Seeing Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Buggs both carted off in the span of a quarter Sunday did not present a promising picture for the health of Buffalo's linebacking corps. On Monday the news was as bad as it could get as both suffered season ending knee injuries.
"Kawika and Marcus are both surgical knees so we'll lose them for the season," said head coach Dick Jauron. "It's just so disappointing for all of us particularly for the players and the team. For the injured player you really feel for them. They work so hard and it's such a huge part of their life. The whole offseason, all the preparation and to have it end early in a season is hard. It's really hard. So it's not a good thing for sure."
Mitchell, a defensive co-captain with Paul Posluszny, will be a big loss from both a playmaking and leadership perspective.
"Any time you lose a playmaker and game breaker the caliber of 'Veek' it's going to be tough," said safety George Wilson. "It's a tough loss with Kawika and Buggs both playing 'mike' linebacker, but we'll find a way to work through this and fill in the gaps."
"It's a big loss losing Kawika and Buggs," said Jon Corto. "Kawika is obviously one of our captains, but the guys that we've got behind them, I'm confident in them and I'll fill in my role whatever it may be. We just keep pushing forward and we'll be ready to play."
Posluszny, who is still recovering from a broken forearm suffered in Week 1, was labeled week-to-week by Jauron on Monday. With his status still up in the air, Buffalo's personnel department will need to act quickly to fill the soon to be vacant roster spots. Mitchell and Buggs will be placed on injured reserve in the next day or so to create roster room for reinforcements.
"We'll have those two roster spots so we'll clearly be bringing some people in and we'll work out some people and look at different things," said Jauron.
Players new to the team will create an additional challenge. Getting up to speed with Buffalo's defensive system and their new teammates will take some time.
"I'm sure the coaches with do a good job with whoever they bring in. We'll get guys ready. Whoever is going to play is just going to have to take it upon themselves to prepare well and learn from what the coaches are teaching us."
"I'm sure the coaches with do a good job with whoever they bring in," said Ellison. "We'll get guys ready. Whoever is going to play is just going to have to take it upon themselves to prepare well and learn from what the coaches are teaching us."
As of Monday the Bills were down to four healthy linebackers in Jon Corto, Keith Ellison and rookies Ashlee Palmer and Nic Harris with Palmer getting his first career start this past Sunday. But Harris has been practicing at safety the past two weeks due to the shortage there.
Jauron hasn't completely committed to moving Harris back to linebacker at this point.
"We'll see where Nic fits," said Jauron of Harris. "It makes sense right now before we have any of those workouts to think Nic would back up and give us help at that spot (linebacker)."
The Bills also have rookie Marcus Freeman on the practice squad, but he was signed just three weeks ago.
At the close of Sunday's game Keith Ellison manned the middle linebacker position with Jon Corto and Ashlee Palmer manning the outside spots. But Ellison hasn't been told if he's staying in the middle.
"I don't know you'll have to ask the coaches about it," Ellison said. "If it happens I'm ready to play it. Wherever they need me on the field, whatever they need from me to help this team win I'm willing to do it."
Ellison's most important role might prove to be leadership until Posluszny returns. The four-year veteran is now the elder statesmen of the linebacking corps, which still strikes him as strange being all of 25-years old. But Ellison sounds ready to step forward.
"With the injuries it's kind of hit us pretty hard this year, but it's not something that we can think about," he said. "We can't use it as an excuse. Guys just have to step up and guys that weren't expected to play a lot are going to be playing more so we've just all got to be ready."