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Peters a no-show as Bills camp opens, fines expected

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills say Pro Bowl offensive lineman Jason Peters faces fines of up to $15,000 a day after missing the team's opening practice session.

Peters was not on the field Friday morning as the team began preparations in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford. Team chief operating officer Russ Brandon says fines are possible.

The team has had little contact with the left tackle in the past few months regarding his contract dispute. He was already fined $8,638 for missing the team's two mandatory minicamp practices last month.

Entering his fifth NFL season, Peters has three years left on his current deal and is scheduled to make a base salary of $3.25 million this season, which is considered low for someone playing such a prominent position. His deal ranks third among Bills offensive linemen, behind left guard Derrick Dockery and right tackle Langston Walker, both acquired in free agency last year.

Peters has not commented publicly regarding his dispute. His agents, Eugene Parker and Vincent Taylor, did not return numerous messages left with them by The Associated Press over the past two days.

Parker also represents Bills second-round pick receiver James Hardy, who signed his rookie contract on Thursday, the team announced. Hardy is the ninth of the Bills' 10 draft picks to sign with the team.

Brandon expressed hope that first-round pick cornerback Leodis McKelvin will sign prior to the team's first practice.

As for Peters, Brandon wouldn't rule out the possibility of negotiating a new deal but only if Peters begins taking part in team functions.

"It's difficult to have discussions with someone that's not here and has not elected to participate in what we're trying to do," Brandon said. "Jason's a big part of what we're trying to do. But if he's not here, then we'll work around it and move on."

Brandon also noted the team rewarded the player with a new contract prior to the 2006 season, when the converted tight end became a full-time starter at right tackle. Peters then made the switch to the left side midway through the 2006 campaign.

Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert said last month he's already preparing contingency plans should Peters not report to camp. One option included moving Walker to the left side.

Peters' continued absence would be a significant setback for an offensive line that discovered its chemistry last season following the free-agent additions of Dockery and Walker. Besides helping rookie running back Marshawn Lynch finish with 1,115 yards rushing, the unit allowed only 26 sacks -- the fewest in a 16-game season since Buffalo allowed 16 in 1981.

Dockery said he's confident the dispute will eventually be resolved and won't be a distraction.

"It doesn't concern me. ... If he's here, he's here. If he's not, he's not, so we'll just have to move forward," Dockery said. "I believe when Jason gets back, he'll be ready. He's one of the top elite tackles in the game. I think that'll take care of itself."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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