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Flutie Injury Hurts Depth At Deepest Position
Cawley and Stambaugh Have Their Opportunity To Perform.
by Steve Saslow
Friday July 28, 2000

Doug Flutie

The injury yesterday to QB Doug Flutie is a blow to the depth of the QB position. This was the spot the club was suppose to have more depth than possibly any other team in the league. The injury history of Rob Johnson combined with Flutie's injury leaves the club and its fans with an uneasy feeling heading in to the season.

It's not the end of the world however, Flutie will hopefully be back very early in the season, and Johnson came in to camp in great shape despite suffering a stomach virus this week. Johnson showed his durability during the playoff game against Tennessee when he constantly picked himself off the mat and finished with a solid 4th quarter. The question is what happens if the injury bug bites Johnson again before Flutie can return?

All of sudden in one day's time, the spotlight is now shining on backups Mike Cawley and Phil Stambaugh. They were forced to lead the team in both practices on Thursday and struggled mightily. The one silver lining in the injury means both players will get more playing time in the preseason as well as more practice time to refine their skills. Cawley is definitely considered the front runner for the #3 QB spot with Stambaugh considered just an extra arm in camp. Cawley was with the team last summer and played well in his only pre-season appearance as the #4 QB. He will get a lot more playing time this preseason. Cawley also had some success in NFL Europe last year. Stambaugh will get more time than Cawley did last year because of the injury. He has a major league arm but no mobility and he played in a small time program at Lehigh University.

Neither of these quarterbacks will make people confident if they are pressed into service during the season, so some people might ask who can the Bills bring in? The most obvious answer is former #3 QB Alex Van Pelt since he knows the offense. The real answer is probably nobody. Even though Coach Phillips says the club is considering bringing Van Pelt back, the club is less than 100,000 under the salary cap, so it would be impossible to bring somebody in without cutting someone or restructuring a contract or two. Van Pelt would cost at least $440,000 to sign. The club has basically exhausted all the avenues of contract restructuring to get to this point. They also won't cut anyone to bring somebody in, since Flutie is expected back early in the season. What they may do is keep both Cawley and Stambaugh on the 53 man roster when the season starts. If Flutie then comes back early enough, they can then put one of the other QBs, probably Stambaugh, on the practice squad. NFL rules state players can go to the practice squad from the active roster if they don't have a specific amount of playing experience.

This injury hurts the club's depth but for better or worse Flutie is the backup quarterback and Johnson will be ready to go when the bullets fly for real. Hopefully, Flutie will be healthy soon after and he will be ready to backup Johnson. If this happens, Cawley and Stambaugh won't have to see their moment in the sun.

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