Demetrius Bell did not practice on Monday, but his back injury hasn't done much to dampen his prospects for his second NFL season. Bell was injured during practice last week just days after playing a series with the first unit at left tackle against Green Bay in place of veteran Langston Walker. Head coach Dick Jauron and his staff wanted to see how the up and coming lineman would fare against a talented Packers defensive front sparking some debate as to whether the second-year tackle could overtake Walker for the starting job.
Had Bell been healthy enough to play this past Saturday in Pittsburgh he would have again seen time with the first unit.
"We really liked the way he was coming (along)," said Jauron. "We wanted to see him work in there with our first unit in this last game and then planned to split time. We would like to see him get healthy quick so we can get him back out there playing."
When directly asked if Bell could be the team's starting left tackle for the opener Jauron didn't make it sound likely, but he didn't rule it out either.
"He was doing really well," said Jauron. "(He) lacks a lot of experience though. It's a tough one. It's a stretch to say he could be out there, but you never say that he couldn't."
As far as Walker is concerned he seemed to be of the understanding that Bell's insertion into the starting lineup in the Green Bay game was in an effort to prepare the young tackle in the event that he has to spell Walker or Brad Butler in a regular season game.
"Demetrius is a good player and he's coming along and I think the coaches wanted to see how he would work in with the first team," said Walker. "God forbid if something happens to me he has to go in there, and that's what they're looking at."
That would seem to indicate that Bell has at the very least earned the swing tackle job previously manned by veteran Kirk Chambers. Bell says he has not been told anything about manning a starting role permanently.
"No, they haven't given me any indication you know? I really haven't worried about it," said Bell. "I've kind of let my play take care of it and on the back side of that they'll see and everything will take care of itself of where I should be or where they want me to be."
Bell has always been blessed with very good athleticism. It was just a matter of coaching up the former seventh-round pick on the techniques and nuances of the game and seeing how quick the lineman was able to put it all together. By the looks of his play this summer he's on the fast track.
And that has Bell anxious to get back on the practice field which could happen before Thursday's preseason finale.
"I've got full range of motion, good movement," said Bell. "The only thing is I'm just sore right now. I'm looking to come back around real quick. I can't say when, but I'm feeling pretty good."
"He's kind of day-to-day," said Jauron. "I was hoping that I would feel better about it. You can have big changes in a day, big swings so we're kind of hoping."
Bell strained the muscles around a couple of discs in his back on a run play in practice, and made it worse when he tried to stay on the field for the ensuing play. He wound up being carted to the locker room.
"I was running to the right and I felt it, but really didn't pay it any attention," said Bell after getting treatment Monday. "The next play was a pass and I sat down on the bull rush and I had to take the series off. The doctor said everything looks good. I feel pretty good."
And so does Buffalo's coaching staff when it comes to Bell's future.
"We like D. Bell," said Jauron. "We would have liked to see him in the last two exhibition games because I thought he played quite well in the previous one."
Bell sees the strides he's made in his game in just one short year, knowing at this time last year he was biting his nails.
"Last year I was fighting for a position on this team, and this year with the exception of the injury I would say I have a spot on this team," he said. "Last year I was nervous. This year I'm more comfortable. I know what to expect and I know where I'm headed."
Bell's destination is a starting job, and when that day comes is still to be determined. But thus far his play has made it clear that it's not a matter of if, but when.