Bills Back to Work Minus Couple of Starters

After enjoying the bye following a disappointing loss to the New York Giants in Week 6, the Bills returned to practice on Monday to begin preparations for their annual “home” game in Toronto against the Washington Redskins Sunday. But hopes that the time off would help linebacker Shawne Merriman’s right Achilles and left tackle Demetrius Bell’s shoulder ailment faded when the two were unable to participate in the workout.

Merriman tweaked his Achilles in practice the Thursday before the Giants game, and couldn’t play. At the time, Merriman said he didn’t think the injury was bad enough to keep him from missing a significant amount of time, but coach Chan Gailey said the Achilles isn’t making as much progress as everyone had thought.

“We’re going to try and continue to work with him and see where this goes,” Gailey said. “If we get to Wednesday or Thursday and things haven’t gotten a lot better, then we may have to rule him out for the weekend.”

The Bills were also hopeful that starting left tackle Demetrius Bell would be able to play against the Redskins after he missed the past two games because of a shoulder injury sustained against Cincinnati in Week 4. But Bell’s still not 100 percent, and likely won’t be ready.

“If we get him, that’s great,” Gailey said. “But we’re planning on him.”

Making matters worse is Bell’s replacement, rookie Chris Hairston, who has a right ankle injury that will keep him out for at least a couple more weeks. If Bell can’t play, starting left guard Andy Levitre will slide over to tackle, and backup Chad Rinehart will take over at left guard.

Levitre took some reps in training camp at left tackle, which should assist with the transition.

“They pay great dividends now,” Gailey said about the preseason snaps Levitre had at left tackle. “He got to work on a little technique, but the communication aspect of it helped greatly.”

Buffalo did get some good news regarding linebacker Chris Kelsay. The veteran has missed the past two games because of a calf injury, but was able to practice on Monday and could be ready to play against the Redskins.

Kelsay’s return should help bolster a Bills defense that has dropped to 31st in the league. They’ve allowed an average of 379 total yards, including 141 on the ground.

It doesn’t help that Buffalo’s best defensive lineman, Kyle Williams, continues to be sidelined because of a left foot injury. He missed the 27-24 loss to the Giants after aggravating the foot during a 31-24 win over Philadelphia in Week 5.

Williams acknowledged on Monday that he currently doesn’t have a timetable for his return, and added there’s a possibility that the injury may require offseason surgery.

“Obviously this isn’t what I want to be doing right now,” he said. “It’s one of those things. I’m disappointed that I can’t do anything about it.”

After coming up short against the Giants, the Bills (4-2) will look to rebound against a banged-up Washington (3-3) team that will be without starting running back Tim Hightower (torn ACL) and receiver Santana Moss (broken hand). The Redskins lost their second straight — and third in the last four — on Sunday with a 33-20 defeat at Carolina.

It will be the fourth regular season Bills game played in Toronto, with Buffalo yet to win north of the border.

The Bills, who remain a game behind first-place New England (5-1) in the AFC East, also made a roster move Monday, signing defensive tackle Jay Ross to the practice squad and releasing receiver Tim Toone.

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