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Van Pelt To The Rescue?
An article by Bills Thunder webmaster.
by Rick Anderson
Saturday July 29, 2000

Suddenly the Bills went from having the most depth of any NFL team to a team being run by two "greenhorns" and their punter Chris Mohr. With the thought of being only one play away from having either Mike Cawley or Phil Stambaugh coming in off the bench to relieve Johnson at quarterback has the Bills scrambling to find a more experienced No. 2 QB. The man most frequently being mentioned is former Bills perennial No. 3 quarterback Alex Van Pelt.

The injury to Flutie happened Thursday during practice in which he attempted to run a quarterback draw. After peddling back to fool defenders into thinking he was going to throw, Flutie suddenly reversed his field and took off. The only problem is that he slipped and fell forward without a defenseman landing a finger on him. He laid on the field for around a minute but then walked off with not so much as a slight limp.

"I thought it was just a little nagging pull thing, but I guess it's a little more severe," Flutie related. "As soon as I felt something pull I just dropped to try saving it a little bit. I felt some tearing.

"But I figured it was no big deal, it would be a couple days, ice it and get back at it."

However, it was revealed on Friday that Flutie (ala Hasek) had suffered a groin tear and may not be able to play until the fourth game of the regular season.

"Preseason and camp is shot,"said a disappointed Flutie. "They just said to be patient because they know if they tell me a certain number of weeks that I'm going to push that and want to be on the field. They set a general time frame of being sometime early in the season. I just have to rest it for a couple of weeks and let it settle down, and then we'll start rehabbing it and strengthening it."

Maybe Flutie could spend some time with Dominik Hasek and go over the Sabres netminder's rehab program that allowed him to return to the lineup last season much sooner than expected.

Johnson, who experienced a little of what Sabres' Doug Gilmour went through last spring, finally returned to practice on Friday. Like Gilmour, Johnson had to have fluids administered intravenously when he suffered from nausea and experienced dehydration because of it.

"From a couple days ago, when I wanted to die, I felt all right," Johnson said Friday. "I just got worn down and tried to practice through it, and that made it worse."

"I'm just glad it happened early in camp," Johnson continued. "It will take me a while to get it all back. That's what's tough. You work so hard to get into shape and one illness can set you back. I'll be all right. Just give me a week or two."

Alex Van Pelt could find his way back in Buffalo as a result of Flutie's injury. One of the biggest obstacles blocking his return would be the Bills' salary cap situation. By NFL rules, Van Pelt would have to be guaranteed the league minimum $440,000 for a veteran player. To reach room under the cap, the Bills would have to do some more serious restructuring of salaries or cut a player or two.

"There are several quarterbacks out there and, of course, Alex has been with us," said Bills head coach Wade Phillips. "That's a plus. He's been with us and knows the system. But again, we have other considerations. It may turn out we feel we're strong enough to go through the first how many games it takes with a first and a third quarterback."

Van Pelt's agent is waiting for a call from One Bills Drive.

"It's the obvious move but I haven't heard from them yet," Kelly said. "I've heard no one up there can come in and play, so I'd expect to hear from them soon."

The Bills would gamble big time if they went with Johnson and left only Cawley or Stambaugh as the backup quarterback. Johnson, who some complain is too fragile to be the Bills' No. 1 quarterback, has suffered his share of injuries since coming to Buffalo. Two seasons ago, as everyone remembers, Johnson lost the starting position to Flutie after suffering torn rib cartilage. Then there are the three known concussions that Johnson has had. That makes the No. 2 spot on the roster much more critical.

"Guys get hurt, and you just hope they're not long-term injuries," said Johnson. "It won't make a difference (who the backup quarterback is) if I stay healthy."

We're looking at our options right now," remarked Phillips. "It's a lot more complicated than it used to be when there was no salary cap or those types of things. Those things have to be worked out and we're discussing those things."

If the Bills feel lucky and decide to gamble, they could elect to keep Cawley or Stambaugh, or maybe even both until Flutie recovers completely from his groin tear. It would be the best move for the salary cap, as each get the rookie minimum salary of $193,000.

Stambaugh is the youngest of the two greenhorns at 21. At 6-3, 217 pounds, he's the ideal size for a quarterback. Playing at Lehigh, he passes for 9,699 yards and 78 touchdowns (a 64% completion rate) in his four years there. He was also rated with the top quarterbacks in Division I-AA last season.

"I have a chance right in front of me," Stambaugh articulated. "I have to go out and take it every day that I get an opportunity. I have to try to take advantage of that."

Cawley, at 28, is an old rookie. After making an impressive appearance in an exhibition game last season, he was cut by the Bills. Last spring, Cawley spent his time throwing for the Amsterdam Admirals in the NFL Europe league.

Meanwhile, Bills' punter Chris Mohr had his chance to run the offense in Thursday's practice. He cherished the opportunity to showcase his quarterback skills.

"I love throwing the football," Mohr said. "I played quarterback my whole life growing up."

The 6-foot-5, 215 pound punter, played QB at Briarwood Academy in Thomson, Georgia. He threw for over 700 yards in his final season with that school. Even more surprising, Mohr ran for over 1,000 yards that year.

In Mohr's only official pass in the National Football League, he completed a 27-yard pass after a fake punt in 1997 against the Green Bay Packers.

Whatever the Bills decide to do in regards to their suddenly thin quarterback situation, they had better act soon. Exposing Johnson too much in exhibition games could bring about a greater risk of injury. The Bills don't want to be faced with the scenario of having Phil Stambaugh open the season as their starting quarterback.

Copyright 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.

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