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Bills WR Evans happier reeling in catches, not sharks

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -Speedy and sure-handed receiver Lee Evans finally encountered a catch he wanted no part of when he and his buddies reeled in a big one during a fishing expedition this offseason.

"It took about 45 minutes at least to bring it in," the Buffalo Bills star receiver recalled Thursday. "And when it got to the top, it was, 'Oh, yeah, that's a shark.' So I went up to the top of the boat and just watched."

The adventure, as fun as it might have been, was a reminder that Evans has no plans to give up his day job. Handling pigskins and battling cornerbacks for a living is one thing. Landing a 7-foot, 250-pound bull shark off the Florida coast is another.

"I watch the National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel all the time," he said. "But to actually be there, ah, man, it was scary."

Scary might also describe the numbers Evans put up in enjoying a breakout season last year.

Evans finished sixth in the league with 1,292 yards receiving, while scoring eight times. That included setting a franchise record with 265 yards receiving in a 24-21 win over Houston.

They were impressive numbers on an inconsistent offense that finished 30th in total yards gained. Evans, selected 13th overall in the 2004 draft following a stellar career at Wisconsin, was in his first season as the Bills' No. 1 receiver after they traded Eric Moulds to Houston.

"I certainly have high expectations for myself," Evans said. "But for us, for me especially, and I can speak for everybody to a man on the team: We want to win. We want to get to the playoffs."

That's a big goal for a team that hasn't made the postseason since 1999 and, coming off a 7-9 finish, faces numerous questions marks - particularly involving its young defense.

But Evans has had a way of inspiring the Bills before.

His big game against Houston marked a turning point for the Bills offense and came a week after Evans criticized the unit as a whole for being "awful."

Buffalo averaged 23 points over its final seven games, as opposed to 15.5 in its first nine. Evans scored six of his eight TDs over that span.

"He's fast. He's strong to the ball. He can catch all the balls - the hard ones, the easy ones," veteran Bills receiver Peerless Price said. "And there's his work ethic.

"That's what separates him. A lot of guys have the talent, but they don't have the work ethic to keep going."

Retelling his fish story, Evans pulled out his Blackberry to show off photos of the hooked shark as it rolled in the water just below the boat.

"Everybody was just in awe," he said.

It was long after the shark was hoisted into the boat that Evans finally got up the nerve to approach it.

"It would give a little twitch every now and again, but I touched it real quick," Evans said, motioning as if he put his hand over a flame.

Evans can't imagine facing anything scarier on the football field this season.

"No, I don't think there'll be anything like that," Evans said. "I think I've had my nerves shaken up pretty good now for a year."

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