The news sounded dire shortly after the Bills most recent loss to the Vikings Sunday. Initial prognoses on starting center Geoff Hangartner and center/guard Kraig Urbik were long term and potentially season ending knee injuries. That outlook was softened a bit by head coach Chan Gailey Monday.
"We won't have them this week at all for sure," said Gailey. "Probably a couple of weeks on both of them, but we've got a chance to have both of them maybe for the last couple of games. We're not sure. We're going to wait until Tuesday or the next day to really see."
Presumably swelling in the knees of both Hangartner and Urbik is preventing team physicians from making an accurate assessment on the severity of the injuries. Hangartner left in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Vikings.
He was replaced in the pivot by Kraig Urbik, who was already starting at right guard in place of the injured Eric Wood. Urbik also suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
Rookie Cordaro Howard, who has three starts at right tackle under his belt, replaced Urbik at right guard on Sunday when Urbik shifted inside to center to replace Hangartner.
The good news is Gailey anticipates having Eric Wood back in the lineup this week after missing two games with an ankle injury, but knowing he won't have Hangartner or Urbik will complicate the lineup up front.
"It's very difficult," he said. "You've got to work new groups in there. They went through this last year and that's no fun to try to create continuity in a situation where there is none. You can't do it in a short period of time, so we just have to work and do the best we can to patch together a group to go play."
Wood is the most likely option for the center spot moving forward, as he played almost his entire college career there.
"I think he is ready to come back and let us talk about that and see how we're going to put this whole thing together," Gailey said. "There are different scenarios that we can go with, but nothing is in concrete right now, but that could be one of the solutions yes."
Unless the Bills add a free agent center, Wood is the only lineman on the roster with extensive experience in the pivot. And logic would indicate a free agent center would not be able to step into the lineup right away being unfamiliar with Buffalo's offensive system and line calls.
Buffalo has three linemen on their practice squad in G Marc Dile, G/OT Chad Rhinehart and G/OT Jason Watkins. None of them have playing experience at center.