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Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller is focused on hitting singles and doubles, to use a baseball analogy.
He learned after his rookie season he didn't need to try to hit a home run every play.
"Two years ago I was a rookie, I was still wet behind my ears," Spiller said Wednesday. "I learned a lot over the last couple years, learning this offense, being patient, trying to figure out how the defense is going to play me. I've taken the mind-set of anything between a 3- to an 8-yard gain is a great run."
"I think that was probably my biggest adjustment, just because of the success that I had on the college level, and I tried to translate it over," Spiller said. "Once I realized that, I think that kind of helped to my advantage."
The Bills are going to lean on Spiller to make plays big and small starting in Sunday's home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Two of the Bills' top four offensive weapons - Fred Jackson and David Nelson - are on the shelf with knee injuries. Nelson is out for the year. Jackson is out at least several weeks.
That makes Spiller the Bills' lone proven game-breaking weapon. The Bills know it. The Chiefs know it. Spiller is the man to stop in the wake of his 169-yard rushing effort against the Jets.
"He is a dynamic playmaker," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "He is a guy if he gets into open space he is pretty hard to bring down and pretty hard to catch up to. With C.J. the biggest thing is confidence. Last year he found that confidence at the end of the year after Fred went down and he became the man."
Spiller got his chance to be the full-time lead running back over the last six games of last season, after Jackson was lost for the year. Spiller produced 90.5 yards from scrimmage a game.
"So you could see in that game versus the Jets, the C.J. that was there at the end of last year with the swagger and all of that," Fitzpatrick said. "He is here to stay. He has gained that confidence. It is maybe something he did not have his first few years because of limited reps, getting his feet under him, mentally grasping the game or whatever it was. He has got it now and you have seen it the last six, seven games he has played."
Spiller, in his third season, said he's comfortable in the weekly routine of an NFL player.
"I went out to the practice field and had, I thought, probably one of my best weeks of preparation leading up to a game, and it paid off," he said. "It's very encouraging. At the same time I'm very disappointed in the loss. But it felt good to get out there and make some plays for the team, especially when you lose a guy like Fred."
With Jackson out, Spiller is clearly the most special element of the Bills' attack. He showed his 4.32-second 40-yard dash speed on a 56-yard run for a touchdown and a 49-yard gain against the Jets.
"There were even a couple more that we left on the field where he potentially could have had more touchdowns if we had made the right moves on offense," said Bills guard Andy Levitre. "It's great knowing that he can squeeze through little holes and he's got that burst where he can get in open space. It's hard for guys to catch him."
"If you look around the league and you see guys get those big runs like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, you see the guys blocking downfield, the guys that get unnoticed," Spiller said. "My guys did a great job of blocking downfield for me."
Spiller is motivated to keep hitting singles and doubles, and maybe a few homers, in the coming weeks.
"I watched some film on [Kansas City] a little bit Sunday night when I got home and then Monday and Tuesday," he said. "It's going to be tough. They were good against the run. It's going to be a tough challenge for us."

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com