He's only two weeks removed from a torn MCL suffered in Week 13 against Jacksonville, but starting center Eric Wood targeted playing in the final two games of the season all along. He may not have the final say, but after taking to the practice field Wednesday he has a shot to suit up Sunday in Miami.
"I want to come back this week and give us a little spark up front and see if I can't help our offense get back on track," said Wood Wednesday.
Since Wood has been out of the lineup the Bills have been forced to start undrafted rookie David Snow in the pivot. Snow has done his level best, but Wood is a difference maker up front for Buffalo. He's also one of the team's more notable emotional leaders on offense along with Fred Jackson, who is lost for the season ironically, with a sprained MCL.
Wood's desire to play this weekend is nothing new to head coach Chan Gailey.
"It doesn't surprise me," Gailey said. "He's a competitor, a great competitor. He's a fighter and it doesn't shock me at all that he wants to get back and try to help us finish this thing strong."
Buffalo's athletic training staff put Wood through the paces earlier this week to test his recovering knee, and he was encouraged by how it held up.
"We've been kind of working it the last few days and it felt good," Wood said. "It keeps feeling better and better so hopefully by Sunday it'll feel real good."
Some might express concern about the risk of Wood's long term health in a game that has no impact on Buffalo's postseason aspirations after the Bills were mathematically eliminated following their loss to Seattle last week. Wood maintains he can't make his injury any worse.
"I'm not going to risk further injury, but most people at this point in the season aren't at 100 percent. It may bother me a little bit," Wood said. "There's risk in injury every time you step on the football field and I don't think I'm putting myself at a greater risk by coming back this week if it feels good. I want to show this organization that even if I get dinged up I'm going to fight to come back no matter what."
Gailey made it clear however, that the team would not take an unnecessary risk with their starting center.
"If he's not healthy enough to do it then he won't play," Gailey said. "But if he's healthy enough we all know the quality of player that he is and you want him on the field."
From Wood's perspective you can understand his sentiment. In two of his first three seasons the center wound up on injured reserve. He didn't want that to happen a third time after his knee was caved in on a running play late in the win over Jacksonville. "I've always wanted to come back and play," he said. "I didn't want to go on I-R again and I told (general manager) Buddy (Nix) that immediately. I don't want to go on I-R and I don't want the season to end like that. At the time we had a chance of making the playoffs. At that point I thought being here, this is my fourth year, if we make the playoffs there's no way I want to be sitting on I-R. So I'm going to try to make it back this week and I know we're out of it, but there's still a lot to play for."