The Buffalo Bills could be down a pair of starters Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Linebacker Manny Lawson and running back C.J. Spiller missed a second straight practice Thursday, putting their availability in doubt.
Lawson suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury on Wednesday afternoon, according to coach Doug Marrone.
“I really felt good, and then we had a setback,” Marrone said. “So it’s going to be a day-to-day thing. Not the best of news.”
As for Spiller, he insisted that he continues to make improvements with his sprained left ankle.
“I mean, there’s some things that I’m doing this week that I wasn’t able to do last week, so that’s always an encouraging sign. To me, I think that’s an improvement,” he said. “But I’m not the trainer. I can only tell them how my body is responding. From the way it’s responding, I think it has improved.”
Spiller insisted he and Marrone are on the same page regarding his injury.
“I have no problem with Coach Marrone. I think we have a great relationship,” he said. “He wants what’s best for me. He also wants what’s best for this team, and he’s going to make the right decision, and I’m going to back him. There’s definitely no feud, no miscommunication.”
Marrone said he appreciates Spiller’s mind-set in wanting to be on the field.
“He wants to go, but we’ve got to make good decisions,” the coach said. “At the end of the day, you guys see it. You guys are out there. You see it during the game and you see at practice. We’ve got to make a good decision. A tough decision.”
Spiller admitted that his injury is “not letting me perform at the best of my ability.”
“Everybody understands speed and quickness, that’s 98 percent of my game. If I’m not able to go out there and make a guy miss with my quickness, you know, it kind of works in their favor,” he said. “I think I can outrun a lot of guys with a bad ankle. Just the quickness and the cutting part is the hurdle I have to climb over.”
Quarterback EJ Manuel was the only other non-participant at Thursday’s practice. Running back Fred Jackson returned to practice on a limited basis, while defensive tackle Kyle Williams was a full participant after being rested Wednesday.
Saints star tight end Jimmy Graham did not practice for a second straight day Thursday because of a foot injury.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan (ankle) and right tackle Zach Strief (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis for New Orleans.
Bills safety Jim Leonhard will be returning to face his former team – sort of – Sunday.
Leonhard went to training camp with the Saints, but was released prior to the start of the regular season. He signed with the Bills on Sept. 2 after being cut Aug. 31.
“I really knew the situation when I was going in there,” Leonhard said. “They got some young guys that are talented, and those are the guys they went with. I’ve been around long enough to realize how some situations work out. I felt like I played well. I felt like I did everything I could. It just didn’t work out. I’ve got a lot of respect for that organization and the way they do things. There are tough decisions to make every single year. I feel like I made it a tough decision.”
The Saints drafted safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first round in April out of Texas. He starts along with fifth-year pro Malcolm Jenkins.
Leonhard said he’s tried to provide as much tactical support as possible to the Bills during the week.
“I think it can help out in certain circumstances, whether it’s just trying to get with the defensive backs and kind of giving them a little information on their receivers and tight ends,” he said. “Things like that can definitely be helpful. I’m trying to do whatever I can to give us any advantage with me having been down there.”
Leonhard has been a big contributor since returning to the Bills – the team he started his career with as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He’s appeared in all seven games this season, making four starts with 26 tackles and three interceptions.
“I just want to play,” he said of his opportunity in Buffalo after being cut by New Orleans. “To have an opportunity to do that here, you never take that for granted.”