said.

Like all elite receivers, Moulds wants the ball, Johnson said, but he's far from a cancer on the team.

"All I can say is, 'Let's see what happens,'" Johnson said. "But I truly believe it's going to blow over. Eric's obviously looking forward to meeting with Mr. Wilson and whoever else, because he's ready to get back out there and contribute."

*[Editor's Note: This report was filed before the meeting Moulds had with members of the Buffalo Bills organization on Thursday. The result of that meeting indicates that Moulds will only be suspended for one game, the matchup against the New England Patriots on December 11, 2005.]

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