- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Bills running back C.J. Spiller still has high confidence in his abilities, even though his playing time and production are suddenly diminishing.

“Nope. I’m not worried at all,” Spiller said with a defiant tone this week. “Obviously, you want to play more. But certain things happen throughout the game where you have to go to different packages. But I’m not concerned. I’m not there at all.”

The numbers, however, indicate he’s been barely there of late. And they’re raising questions over Spiller’s role in the Bills offense and whether the 2010 first-round draft pick’s days in Buffalo are running out with his contract set to expire after this season.

Spiller laughed when the topic of the NFL’s trade deadline on Oct. 28 was brought up.

“I block it out, man. I honestly do,” Spiller said. “I want to be a Bill. That’s what I said from the beginning. I want to be a Bill.”

And yet, he acknowledged he has no control over what the team does.

“All 32 organizations are going to do what’s best for them,” Spiller said. “I want to be part of something special that’s going to happen here. But if I’m not, I can’t have any bad feelings.”

The Bills (3-3) host Minnesota (2-4) on Sunday.

Concerns about Spiller’s role come on the heels of one of the player’s least productive games.

He had six carries for 19 yards and no catches in a 37-22 loss to New England on Sunday. It didn’t help that he lost a fumble, which led to Stephen Gostkowski hitting a 53-yard field goal to put the Patriots up 13-7 at the end of the second quarter.

What also raised eyebrows is that Spiller was on the field for only 12 of 69 offensive plays, his lowest percentage in Doug Marrone’s two seasons as coach. And it came in a game in which co-starter Fred Jackson was hampered by a sore right ankle, and had third-stringer Anthony Dixon eating into Spiller’s playing time.

That’s not what was expected out of a player who earned his first Pro Bowl selection two years ago after finishing second in the NFL by averaging 6 yards a carry - a fraction of an inch behind Adrian Peterson. Last year, Spiller’s production dropped because of a series of injuries, and yet he still had a team-best 933 yards rushing in helping Buffalo finish with the NFL’s second-best run total.

Marrone insists he’s not lost faith in Spiller.

“I would say that I’m definitely not losing confidence,” Marrone said.

That doesn’t mean Spiller can’t be better.

“I think C.J. would tell you that,” Marrone said. “Yes, he has to improve on things, too, as well as everyone else.”

Jackson and Dixon are more dependable blockers than Spiller in passing situations. That makes it difficult for Spiller to get on the field especially when the Bills are trailing.

Spiller is still leading the team with 234 yards rushing and has 13 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. His best outing came in a 29-10 win over Miami in Week 2, when he had 12 carries for 69 yards, and also scored on a 102-yard kickoff return.

The Bills entire run attack is sputtering.

Buffalo hasn’t topped 100 yards rushing in its past four games - something it failed to do just five times all last season. And it’s the Bills’ longest drought since a four-game stretch from Oct. 25 to Nov. 22, 2009.

Spiller blames himself for the run-game’s struggles.

Too often, he’s fallen back into bad habits by lacking patience in waiting for holes to open.

“Just over-thinking it too much instead of going back to that little kid in the backyard, playing with his friends and having fun,” Spiller said. “I just have to start trusting my eyes.”

No worries, he added.

“Obviously, I’m not off to my best start,” Spiller said. “But I still have all the confidence in the world that I’ll be where I want to be when the smoke clears.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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