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Bills hand veteran center Hangartner a surprise pink slip

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The lack of experienced depth along the Buffalo Bills' offensive line grew even thinner after veteran center Geoff Hangartner was among the team's cuts in establishing its 53-player roster Saturday.

Hangartner was among 22 players released, four days after telling The Associated Press he had assurances from the Bills' coaching staff that he would make the team. He's a six-year NFL veteran who had lost his starting job at center to Eric Wood this offseason.

Bills coach Chan Gailey said he never provided Hangartner any assurances.

"I've never said that," Gailey said.

Hangartner wasn't available for comment. His agent, Eric Metz, declined comment except to say, "After 27 years of this, it's all about actions, not words."

The move was considered a surprise, especially after both Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix expressed concern about the line's lack of experience during training camp.

Hangartner was the Bills' most experienced and highest-paid lineman. He was scheduled to make $2.55 million this year and $5.35 million in base salary over the final two years of his contract.

The Billsopen the season at Kansas City on Sept. 11. They went 1-3 in the preseason in which their Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense was inconsistent. And they're coming off a 4-12 finish last season.

"Each individual decision is on its own merits," Gailey said. He added that the moves were made based on "knowledge, insight and opinion and what we feel is best for the opportunity to beat Kansas City and for the future of our football team."

The Bills also cut three more offensive linemen, second-year tackle Cordaro Howard, third-year guard Mansfield Wrotto and rookie center Michael Switzer. Second-year tackle Ed Wang (shoulder) was one of four players placed on the waived/injured list.

Those moves leave the team with three tackles, including fourth-round pick Chris Hairston, who's currently serving as the lone backup. Starting guard Andy Levitre also has experience playing the position.

Wang made headlines in becoming the first player with direct Chinese ancestry to be selected in the NFL draft last year, when the Bills chose him in the fifth round out of Virginia Tech. He missed much of last season with a thumb injury, then was sidelined for part of training camp last month with a shoulder injury.

Third-year safety Jon Corto (shoulder) also was waived/injured, and running back Bruce Hall was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Wide receiver Craig Davis failed to make the best of his second chance. A first-round pick in 2007, Davis had four unproductive seasons before being released by the San Diego Chargers this year and signing with the Bills early last month.

Davis was beaten out by Ruvell Martin, a fifth-year pro who had signed with the Bills 10 days earlier.

"First of all, he did a great job of picking up the offense quickly," Gailey said of Martin. "And he played well on special teams. It was a good combination to have coming in on short notice."

Cornerback Reggie Corner, a 2008 fourth-round pick, was among the players cut. His departure leaves the Bills with five cornerbacks, including two rookies: second-round pick Aaron Williams and seventh-rounder Justin Rogers.

Also cut was rookie defensive tackle Michael Jasper. At 6-foot-4 and 383 pounds, Jasper was considered a project after being selected with the second of the team's two seventh-round picks out of Bethel University.

Gailey described Jasper as "a viable candidate" to be placed on the Bills' practice squad should he go unclaimed on waivers.

Second-year tight end Shawn Nelson also was cut in a move that didn't come as a surprise. He has been hampered by an assortment of injuries and opened last season missing the first four games while serving an NFL-imposed suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He appeared in just five games last season before being placed on the reserve/injured non-football injury list as a result of migraines.

A fourth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi, Nelson then missed most of training camp last month with a leg injury.

Two rookie undrafted free agents made the Bills' roster: linebacker Robert Eddins (Ball State) and tight end Zack Pianalto (North Carolina). Eddins had a solid training camp, and Gailey said Pianalto showed enough potential despite being slowed by a hamstring injury.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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