Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone doesn’t subscribe to the notion that using one of his team’s best offensive playmakers to return kicks presents a greater risk of injury.
That’s why running back C.J. Spiller will get the first crack at the job Sunday in the season opener against the Chicago Bears.
“What’s the risk? I look at it as how many guys have been injured returning the football compared to how many guys have been injured with the ball being handed off to them. I don’t look at it as a risk as maybe some people would,” Marrone said. “I can understand how maybe some people could see that because of the distance and the way some people are running down the field. … Again, I don’t look at it that way. As much as we can get our playmakers out there whether it be punt returns or kick return … whichever way we have to do it, we have to make sure we explore that.”
Marrone said he thinks Spiller can be a “20-touch” player. The coach was seemingly including returns in that number.
“I haven’t done it in a while, but I did it in the preseason. It felt good to get back out there,” Spiller said Thursday. “The biggest thing is to have ball security and to give the offense the best field possession if I have the opportunity. … I’ve done it before, so it’s nothing new to me. It’s just like second nature, really.”
Spiller has returned 50 kicks in his Bills career for 1,157 yards and one touchdown – a 95-yard return against New England in his rookie season of 2010. He hasn’t returned a kick since the 2011 season, but he’s not worried about rust.
“I’ve done it my whole career, so it’s not like stepping into something that’s brand new,” he said. “I feel comfortable feeling the ball, protecting it and trying to give us the best field position as possible.”
Like his coach, Spiller isn’t also worried bout the added risk of injury or exhaustion that comes with playing special teams.
“Not at all,” he said. “I do a great job of taking care of my body, getting in the cold tub and getting massages. I’m not really worried about wear and tear at all. I’m young. I’ve got a long while before I’ll have wear and tear.”
Running back Anthony Dixon and linebacker Brandon Spikes were both added to the Bills’ injury report Thursday. Dixon (hamstring) and Spikes (knee) both were hurt during practice, and participated on a limited basis.
“You always have to be concerned when that happens and they can’t finish,” Marrone said, speaking specifically of Dixon. “So yes, that’s a concern.”
Spikes left early in practice during positional drills, but returned after going through tests with head trainer Bud Carpenter on the sidelines.
Tight end Lee Smith (toe) did not practice. It would be a surprise if he played Sunday. Receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (groin) practiced fully.
Bears quarterback David Fales missed practice Thursday with a shoulder injury, while fullback Tony Fiammetta was limited for a second straight day with a hamstring injury.