ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (Dec. 7, 2005) -- Eric Moulds was excused from Bills practice Dec. 8-9 after reports that the star wide receiver would be suspended, and his status is uncertain for the team's next game against New England.
Coach Mike Mularkey declined to say why he excused the team's leading pass-catcher, but denied reports that he had any intention of suspending Moulds. Referring to Moulds at one point as "a great player," Mularkey said he would not answer questions about Moulds' status until Dec. 9.
"I've told him he's excused from not being here today or tomorrow," Mularkey said. "It's a closed subject, not going to discuss it. It's an in-house topic and we're going to leave it at that."
Moulds' status was in question after numerous media outlets reported Dec. 7 that Mularkey had informed Moulds in a meeting Dec. 5 that he planned to suspend him.
Mularkey said he never used the word "suspension" in any conversations he's had with Moulds. "Don't put words in my mouth," he said.
Mularkey declined to budge from discussing Moulds' status further, despite repeated questions.
At one point he chided reporters, saying: "What part of what I'm telling you guys is not getting through in your questions?"
In his 10th season with Buffalo, Moulds is the team's senior player, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and ranks second to Andre Reed in most of the Bills' career receiving categories.
Moulds was unavailable for comment.
The player's personal adviser, Greg Johnson, told The Associated Press that Moulds is being punished over a misunderstanding that took place during Buffalo's loss at Miami Dec. 4. Following Mularkey's press conference, Johnson said he was encouraged by what the coach said, adding he and Moulds were particularly happy to hear that Mularkey never used the word "suspended."
Johnson said Moulds was scheduled to have a meeting with team owner Ralph Wilson Dec. 8, when he hoped the dispute could be resolved.
Johnson said the misunderstanding occurred when Moulds left the field after experiencing pain in his Achilles' tendon. Moulds, Johnson said, wanted to have the tendon examined by a trainer when Bills receivers coach Tyke Tolbert asked Moulds to get back out on the field.
Moulds declined and was benched for most of the final three quarters.
"He wanted a minute to look at the injury and that kind of got blown out of proportion," Johnson said. "That's why he was out. That's probably the biggest mystery to all of this."
Mularkey declined to say whether Moulds had any dispute with a coach on the sideline.
The Bills (4-8), on the verge of missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season, have lost five of their last six and are coming off a 24-23 loss at Miami in which they blew a 21-3 fourth-quarter lead.
Moulds failed to make a catch against the Dolphins, ending his streak for receptions at a franchise-record 121 games. It was the fourth-longest active streak, a list led by Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison, who has a catch in 151 straight games.
Following the game, Moulds carefully expressed his frustrations over being benched and questioned the team's play-calling.
Moulds' production is down this season, although he still leads the team with 54 catches for 511 yards. He also has three touchdowns, second to Lee Evans' six.
Before practice Dec. 7, running back Willis McGahee said he learned the news regarding Moulds from the media.
"It's crazy. It's a lot of chaos," McGahee said. "You don't know what to expect right now at this point."
Safety Troy Vincent said he was unaware of Moulds' status, but added the team can't afford to lose a player of Moulds' caliber.
"Eric Moulds has proven himself as a fine football player," Vincent said. "Players of his quality give your team a chance to win every Sunday."
Vincent, who is also the NFL Players' Association president, said the union has not received any information about Moulds' status.