He hasn't made a kick return for the Bills since 2011, but RB C.J. Spiller will be the lead man on kick returns this season. Buffalo's depth chart has Spiller is listed as the starting kick returner ahead of last year's starter .
Head coach Doug Marrone confirmed Wednesday that Spiller will be used on kick returns. He also dismissed any notion that it's a risk put one of his top backs out there as a return man.
"I look at it as how many guys have been injured returning the football compared to people injured with the ball being handed off to them," said Marrone. "I don't view it as much of a risk as some people would. I could understand why people could see that because of the distance and the way people are running down the field. But 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 kickoff returns we have to make sure we explore that."
Spiller was getting work on kick returns in practice since the spring OTAs with a handful of other candidates. He remained part of a regular rotation in training camp practices at St. John Fisher and even got an opportunity to return in the preseason game at Pittsburgh, which he took back for 42 yards.
It was the first kick return in a game for Spiller in his time with the Bills since Nov. 20, 2011 at Miami.
"You want to make sure the carburetor doesn't get too clogged up," said a smiling Spiller after that game. "We're dusting things off and making sure we have everything tuned up. I hadn't done it in a while so we just want to make sure that it's still there. It's like second nature because I've done it so much my whole career. It comes naturally to me."
Spiller was an exceptional kick returner in college at Clemson where he averaged almost 28 yards a return (27.7) and had seven returns for touchdowns.
In his Bills career he's had 50 kick returns for 1,157 yards and a touchdown, a 95-yarder against New England on Sept. 26th of his rookie season (2010).
It certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility to think there will be a game here or there this season where Spiller's workload on offense will likely keep him from pulling double duty on special teams, but going into the season he's the first option. After the kick return unit finished 29th in kick return average in 2013 it's not a shock that one of their most dynamic athletic talents was tabbed for the job.
Marrone went even so far to say that he sees Spiller as a 20-touch a game player, but he elaborated by indicating that doesn't just mean carries.
"I think with the right touches yes, I do," he said. "With the right touches yes and where they come from. Every which way you can get him the ball, (a guy) who is an explosive playmaker, yes (you do it)."
Spiller hasn't had a kick return in a regular season game since the kickoff line was moved up to the 35. He knows there might be games where he doesn't get a chance to even attempt a return with so many strong-legged kickers in the league. However, he believes there will be more and more chances later in the season when the weather turns colder and the ball doesn't carry as far.
"The good thing about us is once you get around November or December that wind won't let you carry too many to the back of the end zone," said Spiller. "But really I was just making sure I still had it."
Buffalo's coaching staff apparently believes he does.