Should Bills tell Spiller to give it a rest?

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
5:00
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A few weeks ago, Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller was asked to rate his frustration level after being injured in back-to-back games.

"It's a 10," Spiller said, without hesitation.

It's been that kind of season for Spiller, who was expected to receive a more significant workload in a revamped offensive scheme. Early on, Spiller struggled to develop consistency as a runner -- the result of trying to do too much on some plays, he said -- before the injuries hit.

First Spiller hurt his thigh, knocking him out of the Bills' loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 22. He returned the next week, helping his team gut out a home win over the Baltimore Ravens, but it came at a high cost. Spiller sprained his ankle in that Sept. 29 game, and the injury has lingered ever since.

"It's been one of those nagging things," coach Doug Marrone said Thursday.

That's been clear in each of the past two games, when Spiller's playing time has dipped considerably. He was able to grind out a 54-yard touchdown run in Cleveland and ran well at times against Cincinnati, but Spiller sat out practice Wednesday and has been noticeably gimpy when he's been on the field.

With another five games to go until their bye week -- the Bills have the latest possible off-week this season -- is there any thought to giving Spiller a game off to heal up?

"They want to be out there," Marrone said. "But if it's something where we see that it's not progressing, where it hasn't been better than the week before, that's obviously an option."

Breaking it down, there's a case to be made both for and against sitting Spiller:

Why the Bills should rest Spiller: Marrone admitted Thursday that the injury has gotten worse after Spiller has played, which has made it harder for Spiller's condition to improve on a week-to-week basis. Giving Spiller a week off, even at a critical point in the season, would double his time for recovery before his next game, helping to clear up the injury. With more than half of the season remaining, the possibility of Spiller contributing more down the stretch could outweigh the risk of not playing him now.

Why the Bills should play Spiller: At 2-4, the Bills are already in a tough spot to make the playoffs. Even injured, Spiller has proven to be an asset to the offense, and not having him against any of the Bills' next three opponents -- Miami, New Orleans, Kansas City -- would deal a blow to their chances of winning. Spiller not playing could also mean a heavier workload for Fred Jackson, who is dealing with his own injury. Losing Jackson, who is having a strong season, would be crushing. The Bills have the last month of the season to rest Spiller if they want, but the time to play him is now.

So what should the Bills do?

The expectation is that Spiller will be ready to play Sunday in Miami. But if this week of practice is any indication, the game plan with Spiller will be the same as in recent weeks: one play here, and one play there.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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