ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills were back in town Thursday after breaking training camp in suburban Rochester, but they're still missing one key component: Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, whose contract holdout enters its fourth week.
Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon had nothing new to report after practice as the team prepares for its third preseason game, at Indianapolis on Sunday. Coach Dick Jauron said he's had no response in his attempts to reach the player. And Peters and his representatives aren't talking to reporters or, according to the Bills, team executives.
The only member of the Bills who's had any contact with Peters seems to be guard Derrick Dockery, who's exchanged regular text messages with the player.
"He's doing fine. He's doing well," Dockery said.
Based on his exchanges, Dockery said he believes Peters will report before the start of the season. Dockery, however, added, "That's me just being optimistic. Who knows? But I think he'll be back."
No one, though, is saying anything definitively in regards to Peters, who has three years left on his contract, but wants a new deal after earning his first Pro Bowl selection last year.
His whereabouts aren't even certain.
At Peters' home, about 5 miles from Ralph Wilson Stadium, there was a red pickup truck with Texas license plates and a van from a local cleaning service parked in the driveway Thursday. No one, however, answered the doorbell.
Peters hasn't commented publicly, and Brandon has said he hasn't spoken personally with the player since mid-January. His agents, Eugene Parker and Vincent Taylor, have ignored numerous messages left with them by phone and e-mail by The Associated Press.
Taylor has returned a phone call only once, in early June, to issue a "no comment," and acknowledge he's received the messages left with him.
The only thing clear is that Peters has missed 21 practices, 16 walkthroughs, two preseason games and 28 days in total since camp opened July 25. That translates to the Bills fining Peters more than $420,000 -- or about $15,000 for each day he's missed. And that doesn't include the $8,600 Peters was fined by the team for missing two mandatory minicamp practices in June.
The penalty becomes even steeper once the season begins, as Peters would be fined a percentage of his salary for each week he's absent.
Peters is scheduled to make a base salary of $3.25 million this season, considered low for a player at such a prominent position. He's currently Buffalo's third-highest paid offensive lineman, behind Dockery and right tackle Langston Walker.
The Bills are taking a hard-line approach, demanding that Peters play under his current contract this season before they consider negotiating a new deal.
Peters' absence has not gone unnoticed, and has had an effect on an offense that's learning a new system under first-year coordinator Turk Schonert, and a unit that finished 30th in the NFL in yards gained last season. Minus Peters, the Bills have been forced to move Walker to the left side. Meanwhile, former reserve Kirk Chambers has been promoted to a starting role in place of Walker on the right side.
The line worked effectively in a 24-21 win over Pittsburgh last week. The Trent Edwards-led first-string offense produced two touchdowns in two series, and the line allowed only one sack.
Coach Dick Jauron is pleased with his line's play, and particularly happy with how Walker has adjusted to his new position.
As for Peters, Jauron said that situation is out of his control.
"Certainly, I wish Jason was here. We all do. But I don't think about it a whole lot," Jauron said. "I was told by my mother a long time ago, 'Worry doesn't accomplish a whole lot.' You can waste a lot of time worrying about things that you have no control over. So there we are."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.