Several times the players in Buffalo's locker room make the statement that they have a "real team" inside their locker room. They feel they're a tight-knit group of players that genuinely give their best for the greater good of the team and not themselves. Saying it is one thing, but over the past few weeks a handful of Bills players have let their actions speak louder than those words.
In the past month a defensive lineman has moved to outside linebacker, a running back has moved to wide receiver, a defensive end has played nose tackle and a guard has played left tackle. In the game of football where the slightest miscue or false step can keep a player from executing effectively or in concert with his teammates, the willingness to take on a different role can be a lot to take on.
To this point however, Buffalo's multi-taskers have come through for their team filling a void created by injury.
It began with Spiller. The former first-round pick has found it hard to get on the field with Fred Jackson rolling up better than 150 all-purpose yards each and every week. The chance to contribute however, came at wide receiver with Donald Jones out the past two games with a high-ankle sprain.
Spiller turned in five catches for 39 yards against the Giants in Week 6. Though he had only two receptions in last Sunday's win over Washington, the pass interference call he drew on Josh Wilson gave the Bills 34 yards on what would up being a 42-yard field goal drive.
"Any time you can get on the field and help your team out, especially on offense and help move the ball that's always a plus," said Spiller. "Being on the sidelines not helping, that's really not an advantage. I feel like a professional here. I've got an opportunity to get on the field and gain some trust and confidence in my playing style with the players around me."
With Shawne Merriman lost for the season due to Achilles surgery, the outside linebacker spot was being manned by predominantly young, though promising, players in Danny Batten and Arthur Moats. With Chris Kelsay also out injured for the Giants game, Spencer Johnson was the dependable defensive lineman they chose to help the younger outside backers on the edge.
Last week against the Redskins, Washington tried to challenge Johnson by running Donte Stallworth on an end around to his side. It went for just two yards. By game's end Johnson had four tackles including a sack and two takedowns for loss and a quarterback hit.
"It is what it is," said Johnson of playing outside linebacker. "I've done it before. It's basically the same thing with a little more read, but it's football. It's just being disciplined and knowing what to expect and just playing hard, using what God gave me and getting after it."
Last week's game also saw two linemen change positions. One moved inside and the other outside. Marcell Dareus had played nose tackle before having operated out of a 3-4 alignment in college at Alabama. Doing it at the NFL level is another thing.
With Kyle Williams out of the lineup and Torell Troup still not quite 100 percent recovered from a lower back injury, Dareus was moved inside. The rookie flat out dominated with 2.5 sacks and three quarterback hits to go along with stout interior run defense as the Redskins rushed for just 26 yards.
"They sprung it up on me of course, but I was ready for whatever they wanted me to do," he said. "I went out there and laid it on the line and did the best I could. It really doesn't matter. I like to move around, whether it's end or tackle I really don't care."
"He played so many different positions in college," said head coach Chan Gailey. "He played nose, he played tackle, he played end, he played all over the place. I think he is comfortable at a lot of spots."
Meanwhile guard Andy Levitre, who is already the backup center, had to play left tackle after Chris Hairston suffered an ankle injury against the Giants. He played it before in college, but that was three years ago and he wasn't facing a two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher then like Brian Orakpo. Last Sunday he rendered Orakpo ineffective.
"He's played great all year," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "I don't know if everybody realizes how difficult it is for a guy like that to be the guard and the backup center and then all of a sudden have to be put at left tackle. That is such a tough position to play in the NFL. You see those tackles getting paid so much money because it's hard to find a good one. He's done such a good job for us the last few games. I can't say enough about him because it's such a tough move from inside to outside."
It's easy to tell that Gailey appreciates the efforts of all his players, but the ones that sacrifice or are willing to fill in at a spot that might not be in their comfort zone carries more weight with Buffalo's sideline boss.
"It's tough," said Gailey. "You have to have different guys step up like Andy Levitre stepping up left tackle. We've had to have players do it at receiver. It's not easy. It's very difficult, but that's what this game is about. Can you keep persevering through the bad times and make a way to win during tough times?"
To this point the Bills have persevered and that's the reward for players like Dareus, Johnson, Levitre and Spiller who all had a direct hand in it.
"However long Coach Gailey needs me to do what I need to do that's what we're going to do, and I'm sure my teammates would say the same," said Spiller. "Anything that helps us win the game, that's an advantage."