Hardly a day has gone by this past week when quarterback Trent Edwards hasn't been asked to discuss the latest in a series of stunning changes to the Bills offense.
One day offensive coordinator Turk Schonert is fired. The next day veteran running back Dominic Rhodes gets cut. And on Wednesday the Bills introduced a new starting left tackle, Demetrius Bell, following the surprise release of veteran Langston Walker.
"Change has been the running theme around here," Edwards said after practice. And that doesn't make it a bad thing for Edwards, despite having little time to make adjustments as Buffalo prepares to open the regular season at New England on Monday.
"I'm really very happy with where it's at," Edwards said. "You can only let it be a distraction if you let it negatively affect you. And I don't think we have guys on this team that are going to let it negatively affect them."
The season will answer the questions, but the Bills suddenly find themselves closer to square one. And that isn't exactly where the offense was expected to be after spending the entire offseason working on a new no-huddle attack, and after Buffalo was the first NFL team to open training camp on July 26 in a bid to be ready for the regular season.
The offense instead finds itself regrouping after it showed signs of regressing over the past month. The starters were limited to 3 points and 15 first downs in 15 preseason series, while the offense as a whole produced only six touchdowns _ and none in its final two games.
As a result, former quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt takes over as a first-time offensive coordinator. Rhodes' departure means the Bills have only two experienced running backs until starter Marshawn Lynch returns from a three-game NFL-imposed suspension to start the season.
And Buffalo's offensive line will start three players who have yet to play an NFL game. Rookie first-round draft pick Eric Wood will start at right guard and rookie second-rounder Andy Levitre will start at left guard. Then there's Bell, a seventh-round draft pick, who was inactive for all 16 games during his rookie season last year.
"It feels great. I came a long way, but I still have a long way to go," said Bell, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing two weeks with a sore back. "I'm not going to put pressure on myself that I didn't have before I got here."
Bell takes over for Walker, a seven-year NFL veteran, who was released after having difficulty adjusting to the transition from right tackle to left. Walker was forced to make the switch after the Bills traded two-time Pro Bowl selection Jason Peters to Philadelphia in April.
Coach Dick Jauron acknowledged he and his coaches might have overestimated Walker.
"We clearly thought we could move him, and he'd do the job," Jauron said. "And he just wasn't playing up to our expectations and so we felt it was time to make that move."
Jauron has confidence in Bell, but expressed concern with how young his line is.
"There's a lot of worry," Jauron said. "I've said often, I really like the guys. I think we've come a long way, and we'll find out Monday night how far we've come. It's not going to be easy, there's no doubt about that."
The Patriots expect to be without five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour, who was traded to Oakland last weekend but has yet to report to the Raiders. And yet New England has dominated the AFC East-rival Bills this decade, having won 11 straight meetings and 16 of the past 18.
On the bright side, the Bills will at least have receiver Terrell Owens, who is healthy after missing the final four preseason games with a sprained toe.
Owens wasn't bothered by the changes and is confident the Bills will be ready.
"Number 1, I believe in myself ... and the confidence that I can help and what I can bring to this team," Owens said. "Preseason is over. Everybody knows this is the real deal. And so we're going to play it like the real deal."
Signed in March, Owens has the potential to add a new dimension to the passing attack by drawing attention away from fellow starting receiver Lee Evans.
"It'll be interesting to see how teams play us," Evans said. "I'm excited to get out there with him in a real game."