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Separated shoulder to keep Stewart out indefinitely

8/29/2003

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Coach Steve Mariucci's challenge to
rebuild the Detroit Lions just got tougher.

Starting running back James Stewart is out indefinitely after
separating his right shoulder six minutes into the Lions final
preseason game on Thursday, a 22-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Mariucci said Stewart will be examined immediately when the team
returns home. But he didn't sound confident in pinpointing who
would take Stewart's place should he not be ready for Detroit's
regular-season opener against Arizona on Sept. 7.

"I don't know who the bellcow would be. I don't know who the
lead dog would be," said Mariucci, in his first year with the
Lions. "If we have a guy who's capable of 25 carries a game, I
don't know that we have that person ready yet. It very well may be
running back by committee."

That's not encouraging, considering the Lions had no proven
backup heading into the season, and for a team coming off two
losing seasons in which they went a combined 5-27 under former
coach Marty Mornhinweg.

Mariucci didn't rule out the option of the team signing another
running back.

Stewart, who led Detroit with 1,021 yards rushing last season,
was hurt on the Lions' second series, which was also supposed to be
his last of the game.

On a third-and-1, Stewart burst up the middle but was stood up
at the line of scrimmage by Bills safety Coy Wire. Stewart was then
tackled from behind by three other Buffalo defenders.

He left the field gingerly holding his right arm away from his
body.

The Lions also lost linebacker Brian Williams, who dislocated
his left shoulder.

Olandis Gary had the go-ahead score three minutes into the
fourth quarter with a 1-yard run, followed by a two-point
conversion by holder Brian Moorman, who ran it in off a bobbled
snap.

Antonio Brown returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and Josh
Reed had a 34-yard touchdown reception for the Bills (3-1).

Jason Hanson hit three field goals, including a 47-yarder, while
Stephen Trejo recovered a fumble in the end zone for the Lions
(2-2).

The Bills completed their first winning preseason since going
3-1 in 2000.

More important, Buffalo finished comparatively injury free.

Offensive guard Ruben Brown sustained a bruised left hand, but
will be ready to open the season against New England on Sept. 7.

"It was good to see us finish up strong," coach Gregg Williams
said. "We came out of it good, without any injuries of
significance. I know (Detroit) had a few, which was unfortunate."

Without Stewart, the Lions are left to choose among Shawn
Bryson, who's coming off knee surgery, Autry Denson, a four-year
journeyman, and Avon Cobourne an undrafted free agent out of West
Virginia.

Cobourne had the best outing, finishing with 19 yards rushing
and set up the Lions' first score when he fumbled on the Bills' 1,
and the ball was recovered by Trejo in the end zone. He also had
two catches for 51 yards, including a 42-yarder off a screen pass,
the Lions longest play from scrimmage this preseason.

"His injury was something that nobody ever wants," Cobourne
said. "But it gives everybody else an opportunity now to play. We
don't know what's going to happen. He might come back, hopefully he
does."

Denson, who spent this year in NFL Europe, finished with 35
yards rushing on eight carries and six catches for 40 yards. He
dropped an easy pass inside the Bills' 10 with 32 seconds left in
the second quarter, forcing the Lions to settle for a Hanson field
goal.

Bryson, recovering from a knee injury, saw limited action and
finished with 10 yards on six carries.

Quarterback Joey Harrington, who was limited to two series,
remained upbeat.

"I'm very confident that the guys behind him can come in and do
a good job," Harrington said. "We've got guys that can come in
and do it. It's just that they've never done it for us before. ...
I'm excited to see what the new guys can do."

Buffalo, which opens the regular season against New England,
took no chances, limiting most of its starters, including
quarterback Drew Bledsoe, to one series.

^Notes@ Combining regular season and preseason games, the Lions
are 0-20 on the road since beating Indianapolis in the 2001
preseason. ... The Bills held out RB Travis Henry (foot) and OT
Jonas Jennings (concussion). ... Buffalo improved to 9-13-1 in
preseason games against Detroit.