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Buffalo HC Sean McDermott says everyone practicing as Bills open Patriots week

A.J. Epenesa and Micah Hyde are back to work but still classified as “day to day”

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are fighting for their playoff lives in these final weeks of the 2023 season, and having everyone getting healthy at the same time will be helpful. Head coach Sean McDermott met with members of the media before Wednesday’s walkthrough practice and he announced that everyone will be participating in some capacity as the Bills prepare to host the New England Patriots on New Year’s Eve.

Of course, there are still questions surrounding a couple of key players on Buffalo’s defense — as safety Micah Hyde and defensive end A.J. Epenesa continue to work through injuries that have sidelined them for the past two and a half games. Epenesa injured his ribs on an interception of Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes back in Week 14 and Hyde suffered his third stinger of the season a quarter later. While the pair has been inactive on game days ever since, they have managed to go from DNPs to Limited practice participants over the past two weeks with Epenesa even getting a “questionable” designation heading into last weekend. Now, with playoffs in sight, the division title still in play, and the Bills possibly being the hottest team in the AFC right now, McDermott is saying there’s a possibility that one — or both — could be back in action soon.

“I believe it’s going to be one day at a time,” McDermott said, upgrading his stance from his previous ‘week to week’ assessment of Hyde and Epenesa to ‘day to day’ — and even left the possibility of seeing them on Sunday’s active roster open. “We will see how that goes as we get closer.”

Another player to keep your eyes on this week is Terrel Bernard. The middle linebacker injured his ankle in Saturday’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers and for a brief moment, all of Bills Mafia saw their postseason hopes flash before their eyes. Bernard took over at the MIKE position this season after the departure of Tremaine Edmunds during the offseason. Bernard, who is in his second season in the NFL has proven more than capable of leading Buffalo’s defense — with 59 solo tackles, 4.5 sacks, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. But, Bernard only missed a couple of plays and after the game stated that he had gotten his foot caught in the turf, but that he was “good” now.

In Wednesday morning’s press conference, McDermott said that he thought Bernard was a little sore, but he didn’t think the injury was anything that would keep him off the field on game day.

On Wednesday morning, the Bills activated cornerback Kaiir Elam from the Injured Reserve. The move was expected as Buffalo had an open spot on their active roster and Elam’s 21-day practice window was set to expire. But, now, the watch will shift to defensive tackle DaQuan Jones who’s trying to make it back from a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery back in October. Jones is starting the second week of his own practice window, and, while they have until January 9 to get him back on the active roster, McDermott said today that they would see how he does this week in regards to whether or not he, too, could be activated before Buffalo’s New Year’s Eve divisional matchup with the Patriots.

Here’s a look at the full injury report from today’s practice. Again, it was a walkthrough practice so the participation levels are estimates for what the team anticipates they would have seen had it been a full practice.

Of note on today’s final list is that quarterback Josh Allen is no longer on the list with the shoulder injury that had been plaguing him for much of the season. Also falling off the list this week is tight end Dalton Kincaid who had also been dealing with a shoulder injury.

The two players who were non-participants (edge rushers Von Miller and Leonard Floyd) were due to veteran rest days rather than injuries. While Floyd has a couple of ailments, they haven’t been limiting him. So that, combined with McDermott’s pre-practice press announcement that everyone would be working, indicates the rest portion of his designation was winning out today.

Tomorrow’s practice and ensuing injury report will give us a better idea of where the remaining names on the list stand as the Bills head into another must-win weekend and try to record their fourth straight win — something they haven’t done yet this season.