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Bills Have Brewing Battle For Punt Returner

The Buffalo Bills completed their fourth padded practice on day three of 2010 training camp Saturday. Just like in the first two days of practices, head coach Chan Gailey had his players spending a huge chunk of practice on individual skills and fundamentals, saving team work for the last few segments of practice time. Veteran linebacker Kawika Mitchell sat out the session, as the coaches rested him, and Marcus Stroud retired early for undisclosed reasons. Paul Posluszny, Keith Ellison and Chris Kelsay were joined on the sidelines by Spencer Johnson, who injured himself Friday night.

We'll cover all the various reports from Saturday's session in the morning, but we also wanted to cover one interesting talking point: the punt returner battle.

Leodis McKelvin was a phenomenal punt returner at Troy. In his four-year career, he averaged 13.1 yards per punt return and scored seven times on 112 career returns. Most expected him to continue that trend in the NFL, but he's never gotten the opportunity to return punts since joining the Bills. That's changed, as he's been getting some looks in that area early in camp. Problem is, he's rusty - Sal Maiorana reported that he dropped two punts in a row on Saturday.

Roscoe Parrish is one of the best punt returners in team history; entering the 2009 season, he'd returned one punt for a score in three consecutive seasons, and his 14.0-yard per return average made him one of the league's elite. His 2009 season was a disaster, however, as he averaged just 5.5 yards per return before eventually losing his job to Fred Jackson.

Jackson is still a factor in this race, as is rookie C.J. Spiller - when he finally signs a contract, that is. (This was not an area of strength for Spiller at Clemson, however; he averaged just 8.6 yards per return over his career, albeit with one score.) McKelvin and Parrish are the two more serious contenders, and if today was any indication, Parrish is still the safe bet to open the season as the punt returner.