ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bills running back Marshawn Lynch missed practice Wednesday because of a severely sprained left ankle, and is unlikely to play Sunday night when Buffalo hosts the unbeaten New England Patriots.
Stopping short of ruling out Lynch, coach Dick Jauron said he was "not overly optimistic" the rookie would be able to play this weekend. He said Lynch, hurt in helping secure a 13-10 win at Miami last weekend, was still very sore.
Jauron also said it's possible the injury could force Lynch to miss more than this weekend's game. Without going into details, he said trainers have informed him that the injury is more severe than a normal sprain, although tests Monday revealed no broken bones.
Lynch leads the team with six touchdowns and has been a key figure in helping the Bills (5-4) win four straight and five of six heading into an AFC East matchup against the Patriots (9-0).
Lynch was hurt when several players fell on the back of his leg after the running back completed a 3-yard gain at the Dolphins 25 late in the fourth quarter. The run helped set up Rian Lindell's decisive 34-yard field goal with 46 seconds remaining.
Lynch ranks fifth in the NFL with 751 yards rushing. And with a touchdown passing, Lynch has had a hand in seven of 10 offensive TDs the Bills have scored this season.
Without Lynch, the Bills would have to go with a combination of fourth-round pick Dwayne Wright and veteran backup Anthony Thomas.
Wright ranks second on the team with 76 yards rushing this season. He's appeared in eight games and mostly was used on special teams and also to give Lynch an occasional breather.
Thomas has 10 carries for 12 yards and has mostly been used as a blocking back and in third-down situations.
Defensive end Aaron Schobel, the Bills' top pass-rusher, missed practice because of a stomach virus. Starting tight end Robert Royal was held out of practice after sustaining what the team calls a mild concussion last weekend.
The injuries continue to mount for Buffalo.
Earlier in the day, the team announced cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas and tight end Matt Murphy will miss the rest of the season, leaving a dozen Bills on injured reserve.
Thomas, the nickel cornerback, hurt his groin in a 13-10 win at Miami last weekend. Murphy, who doubled as an offensive lineman and fullback, tore his left calf muscle during practice last week.
Barring any additions, the Bills will be down to four cornerbacks against the Patriots. Thomas, an eight-year veteran, had 35 tackles in nine games, including three starts, this season.
Murphy appeared in two games this season. He became the third Bills tight end to go on IR this season, following Kevin Everett (spinal cord), who was hurt in the season opener, and Derek Schouman (calf).
The Bills filled the two open roster spots by signing tight ends Brad Cieslak and Tim Massaquoi.
Cieslak spent the previous two years with Buffalo before being released before the season. Massaquoi played eight games with Miami as a rookie last year and was released by the Dolphins in September.
The Bills also promoted offensive lineman Christian Gaddis to their active roster after the undrafted rookie free agent spent the first nine games on the practice squad. Gaddis fills the opening left by Schouman, who was placed on IR last week.
The Bills also signed fullback Jonathan Evans to their practice squad.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press