ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - The Buffalo Bills will have to continue their late-season playoff push with a limping leading receiver Stevie Johnson and a banged-up offensive line.
Starting center Eric Wood said Monday he expects to miss between two and four weeks with a partially torn ligament in his left knee. Coach Chan Gailey said starting right tackle Chris Hairston is unlikely to play against St. Louis on Sunday because of a deeply bruised right ankle.
As for Johnson, he's still experiencing tightness in his left hamstring. He's expected to miss practice time this week, though Johnson remains confident he can play through the injury.
I'm not worried too much,'' said Johnson, who has five touchdowns and leads the team with 55 catches and 705 yards.I know I'll be out there on Sunday, even if it was worse than what it is now.''
Johnson, who's also been bothered by a nagging groin injury, felt his hamstring stiffen after scoring on a 13-yard catch early in the third quarter in a 34-18 win over Jacksonville on Sunday.
Wood and Hairston were also hurt during the game.
On the bright side, No. 2 receiver Donald Jones is expected to return after being held out Sunday with a calf injury.
The Bills (5-7) remain on the fringes of the AFC playoff hunt in preparing to host the Rams (5-6-1).
The injuries to Wood and Hairston leave the Bills with one backup lineman, tackle Thomas Welch. The team is expected to sign another lineman before returning to practice on Wednesday.
Shortly after Gailey said the Bills were preparing to free up a roster spot to add a lineman, the team announced it had released veteran linebacker Kirk Morrison. The eighth-year player had proven to be the odd-man out after being listed inactive for all 12 games this season.
The Bills re-signed Morrison in March to provide them an experienced backup behind starter Nick Barnett. It was a disappointing finish to Morrison's two years in Buffalo. After spending five seasons as a starter in Oakland and one in Jacksonville, Morrison appeared in just 14 games - all as a backup - with the Bills.
Buffalo's re-shuffled offensive line will feature Sam Young taking over for Hairston, and right guard Kraig Urbik expected to shift to center. That means David Snow is expected to take over at right guard. Snow is an undrafted rookie out of Texas who opened this season on Buffalo's practice squad.
For Wood, the knee injury is the latest setback for the second of Buffalo's two 2009 first-round draft picks.
He missed the final seven games of last season after requiring surgery to repair a torn right knee ligament. Wood also missed the final six games of his rookie season after breaking two bones in his left leg.
Wood said he won't require surgery because the injury is to his MCL. And he hasn't ruled out the possibility of returning to play in the final two games of the season.
Wood was hurt with under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. He was blocking a Jaguars player, when defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey dived into his leg while attempting to tackle running back Fred Jackson.
Knowing that he was hurt, Wood was so frustrated by being injured yet again that he stayed in for one more play before alerting the trainers.
I was in disbelief,'' Wood said.I was in denial that I got hurt. So I just kept paying because I was like, `There's no way I'm staying down on this field. There's no way this is happening again.'''
He credited the knee brace he now wears as preventing what could have been a more serious injury.
Wood was relieved to know the injury wasn't major, because he wasn't looking forward to spending yet another long offseason recuperating as he did last year. Wood wasn't fully cleared for practice at the start of training camp, and was eventually eased in at center.
``It's just stupid stuff that keeps happening. I played 49 straight games in college and never got banged up,'' said Wood, who played at Louisville.
``Maybe my luck ran out then.''