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Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 3-14

Posted by Chris Brown on March 14, 2014 – 3:54 pm

Free agency is in full swing with the Bills nailing down three new players in the early going. Stay close to for updates throughout free agency. For now let’s get to your questions from email at and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris,

Jim Schwartz is obviously a good good coach and the Bills Defense did some really good things last year under Mike Pettine. My question is how likely will Coach Schwartz try to “not fix what ain’t broke” and keep some/most of the good stuff from last year (even though they may not be his concepts) while adding his own flavor to improve thing that do need to be improved, like run defense for example?

Thanks in advance.
Grant Folkard

CB: In talking with coach Marrone about this during the offseason the way he’s explained it is Coach Schwartz is going to keep most of the terminology the same. The reason this isn’t a big burden for him is because he spent a couple of seasons as a defensive assistant under then Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. Mike Pettine also coached in Baltimore where the defensive system and terminology remained the same even after Marvin Lewis left to coach in Cincinnati. So a lot of the calls and checks will not only be the same, but sound the same.

As for the run defense Marrone is wholly confident that Schwartz, whose defenses have enjoyed tremendous success against the run, will dramatically improve the unit’s performance in this area as well as third down defense.


2 - Hey Chris, long time Bills fan.
Wondering if you could shed some light on a few things.

First with hiring a former head coach for D coordinator, what are the chances he stays longer than one season? Do you think this was something that was discussed in private between coach Marrone and Jim Schwartz? And if not how big of a problem would this be for Dough Marrone heading into his 3rd season.

Also with Todd Downing being a QBs coach, with out ever playing the position. Is this fair with all the pressure being put on EJ? I read that EJ really likes him but don’t we need experience there? Playing? To mentor EJ and the struggles that come along with being a QB..

Thanks Jacob

CB: I don’t know that anyone can predict how long a coordinator is going to remain in his current post in the NFL. There are too many variables at work like the number of head coaching vacancies at the end of the year, how effective Schwartz is in his first year here, how successful the team is and coach Schwartz’s own personal aspirations.

Coach Marrone can’t have that kind of talk with Schwartz because no coach in the NFL is going to hold an assistant back from an opportunity at a head coaching job. That’s just not the way it works.

When you hire quality people that’s the risk you run, but I’d rather have the quality coach that’s in demand.

As for Todd Downing he has played the quarterback position. I cannot find his college background, but he did play semi-pro ball in the Mid-America League for the Minnesota Maulers and won a league title there in 2002 as their quarterback. So the position is not foreign to him at all.

I’d like to think coach Marrone’s track record of hiring assistants in the short time he’s been the Bills head coach should tell you he’s not going to hire someone who is not qualified to help the player at the most important position on the field.


3 - Chris,

I’ve seen several posts in which you referenced the “12th Man”.  Does the team officially call its fans the 12th Man or is that just a personal reference?  I’m having a huge argument with some Seahawk fan coworkers about whether anyone besides the Seahawks is officially allowed to use that term.

Cliff Hogg

CB: The 12th Man was adopted by Bills fans long before the Seattle fans started using it. The first football outfit to coin the phrase however, was Texas A&M University. They’re credited with the first recorded use of the term in 1922 when coach Dana Bible was running out of players in the Dixie Classic against defending national champion Centre College. In the stands he noticed a student who tried out for the team, but did not make the varsity squad and promptly told him to suit up and be ready in case he was needed. The volunteer player, E. King Gill, ran to the locker room and suited up and got back out to the field. He never entered the game, but became known as the 12th man.

So the Aggies have got dibs on everybody, but concerning your argument the 12th Man was popularized in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In 1988 Bills fans set an all-time single-season NFL attendance record of 622,793. Fans were then honored as the ‘12th Man’ and inducted onto the Bills Wall of Fame in 1992.


4 – Hey Chris,

I ask you if Sammy Watkins, Jake Matthews, or Eric Ebron are there at nine which one helps EJ in his evolution more? Or do we go as we have in the past & pick up a O linemen later such as Z. Martin & go with a player like Mack if he is there seeing as the defense thing lingers.

Thanks !!
Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville

CB: I think going by the best on the board approach that the Bills usually take it would be hard for me to think that Ebron or Matthews will be rated higher than Watkins. Most experts see him as a top five talent and I have not heard the same consensus for Matthews and certainly not for Ebron, though he is a special talent.

I think any one of those three would be of great help to Manuel in different ways, but GM Doug Whaley will take the player that helps the team the most. And that likely involves Manuel to some degree, but that’s the all-encompassing view a general manager has to take.


5 - Morning Chris, Happy Friday!

