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Bills players had voiced concerns about offense before switch

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With the start of the season a little over a week away, Alex Van Pelt can't help but feel both excited and a little nervous in taking over as the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator.

It might ease Van Pelt's mind knowing the team's offensive leaders are behind him after the Bills returned to practice Sunday, two days after Turk Schonert was abruptly fired.

Quarterback Trent Edwards and receiver Lee Evans both said they and other players had voiced their concerns about the offensive sputters this preseason to coach Dick Jauron, who ultimately made the decision to make the change.

"I don't think it was really about me. I think it was about the offense as a whole," Edwards said. "We had voiced some things with what direction it was going and where we needed to go. And I think that coach Jauron made the decision on what he felt the offense needed best."

Evans agreed, noting the preseason games showed a need to simplify a no-huddle attack Schonert had spent the entire offseason installing.

"I think everybody had concerns about it," Evans said. "I think the basis of it was that things weren't getting done the right way."

As for Van Pelt, Evans said the offense philosophy won't change much, but has the potential to be more productive.

"It'll be a different culture with him, so going into Monday night I'm going to be excited to play," Evans said, referring to the Bills opener at New England on Sept. 14.

That doesn't leave Van Pelt with much time.

"It's been hectic. It was a surprise, but we don't have time to dwell on it," Van Pelt said. "Yeah, I'm nervous. I don't think anybody in my position wouldn't be nervous, but also very excited."

The Bills' offense regressed as the preseason progressed by failing to score a touchdown in its final two games, a 17-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Aug. 29 and a 17-6 loss to Detroit on Thursday. The starters particularly struggled, generating 279 yards, 15 first downs and a field goal in 15 series over four games.

Overall, the Bills went 1-4 in the preseason and were outscored 75-12 in the first half.

Schonert told Buffalo's WIVB-TV on Friday that he and Jauron had clear philosophical differences over the no-huddle attack.

"He wants a Pop Warner offense. He limited me in formations and limited me in plays," Schonert was quoted as saying in a phone interview. "He's been on my back all offseason."

Van Pelt is no stranger to the no-huddle offense, even though he was entering only his second season as the Bills' quarterbacks coach. Van Pelt spent most of his nine NFL seasons as a Bills backup quarterback and became familiar with the no-huddle while playing behind Hall of Famer Jim Kelly in the mid-1990s.

"We want to be efficient no matter what we do, and I think the best way for us to do that is to make it easier for the players," he said. "And if that's simplifying it, and we're efficient, then that's effective."

Van Pelt, along with general manager Russ Brandon, Jauron and running backs coach Eric Studesville traveled to meet with Wilson at his home in suburban Detroit on Saturday.

Without going into detail, Jauron called it a "real good meeting," and a chance for Wilson to become more familiar with Van Pelt and Studesville, who is the team's run game coordinator.

Wilson hasn't been happy with the offense since last season, Schonert's first as coordinator. The owner expressed concern in December, when he elected to retain Jauron and his entire staff. Buffalo has finished 25th or worst in yards gained in each of the past six seasons.

Terrell Owens is on board with the switch, even though he's not familiar with Van Pelt, and has some catching up to do after missing the final four preseason games nursing a sprained toe.

"This is going to be a little bit of a transition for us," said Owens, who has resumed practicing. "We have to take accountability, we have to go out there and jell with one another and go out there and play."

Notes: DE Chris Kelsay was excused from practice after his daughter had surgery in Chicago. ... DT Spencer Johnson missed practice because of a bruised thigh. ... CB Drayton Florence could be cleared for practice as early as Wednesday after missing the past three weeks with a sprained knee.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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