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Star Lotulelei ruled out of Buffalo Bills’ season opener

Emmanuel Sanders is questionable.

Star Lotulelei’s return to action will be delayed another week. The Buffalo Bills nose tackle, who opted out of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, won’t be able to play in the 2021 season opener due to a calf injury. The injury held him out of practice all week, and Sean McDermott ruled him out this morning during an interview on WGR 550.

The Bills still have several options at defensive tackle, having 11 total defensive linemen on the roster. Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler are both top contenders for Lotulelei’s snaps, much as they were a year ago. Justin Zimmer, who’s mainly a three technique, can also play over the center. Edge rushers Efe Obada and Boogie Basham could also fill in at defensive tackle in a high-octane pass-rush situation. And if the team wanted extra reinforcement against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rushing attack, they have 6’2” 305-lb Brandin Bryant on their practice squad.

The only other injury of note is to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot). Sanders hurt his foot in the summer, and it’s still nagging him in the first week of practice. He was limited over multiple days, and he’ll be listed as questionable to play this week. Keep in mind that under NFL rules, “questionable” just means a player with anywhere between 20 percent and 95 percent chances of playing, so it isn’t the end of the world.

Otherwise, the team is in good shape. Cornerback Taron Johnson (would have) practiced fully on Thursday, with his hand recovered from the injury that put it in a cast last week. Harrison Phillips and Isaiah McKenzie are also full participants in practice, and ready to roll.