I was wondering how the Bills go about setting up their needs in free agency and the draft.  I was wondering how much emphasis they put into the upcoming 2014 schedule? For instance, we will have to face guys like Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall, receiving corps from Green Bay and Denver.  Do they look at the defensive fronts, the AFC East is getting better defensively, not to mention teams like Houston and Detroit.  So basically how much does that affect their decision making when it comes to the importance of positions that are needed for the team?  Thanks for your hard work, and I hope you enjoyed Indy at the combine!

Go Bills! Jillian

CB: We did enjoy Indy very much. Glad you watched our coverage of the NFL combine. Your question is a good one. Typically opponents in a given year do not impact their decision making all that much in free agency and the draft. Teams like Chicago and Green Bay, which the Bills see only once every four years is not what you usually base your personnel decisions on.

That being said I do know that some moves are made with a team’s division opponents in mind. You’re facing those teams every season, twice a season and you have to beat them to win your division and get to the postseason. So the personnel make-up and strengths of teams like New England, the Jets and Miami could play a role in some decision making.

Again it’s not an overwhelming factor, but those teams are taken into consideration knowing they stand in the way of a playoff berth.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Williams confident ‘D’ won’t change much

Posted by Chris Brown on March 5, 2014 – 1:40 pm

He has yet to meet with new Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and under NFL rules he’s not allowed to talk scheme with coaches in the offseason, but Aaron Williams isn’t worried about their defensive system undergoing wholesale changes.

“I haven’t met with Coach Schwartz yet, but speaking with Donnie (Henderson) in the offseason and just checking up on him and seeing how he is doing, we haven’t talked any football yet, but I feel real confident that nothing major is going to change,” said Williams. “There might be a few things here and there, but I think team wise once we get all the pieces together we will be fine.”

Williams signed a multi-year contract extension Wednesday with Buffalo.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Gil Brandt: “Schwartz first choice in the draft”

Posted by johnmurphyshow on February 22, 2014 – 12:30 pm

Gil Brandt has been around the NFL for more than fifty years and he’s a familiar figure again this year at the NFL Scouting Combine.

And Brandt absolutely loves the Bills hiring of former Lions Coach Jim Schwartz as their new Defensive Coordinator.

“I think they got the first choice in the draft, really,” Brandt says. He was a guest Friday night on The John Murphy Show at the combine.

“I think Schwartz is really, really good,” he said. “I don’t know what happened (to him) in Detroit. But in Jim Schwartz they got not only a wonderful person but a really good football coach.”

There’s been some speculation that the Bills might overhaul their defensive scheme next season as they transition from Mike Pettine’s defense to Schwartz”s. Not a problem, according to Brandt.

“I would think that Jim is going to try to do things that are best for players,” he told host John Murphy. “I don’t think he’s stuck on a system, I think he’s stuck on what can my players do best. I talked to him the other day and he’s really excited about it. A lot of times when guys get fired they go into a funk for awhile. He was just the opposite.”

For more Combine coverage presented by NAPA Auto Parts, click here.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz & Henderson combo solid for ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on February 21, 2014 – 12:41 pm

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore and had Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as a defensive assistant and Bills secondary coach Donnie Henderson as his secondary coach as well. He believes the combination of the two on Buffalo’s defense will do a lot to raise their overall performance to an even greater level than where it was in 2013.

“Schwartzy is a tremendous mind with ideas and energy and obviously I think the world of him,” said Lewis. “He’s done a great job as a coordinator and a head coach and now he’s taking a step back to be a coordinator again.

“Donnie is a guy who I owe a lot to. He’s a tremendous secondary coach who does a great job with the players. He’ll be a great extension and great resource for Jimmy on how to attack and how to defend. And that’s what you want. When you’re in that coordinator’s chair you want a guy that can come in and help you with the plan and if you ask him a question he’s going to give you a creditable answer that you can rely on.”

Henderson has also been a defensive coordinator in the NFL, as well as Bills LBs coach Fred Pagac.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Johnson has done his coaching homework

Posted by Chris Brown on February 13, 2014 – 1:47 pm

It’s often an overused phrase with players when it’s said, ‘He’s a student of the game.’ Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson however, exemplified that during his 13 years as a player in the NFL and has done for the past decade and a half as a coach.

Johnson, whose dream was to be a legendary high school coach at his alma mater in Detroit (the school unfortunately closed), spent time as a player pulling advice and pointers about the game from some of the best who played in the modern era.

“I would take information that I got from professionals that I respected and I tried to pick the brains of a Ronnie Lott, the late Reggie White, Richard Dent, Everson Walls,” said Johnson. “I tried to pick the brains of those guys and I wanted to present it to high school kids as much as possible. It stemmed from a football camp I used to do back in Detroit.”

