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Offseason distractions beginning to derail Bills' focus

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Not a word has been heard from Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, who has yet to show up three weeks into the Buffalo Bills' voluntary minicamps.

Backup quarterback J.P. Losman isn't speaking to reporters after his trade request wasn't granted this offseason. And then, of course, there's running back Marshawn Lynch, the principal suspect in a hit-and-run accident, who has yet to talk to investigators, never mind most anyone else.

If the Bills consider themselves ready to end an eight-year playoff drought this season, these are not the types of distractions they need, are they?

"Well, I think you know the answer to that: No," coach Dick Jauron said Friday. "None of us need distractions, although they make our lives very interesting."

Too interesting, perhaps.

Six weeks prior to the start of training camp, the Bills are coming off consecutive 7-9 finishes with a young and talented team that's regarded the chic pick to finally make headway this year.

There's a revamped defense and a restructured offense that's busy learning a new system being installed by first-year coordinator Turk Schonert.

Suddenly, all of that stands to be derailed by off-the-field issues.

Lynch's troubles have dominated the headlines since May 31. That's when his 2008 Porsche SUV sped off after it struck and injured a female pedestrian crossing an intersection near the city's downtown bar district.

Lynch isn't talking on the advice of his attorney. Besides issuing a "No comment," to The Associated Press this week, Lynch has also declined to cooperate with investigators.

That hasn't stopped Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark to call Lynch the "principal suspect," and allege that the player was inside the vehicle -- and presumably behind the wheel -- when the accident occurred.

When Lynch missed practice on Friday, Jauron was left to provide a cryptic explanation.

"It's a personal issue with him," Jauron said. "But it's not related in any way to the other issues that are occurring right now."

Peters' absence is another matter. The team hasn't provided a reason as to why Peters is the lone Bills player to have missed all 11 voluntary practices.

Peters hasn't spoken publicly, while Vincent L. Taylor, who's listed as the player's agent, has not returned numerous messages left by The AP.

One explanation might involve Peters' contract and whether he considers himself underpaid after being selected to the Pro Bowl last year.

Peters has three years left on his deal and scheduled to make a base salary of $3.25 million this season. But that's considered low for someone playing such a prominent position.

The Bills will only say they expect Peters to attend their three-day mandatory minicamp, which opens Wednesday.

Losman, at least, has attended most practices. But it's been difficult to determine his mood since his agent, Gary Wichard, requested a trade in January after Losman lost the starting job to Trent Edwards.

Previously outgoing and open with reporters, Losman hasn't spoken publicly since Nov. 25, when he lost the starting job for a second and final time last season following a 36-14 loss at Jacksonville.

Bills players say they're taking everything in stride.

"It's football, and things aren't going to pan out how you want them to pan out throughout the course of the offseason," tight end Robert Royal said. "But we're really not focused on that."

That doesn't explain the hiccoughs that took place during practice Thursday. The offense struggled in particular, with players jumping before the snap, lining up in the wrong places, receivers running poor routes and quarterbacks making poor throws.

Schonert, his voice echoing across the stadium, became so frustrated that he announced the offense would have to resume huddling after attempting to run a no-huddle attack.

"I don't know that annoying is the right word," Jauron said, referring to the offensive struggles. "You'd really like it to go perfectly all the time, but it's not always going to go perfectly."

He also could've been referring to the Bills' offseason.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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