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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills' sputtering offense is prepared to add fresh legs with running back C.J. Spiller returning.
Coach Doug Marrone announced Monday that Spiller has been cleared to play and will be promoted to the active roster eight weeks after having surgery to repair a broken collarbone. Marrone cautioned he first wants to see how Spiller performs in practice before determining whether he'll play at Oakland (2-12) on Sunday.
The potential of Spiller playing boosts an 8-6 team that remains in the AFC playoff picture following a 21-13 win over Green Bay. And it comes at a time when the Bills offense could use a spark.
Against Green Bay, Buffalo managed 253 yards offense and settled for four field goals. Marcus Thigpen scored the team's lone touchdown on a 75-yard punt return. Defensive end Mario Williams sealed the victory by forcing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to fumble, which was recovered in the end zone for a safety.
When healthy, Spiller and co-starter Fred Jackson provided Buffalo's ground game a formidable one-two punch.
"He's a guy who's made plays in the past," Marrone said of the team's 2010 first-round draft pick. "Any time you can bring back someone who's a potential playmaker obviously helps."
Spiller has been out since landing hard on his left shoulder during a 17-16 win over Minnesota on Oct. 19. He had surgery the following day and placed on the reserve/injured designated to return list.
Spiller began practicing two weeks ago. The Bills had until this week to determine whether to activate Spiller or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
Spiller has been gradually increasing his weightlifting routine over the past six weeks. Spiller doesn't believe the injury will hamper his ability to carry or protect the ball in traffic.
Much like the rest of the offense, the Bills running attack has had difficulty getting consistent traction. It hasn't helped that Jackson has been hampered by a left knee injury, and missed two of three games after hurting his groin against Minnesota.
Buffalo hasn't had a player top 100 yards rushing this season. Overall, the offense hasn't combined for more than 120 yards rushing since a 193-yard outing in a season-opening win at Chicago.
Buffalo's 29 touchdowns are tied for 25th in the NFL, and the offense has scored three or more TDs in a game just three times this season.
"We've got to do a better job," Marrone said. "We've got to protect better, got to run routes better, we've got to get a better rhythm."
On the bright side Monday, Marrone earned the backing of team president Russ Brandon, who credited the second-year coach for having "this team on the right path."
With eight wins, Buffalo has assured itself of enjoying its best finish since going 9-7 in 2004.
Speaking at the Bills' business-based Monday Quarterback Club luncheon, Brandon said Marrone has done "a tremendous job" in leading the Bills through several stretches of adversity this year.
The Bills dealt with the uncertainty of an ownership change after Ralph Wilson died in March. The franchise was eventually sold to NHL Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
Brandon reiterated his comments in a text to The AP.
"Doug should be a coach of the year candidate," Brandon wrote. "He has been an unbelievable leader."
NOTES: Starting S Da'Norris Searcy is expected to practice on a limited basis this week after missing the Green Bay game with a hamstring injury. ... Backup S Duke Williams' status is uncertain because he is being evaluated for a concussion he sustained against the Packers. ... Brandon was honored at the luncheon, where he received the group's annual Ralph Wilson Distinguished Service award.
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