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The Buffalo Bills sound resigned to being without one star running back Sunday when the New England Patriots come to town, but could be getting a different one back.
Fred Jackson on Monday gave himself a "70 to 75 percent chance" of playing in the divisional showdown after missing the Bills' last two games - both victories - with a sprained LCL in his right knee suffered in the season opener against the New York Jets.
"From the workout and the rehab [Monday] morning, it went extremely well. It looks like he's going to practice Wednesday and we'll see how he feels during the course of the week," coach Chan Gailey said. "I'm very optimistic."
As for C.J. Spiller - who leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 422 in Jackson's absence but suffered a left shoulder injury in Sunday's 24-14 win over the Cleveland Browns - the news was also positive.
"Maybe not as bad as originally thought," Gailey said. "[We're] not going to completely rule him out this week, but you know I think it's more of a chance that he won't [play against New England] than he will."
Gailey said Spiller has a "good chance" to be back after the New England game, when the Bills start a two-game West coast trip at San Francisco.
Spiller himself wasn't quite ready to rule out meeting the Patriots.
"I definitely want to get out there, but we also want to be smart about it," he said Monday night at the Eastern Hills Mall, where he was appearing as a guest on "The Fred Jackson Show" which airs live on WBBZ-TV.
"You can't rule that [playing] out yet, but I'm not going to rush it. The good thing is we got Fred coming back. We got our main leader coming back onto the field. So we definitely don't want to rush it. Do we want to be out there? Yes. We're going to plan for it, but if I'm not I'll just have to continue to get healthy."
Spiller said he was able to get a good night's rest Sunday, and woke up Monday feeling better than expected.
"It's a big improvement than what it was [Sunday]. Actually, I'm very surprised the movement that we have in it," he said. "I got the full range of motion, which is really weird when you have an injury like I do, but definitely [there has] been a lot of support and prayer from my immediate family and outside fans.
"Everybody thought it was worse than what it was. I'm just happy and very blessed that it wasn't [a serious injury]."
Asked whether he felt fortunate that both of his running backs have seemingly escaped serious long-term injuries - after both appeared they could be so - Gailey bristled.
"We've lost Fred and C.J., and you say we're catching a break?" he asked, before conceding, "They do look like they could have been [long-term injuries], and probably if [we] look at it that way, we probably are fortunate they aren't long term."
Jackson was given a rather wide range for his possible return, anywhere from three to eight weeks after he was hurt. While he maintained his goal was the New England game, that was viewed as rather sanguine.
Jackson, though, has worked diligently with team trainers since being hurt, and will test himself in practice this week.
"Those guys are doing a tremendous job in there with me. They're putting together a great regimen for me to go through that's not pushing me too hard and not holding me back. I've got to give them all the credit. They're seeing what can help me and what's making me better and it's allowing me to get back on the field a lot sooner that we thought.
"Hopefully, all goes well on Wednesday and Thursday and things are good for me."
The timing is nothing short of serendipitous for the Bills following Spiller's injury.
"You lose a guy like that, it definitely adds to wanting to get back out there and helping your team," Jackson said.
The final decision as to whether Jackson plays Sunday will be made in concert between he and the trainers.
"They're going to do their job in protecting me from myself as well," he said. "They'll evaluate me just like I'm evaluating myself, but at the end of the day, I think it'll have a lot to do with what I say. If I'm out there and I say, 'I feel fine' and I'm moving around fine, then I don't think they'll do anything to keep me from playing."
Jackson will wear a custom-made knee brace when he returns, one he settled on after trying "three or four" options provided by trainers. He'd prefer not to wear the brace, but is doing so to give himself his best chance to play.
"I just feel it's a game that we need to go out and play well and I need to be out there to play," he said.
If both he and Spiller can't, however, the job will fall to Tashard Choice. The fifth-year veteran carried 20 times for 91 yards in Sunday's win.
"Tashard stepped up and had a great game," Jackson said. "The type of team we have, guys are willing to step in and make plays when they're called upon."
Gailey reiterated his confidence in Choice on Monday, should the team need to call on him against New England.
"I'm not shocked, as I said [Sunday]. Everybody else seems to be, but I'm not," Gailey said. "I know what kind of player he is, I know what kind of competitor he is. He's great to have on our football team. I have a very high comfort level when he's in the ballgame."

News Sports Reporter Tim Graham contributed to this report.
email: jskurski@buffnews.com