- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

No team was ripped more for its draft than Buffalo. With the shaky combination of youngster J.P. Losman and journeyman Kelly Holcomb at quarterback, the Bills passed on 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who went to Arizona two picks later.

Buffalo’s first-rounders, Ohio State safety Donte Whitner at No. 8, and N.C. State defensive tackle John McCargo (whom they gave up a third-rounder to move up to take) at No. 26, were both chosen well ahead of their standings on most draft boards.

The Bills, absent from postseason since they were done in by the Music City Miracle after the 1999 season, went for defense in the draft, but they weren’t defensive in defending their selections.

Last year’s strong safety, veteran Lawyer Milloy, was still a big hitter but he had lost the speed to cover downfield. Whitner has run 40 yards in 4.38 seconds.

“Donte has the attitude of a Lawyer Milloy, he’s faster, and he plays with a mean streak,” said Bills middle linebacker London Fletcher, who works out with Whitner in the offseason.

The Bills will look smart if Whitner develops along the lines of the only safeties chosen in the top 10 of the 10 previous drafts, Dallas’ Roy Williams (2002) and Washington’s Sean Taylor (2004). Oakland took Texas safety Michael Huff one pick before Whitner.

“The game is evolving,” said Bills assistant general manager Tom Modrak. “Safeties have to get into the coverage. They’re not just the old walk down into the box safety.”

McCargo left school early even though he missed half of his junior year with a stress fracture in his left foot.

“This was a player at a position which was a dire need and which there wasn’t anyone available for quite a while,” Bills GM Marv Levy said after no defensive tackle was taken in the next 41 picks.

As for passing on Leinart, Levy said, “We’re going to get better at quarterback not by getting some glamour guy out of the draft but by making our team better around the quarterback.”

Consolation prize — Tennessee offensive coordinator Norm Chow didn’t get Leinart, whom he used to coach, but he was reunited with another ex-Southern Cal star, running back LenDale White, the Titans’ second-rounder.

“LenDale takes a pounding and he holds onto the ball,” Chow said of White, who ran for 3,159 yards in his college career without fumbling. “In the Rose Bowl, when [USC] needed a play, [No. 2 overall pick] Reggie Bush wasn’t playing but LenDale was. That should tell you a lot.”

Trading with the enemy — When Cleveland swapped first-rounders with AFC North rival Baltimore (the team that used to be the Browns), it was its first trade with a division foe in 39 years.

Williams Canada-bound? — Mercurial Miami running back Ricky Williams, suspended for a second year in the past three for a positive drug test, will only play for Toronto of the Canadian Football League with the consent of Dolphins coach Nick Saban.

“Nick had concerns both in terms of wear and tear and injury with respect to Ricky playing there,” said Williams’ agent, Leigh Steinberg, who added that Saban was still considering the situation. “Ricky’s whole focus is returning to the NFL and playing for the Dolphins. We don’t intend to pursue any course of action which is not entirely consistent with the wishes of Coach Saban.”

The CFL has no drug-testing program and doesn’t honor NFL suspensions. Toronto already has two other players who flunked NFL drug tests, receiver R. Jay Soward and tackle Bernard Williams.

“Ricky is always interested in new experiences,” Steinberg said. “It would be an attempt to make this year as productive as possible and stay in football shape. And obviously, it’s an opportunity to be compensated.”

Williams, whose salary was in the millions before his drug problems intervened, only received $285,882 of his NFL veteran’s minimum of $540,000 because he was docked eight games for drug suspensions. Williams also earned a $53,322 bonus in performance-based pay. The standard CFL salary is $150,000 Canadian. The maximum CFL salary is $3.8 million.

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