But with just a three-day football camp it allowed him to take that NFL wisdom only so far. Equipped with a lot of football lessons both experienced and learned, Johnson is not concerned in the least in learning the terminology of Buffalo’s defensive scheme under Jim Schwartz.

“I’m a very big fan of football and the history of football,” Johnson said. “So I have watched and studied and I’ve learned from a lot of older guys who played in the 60’s and 70’s to the present day. And how the game changed because some things you can’t change like, tackle the man with the football. To me it’s just a matter of semantics with different terminology and just applying it to myself. It’s not a totally different concept where I’m learning the game. I’m willing to match my wits with anybody as far as football.”

Johnson has also crossed paths with Schwartz before in the NFL. They were both with the Cleveland Browns for three seasons (1993-95). Johnson was playing for Bill Belichick and Schwartz was a scout with the club.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Pagac: Schwartz’s system won’t be hard to teach

Posted by Chris Brown on February 11, 2014 – 4:06 pm

The Bills introduced five new assistant coaches who were added to Doug Marrone’s staff on Tuesday including veteran linebackers coach Fred Pagac. Exposed to a lot of defensive systems in his 37-year coaching career, Pagac doesn’t foresee it being a long and drawn out effort to school up on the players on defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defensive system.

“Obviously we want to keep it where our players can learn it,” said Pagac. “I think that’s a key in any coaching situation whether you’re in it for a while or not. I think coach Schwartz will do a great job of setting up the defense. I can see the communication as we’re going through right now being similar to what they were last year so there should not be a lot of new teaching. The schemes are a little different to what they played a year ago. Really it’s not a bad situation to be in. I think the players will pick it up very easily.”



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Posted in Inside the Bills

Another thing Bulluck liked about Schwartz

Posted by Chris Brown on January 29, 2014 – 4:25 pm

As we profiled on today former All-Pro LB Keith Bulluck, who played 10 of his 11 NFL seasons under Jim Schwartz, likes a lot of things about Buffalo’s new defensive coordinator. There’s an additional part of the defensive play caller’s makeup that appeals to Bulluck and he believes will appeal to his new players as well.

“What I really liked about Schwartz was he was someone who took the blame,” said Bulluck. “There would be many times we would come to the sideline and he would tell us that he put us in a bad call. You don’t hear that from coaches a lot so as a player you have no choice but to respect that because you know he understands the game.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Schwartz back as a defensive coordinator. I’m only seen him as a head coach since he left Tennessee. Once he left Tennessee as our defensive coordinator, they haven’t played defense the same since he left.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz: What Bills fans can expect

Posted by Chris Brown on January 28, 2014 – 3:34 pm

In a one on one interview with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz he outlined what Bills fans can expect from him in terms of his approach, his priorities and his focus as the team’s new defensive play caller.

“I think that the number one thing is points (allowed) and I think that we’ll work real hard to keep points off the board,” Schwartz told “It’ll go to fundamentals. Good defenses are about good tacklers. We’ll work very hard on the fundamentals.

“Anybody that comes out to a training camp practice might see some drills they haven’t seen for a long time. We recognize that this is a fundamental game and we’re going to be an aggressive defense and we’re going to attack. There’s not a whole lot of reading that goes on. We’re going to try to dictate to the offense that by game plan they’re going to have a very difficult time doing. We’re going to work very hard to take an opponent’s best player or best attribute out of the game.”

You can watch the full one-on-one interview with coach Schwartz right here.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz excited about DBs as much as DL

Posted by Chris Brown on January 27, 2014 – 6:41 pm

While Bills new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz took notice of the talent on Buffalo’s defensive line just by watching last weekend’s Pro Bowl, he’s also excited about the talent that sits in the Bills defensive backfield.

“In order to win in the NFL you need your front office and organization to all be on the same page and that impressed me right away,” Schwartz told “After that it’s about players. Obviously the Bills have some good defensive players. They have some pieces in place that can fit very well in what we want to do. Not just up front. A lot of attention is paid to those guys up front, but I’ve been very impressed with the secondary also.

“You talk about guys like Jairus Byrd, Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin. Those are some top notch players and I really look forward to working with those guys.”

One thing Schwartz’s defenses lacked in Detroit was continuity in the secondary with a lot of player turnover each and every season. With Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin and Nickell Robey locked up for the next couple of years one can understand why Schwartz is encouraged by that talent he’s walking into his first season with in Buffalo.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

How Bills will fill coaching holes

Posted by Chris Brown on January 27, 2014 – 6:27 pm

With a few more assistants from Buffalo’s defensive staff expected to be heading to Cleveland under Mike Pettine, head coach Doug Marrone and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will be busy filling coaching holes in the coming days and weeks. But what kind of input will Schwartz have?

