Bills moving forward as LT Peters' holdout approaches Week 1

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Lee Evans won't discount how much Buffalo' offense misses Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters now that his contract holdout might extend into the regular season.

At the same time, the star receiver understands there's nothing he or his teammates can do to resolve the situation other than prepare for their regular-season opener against Seattle next weekend without him.

"It's definitely a hit to our team. To say that he's not missed would be ridiculous to say," Evans said Sunday, after the Bills held their first practice after establishing their regular-season roster. "But there's nothing we can do about it now. We can't sit here and wish and wait and hope and all that. All we can do is play ball. And we've got to play ball with the guys that are out there."

Peters' holdout entered a new level on Sunday, as his continued absence raises questions about whether he intends to start missing regular-season games in an attempt to force the Bills to provide him a raise by renegotiating the final three years he has left on his contract.

Peters now stands to be fined more than $191,000 -- or one-seventeenth of his $3.25 million base salary this season -- for each week he misses. The Bills have already fined him about $550,000 for missing training camp, which opened July 25, as well as more than $8,600 for missing two mandatory minicamp sessions in June.

The Bills are demanding that Peters play under his current deal for this season before they will consider opening talks. Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon said last week that he has not had any contact with Peters this summer.

Peters has not spoken publicly about his dispute. His agents, Eugene Parker and Vincent Taylor, have ignored numerous phone and e-mail messages left with them by The Associated Press over the past five weeks.

Without Peters, the Bills have been forced to reshuffle an offensive line that found its chemistry last year, when it allowed 26 sacks, the fewest in a 16-game season since giving up 16 in 1981. As it stands, the Bills new lineup has right tackle Langston Walker moved to the left side and backup Kirk Chambers now starting on the right side.

"Whoever's in there, we have to prepare. I'm still optimistic," said left guard Derrick Dockery, one of the few Bills players who has stayed in touch with Peters through occasional text messages.

Dockery said he had no update on Peters' contract status. As for any indication of when Peters might report, Dockery would only say, "Hopefully soon."

Coach Dick Jauron has moved on, saying he's only reminded of Peters when reporters ask him about the player.

"I'll talk about the guys that are here. I can't do anything about that guy," Jauron said. "Clearly, we wish he had come in, wish he had been at our (minicamps) and with us. But he's not, so we'll leave it right there."

Even if Peters were to report this week, it's not certain he'd immediately fit right into the starting lineup.

Peters still must pass a physical after he had offseason surgery to repair a groin injury that forced him to miss the Bills season finale last year as well as the Pro Bowl in February. Peters also needs to learn a new offensive system that's been installed by first-year coordinator Turk Schonert.

Evans said he's not angry at Peters, and described the player's holdout as "an unfortunate situation."

"If the time comes where he comes back, then we'll welcome him back and move forward," Evans said. "Right now, he's not here, and we've got a football game to play in a week."

Notes: LBs John DiGiorgio (ribs) and Jon Corto (head) both missed practice Sunday after being hurt in Buffalo's preseason finale against Detroit on Thursday. Jauron said both should be available to play this weekend. ... Reserve OT Matt Murphy (partially torn left rotator cuff) is still up to three weeks away from being cleared to play, Jauron said. ... Reserve WR Justin Jenkins was excused from practice to be with his wife, Anita, who gave birth to their first child.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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