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Report: Bills eye fight between Hangartner, Wood at center

Geoff Hangartner has started 28 games in the middle of Buffalo's offensive line over the past two seasons, but the veteran center now finds himself in a battle to keep his starting role at that spot with the emergence of Eric Wood.

When Hangartner went down with a sprained knee late last season, two-year veteran Eric Wood shifted over from his right-guard spot to start the final four games at center -- and turned heads within the organization.

"We think Eric Wood was the best center in the draft coming out," Bills general manager Buddy Nix told *The Buffalo News* at the Senior Bowl in January. "Obviously he wasn't (fully) healthy. But when he gets healthy, there's a good chance that's where he'll be. We'll just see. We'll play the best ones."

The Bills are enamored with the physicality of Wood, who fought his way back in 2010 from a severe leg fracture. They also treasure Hangartner's intelligent play -- he scored 47 out of 50 on the Wonderlic before the 2005 NFL Draft -- and he has brought consistency to a position long in flux for Buffalo.

Hangartner, who has appeared in 83 games for the Carolina Panthers and Bills in six seasons, plans to continue as the Bills' starter.

"That's my mind-set, yes," Hangartner told The News this week at the team's player-only workout in Elma, N.Y. "I haven't spoken with anybody about it. But that is my mind-set.

"I talked to (offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris) for a little bit. And (switching positions) never come up in our conversations. There's always speculation on this and that in the offseason. So we'll see how it shakes out."

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It's a nice problem to have for coach Chan Gailey, who relishes competition along the offensive line, knowing both will find a way into the lineup if they continue their solid play.

Hangartner this week also addressed the subject of players encountering serious financial problems during the NFL lockout, saying it was hardly indicative of a league-wide epidemic.

"I think you're just hearing more about the problem that guys have dealing with money in this league," Hangartner said Tuesday. "I don't think it's just a problem with the lockout. It's an underlying problem, regardless. I don't think a whole lot of guys have missed money at this point."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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