“This is coach Marrone’s team and he’ll be the determining factor in that, but we’re all in this together,” Schwartz told “It’s important not to just take the first choice, but to make sure we’ve got the right guy in all the positions. It’s no different than any other team. It’s hard to keep staffs together in the NFL. There is always going to be change whether a team is successful or not successful. There are a lot of people in those phases that fit better in some situations than others. I think that coach Marrone will work very hard to find the best guys for the spots that we do have.”

Buffalo is expecting to have openings at defensive line, linebackers and defensive quality control.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Aaron eager to meet new DC Schwartz

Posted by Chris Brown on January 27, 2014 – 11:50 am

It’ll be his fourth defensive coordinator in four years in the NFL, but Aaron Williams is nonetheless eager to meet his new defensive play caller in Jim Schwartz.

Making an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Williams maintained that he was looking forward to working with their new head man on the defensive side of the ball having a relative who played for Schwartz in Detroit.

“I’m super excited to meet him,” said Williams. “My cousin actually played for him, Chris Houston. I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him yet, but from what he’s told me he’s a great guy.

“You can’t really worry about how he is as a person. You really have to worry about how he is as a coach. I hope he’s a great guy, but when it’s time for the work he’s down to go to business and he has to understand that I’m ready to go and change this team around, the organization, this franchise and just come back and bring back what we had in the 90’s to today. We’re excited about getting this team back to the playoffs and give this city what it really wants. That’s just to get back to the playoffs and have a home game. It’d be exciting.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Report: Bills have deadline on LBs coach O’Neil

Posted by Chris Brown on January 26, 2014 – 10:12 pm

The Cleveland Browns are interested in interviewing Bills linebackers coach Jim O’Neil reportedly for their defensive coordinator post under Mike Pettine. Buffalo reportedly has until tomorrow to let Cleveland know if they’re going to get permission.

That according to’s Ian Rapaport, who also reported a potential replacement candidate for the Browns if O’Neil is not allowed to interview.

The Bills presumably want to let new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz speak with O’Neil to ascertain whether they can work together effectively on defense.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz values the numbers

Posted by Chris Brown on January 25, 2014 – 10:42 am

Bills new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would be the first to tell you that the numbers do not tell the whole story when it comes to football. At the same time however, he’s also smart enough to know they have a value in putting a coordinator or head coach in a better position to make intelligent decisions.

Armed with an economics degree from Georgetown, Schwartz has always been a numbers guy, but he has enough sense to know the proper place for advanced metrics in football.

A few years ago New York Times and now columnist Judy Battista wrote a story on Schwartz’s very successful Titans defense in 2008, which at the time was leading the league in points allowed. It’s a good peek into how prepared and meticulous Schwartz is when it comes to getting ready for an opponent. And how he applies advanced statistics to his preparation methods.

It started back when he was doing special projects as an unpaid college and pro scout under Bill Belichick when he was head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Schwartz’s findings showed that fumbles are a random occurrence and that there was no correlation between being a bad football team and fumbling. Belichick did not believe him.

Schwartz’s respect for analytics should fall right in line with those subscribed to by Bills head coach Doug Marrone.

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Belichick a big fan of Schwartz

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 9:25 pm

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave Jim Schwartz his first NFL job while he was head coach of the Cleveland Browns back in 1993. Schwartz had a jack-of-all-trades position that involved college and pro scouting while also being assigned with special projects by Belichick. The long time Patriots coach called Schwartz one of the most impressive young coaches he’s ever had working under him back in 2010 leading up to a game in which his Patriots were to square off against Schwartz’s Lions team.

Schwartz impressed Belichick with his ability to multi-task and think creatively in that first non-paying job with the Browns.

“He was very impressive. Jim’s a really smart guy. He can handle a lot of assignments. He can keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time,” Belichick told MLive back in 2010. “He can manage a lot of different things and know where he is on all of them and have the foresight to figure out if he’s doing something — if he’s not getting the results that I would be looking for — to come to me and say, ‘You know, I think we should look at this instead of that,’ or, ‘I know what you’re looking for, I don’t think this is going to quite get it, how about if we look at it this way or how about if we do it that way?’

“He’s a very creative guy. He got along great with everybody. He worked hard. He just was a tremendous asset to the program, and it doesn’t really surprise me that he’s done as well as he has.”

