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Bills CB Webster still in line to start despite latest injury

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -Jason Webster signed with the Buffalo Bills this spring with a reputation as a capable, if injury-prone, cornerback.

So much for getting off to a fresh start: Webster spent the past four days of training camp watching from the sideline while nursing a tight left hamstring.

"Initially, it was frustrating," Webster said Friday. "I want to be out on the field getting better at every opportunity."

The good news is that the Bills haven't expressed any hint of concern.

Coach Dick Jauron even gave him a major vote of confidence this week, saying Webster has all but won the starting job to play opposite Terrence McGee and help fill the hole left after the Bills lost star Nate Clements to free agency in March.

"I think he's going to be a hard player to unseat," Jauron said. "All the positions are open for challenge. But if he's healthy, I think he'll be very hard to knock out of there."

"That's big to hear," said Webster, who is being held out more as a precaution than anything else. "My focus right now is staying in it mentally while I can't do it physically. ... Injuries happen. And it's not what happens, but it's how you respond to it that's important."

Webster has been trying to show he's capable of responding for some time now.

Selected in the second round of the 2000 draft by San Francisco, Webster established himself as a regular starter and never missed a game during his first three seasons with the 49ers.

The past four seasons have been a different story. Webster has struggled with one injury after another - from his knee to his hamstring and groin - that have limited him to 38 of a possible 64 games.

It was enough that the Atlanta Falcons, who signed him to a six-year deal that included a $7 million bonus in 2004, lost patience and released him in May.

The Bills signed Webster to a one-year deal a few weeks later, confident he can overcome his injury-troubled past and fill an immediate hole in a defensive backfield that lacks experienced reserves.

Except for Kiwaukee Thomas, who is better suited to play in third-down and passing situations, the Bills other returning cornerbacks - Ashton Youboty and Jabari Greer - have yet to make their mark.

"We have a lot of confidence that Jason Webster can come in and be a solid player for us," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "I don't know if he can be special, a shutdown guy or this or that. But we know that we have a good player."

With 73 career starts, 29 more than McGee, Webster is the Bills' most experienced defensive back. He has 11 career interceptions, two more than McGee, and has also appeared in three playoff games.

Webster is also familiar with the Bills' defensive scheme, which is similar to the one he played in with San Francisco.

Besides injuries, the only other knock on him is lack of size. Webster is 5-foot-9, the same size as McGee, but about four inches shorter than the prototypical NFL cornerback that's required to out-muscle the NFL's elite receivers.

Bills receiver Lee Evans has been initially impressed with Webster's play and how he's provided leadership to a young unit.

"He's been able to settle everybody a little bit," Evans said. "Coming in, I didn't know him. I didn't know what to expect. He's certainly gained my respect."

Webster is keen on staying mentally focused and continuing to learn the defense while he's sidelined. That's a switch from before, when Webster acknowledged he would sulk or attempt to rush back after being hurt.

"I would kind of go in the tank a little bit," Webster said. "But I've kind of learned from my mistakes. I'm not focusing on the injury. I'm just focusing on what I can do."

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