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Kyle Williams returns to Bills; Shawne Merriman close

Every year, we hear a lot of offseason optimism regarding Shawne Merriman's latest comeback. This year hasn't been any different.

We've heard a lot of positive reports about Merriman, but Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey seems to view anything they get from the linebacker as a bonus. After all, he's coming off shoulder and Achilles surgeries. Merriman was absent from the first day of the Bills' organized team activities Tuesday as he tried to receive medical clearance to get back on the field.

If everything goes well, Merriman could participate in some fashion by the end of the week. He has played more than five games in a season only once since 2007, and he has just five sacks since 2008. The Bills probably would cut him, but they gave him too much guaranteed money on a risky two-year contract last year.

A much bigger figure in Buffalo's defense in 2012 will be Kyle Williams. The underrated defensive tackle also is coming back from Achilles surgery and made a surprise return to individual work at practice Tuesday. He was expected to be out until July.

"It surprised me," Gailey said, via "They just said he can go out there and do some individual drills, and he did that. All the little fundamental things he can keep doing right now will help him in the long run, but we just don't want to push it too fast."

Adding Mario Williams was huge for the Bills' defense. Getting guys like Merriman and especially Williams healthy will be just as important.

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