Belichick later helped Schwartz land an assistant job under Jeff Fisher with the Tennessee Titans back in 1999. A year later, Belichick wanted to hire him as an assistant for his New England staff, but Fisher wanted to hold onto Schwartz himself because he was expecting then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to land the Bills head coaching job, which he did. Schwartz then succeeded Williams in Tennessee as defensive coordinator.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz’s DC resume with Titans impressive

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 9:23 pm

Bills new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz served as a defensive coordinator for seven seasons with the Tennessee Titans (2001-2008). Over that span his unit’s numbers were very impressive in comparison to the rest of the league at the time.

Schwartz’s defenses over that eight-year span ranked in the top half of the league in the following categories.

5th in run defense – Titans gave up 103.5 rush yards a game (2001-2008)
6th in 3rd down defense – total conversion pct. allowed of 36.1%.
9th in interceptions – total of 138 in those eight years.
13th most turnovers – 230
13th in sacks – unit had 293 sacks.
14th in pass breakups – 642 PBUs

The run defense is what is most encouraging. Tennessee in 64 home games with Schwartz as defensive coordinator allowed just nine 100-yard rushers.

Knowing the Bills finished second in the league in INTs and in sacks this past season, one would expect similar success in those two categories, and with Schwartz’s strong run defense resume Buffalo’s run defense may finally move into the upper half of the league.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz says flexibility in defensive scheme

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 9:19 pm

Bills new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a reputation of being aligned with a 4-3 base front philosophy. While the majority of his defenses in his NFL coaching career have lined up this way he has always said there is flexibility in his system, and that he has employed its ability to morph and change in the past.

About a year ago’s Senior Writer Tim Twentyman outlined Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham’s willingness to adapt and change the defense to better fit the personnel they have on the field or to improve production in an area where it might be lacking.

Here’s the direct description of the approach by Schwartz and Cunningham as written by Twentyman.

Both Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said after the season that they aren’t married to any particular scheme and there’s always tweaking that goes on in the offseason.

“We evaluate every Monday after every single game. Adjustments we need to make, things we need to do better, things that work, things that didn’t work,” Schwartz said.

“You also do that on a yearly basis. Part of it is also tied into personnel that you have and you want your schemes to match your personnel. You have a general philosophy, but there’s some flexibility within that philosophy.”

What also needs to be understood is at this day and age of defensive football in the NFL most teams are in a nickel look more often than not with four players on the line of scrimmage, a pair of linebackers and five DBs. So the 3-4 and 4-3 debate doesn’t carry the significance it once did.

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Schwartz mum on QBs

Posted by Chris Brown on November 10, 2010 – 10:24 am

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz just finished addressing the WNY media in advance of Sunday’s game between the Bills and Lions and he chose to withhold the majority of the situation they’re facing at quarterback.

Matt Stafford left last week’s game against the Jets with a throwing shoulder injury that has been reported to be season ending. Schwartz refused to comment on that report and only stated the following.

“Hopefully it’ll clear up a little bit more after practice today and we’ll see what those guys are able to do and how they’re able to do it,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz is still unsure as to whether his backup QB Shaun Hill would be able to play coming off a broken forearm. He served as the team’s emergency QB last week behind 3rd stringer Drew Stanton, who played a series at the end of last week’s overtime loss to the Jets.

When asked specifically about Stafford’s throwing shoulder Schwartz repeated much of what he said on Monday.

“He wasn’t able to finish the game,” Schwartz said. “He was very sore. We’ve done tests. There’s no surgical option. We’ll try to get him back as soon as we can.”

Stafford is not expected to play, while Hill is a question mark. If neither can go it will be Stanton on Sunday.

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Lions vague on Stafford

Posted by Chris Brown on November 8, 2010 – 10:06 pm

The Detroit Lions weren’t revealing much when it came to the throwing shoulder injury of Matt Stafford on Monday.

Head coach Jim Schwartz would only say they’re not “talking surgical options” concerning Stafford’s re-injured throwing arm according to Stafford was in just his second game back for a third-degree AC joint separation in his throwing shoulder.

After being tackled around the ankles on a scramble he landed squarely on his shoulder and left the game.

“I’ve got to talk some more with these doctors and kind of figure out what they’re thinking,” said Stafford Monday on his Detroit radio show. “It’s kind of frustrating to be coming back and, two games later, be knocked out again. We’ll take it day by day and figure out what the plan is.”

Stafford’s chances do not sound good for Sunday’s game against the Bills, especially with this being the second injury to his throwing shoulder.

Schwartz is hoping his backup QB Shaun Hill is ready to return to the lineup now three weeks removed from breaking his forearm. He served as an emergency 3rd QB Sunday against the Jets while third stringer Drew Stanton got the start.

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Posted in Inside the Bills