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Buffalo's Fina Out With Injury

Buffalo's offensive line has finally begun to establish itself as a team strengths. Now the line will have to play without John Fina, its most consistent member.

Fina will be out Sunday against the Jets after reaggravating an abdominal injury he first suffered against Carolina. His replacement will be mammoth rookie Robert Hicks.

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  • The 300-pound Fina was a first-round draft pick in 1992 and is having perhaps the finest season of his seven-year career. He missed just one game in the last four seasons and has been singled out for his strong play by coach Wade Phillips.

    Hicks is a 6-foot-7, 340-pounder who will make his first NFL start Sunday.

    The 23-year-old Hicks was taken in the third round out of Mississippi State and has appeared in just three of the Bills' eight games.

    "I didn't think my first NFL start would come so soon," Hicks said. "I think it's a good time to be put in, against a good pass-rusher and a good team. I was a little bit nervous last week; you have to be a fool not to be nervous. It's only human."

    After allowing 22 sacks in the first three games, the offensive line has made strides over the past month. The Bills have allowed just a pair of sacks in its last four games.

    "Our offensive line has impressed me more than any other position on this team since this five-game win streak began," defensive lineman Bruce Smith said.

    Hicks had no difficulty last week containing Mami's speedy defensive end Jason Taylor, who entered the game with five sacks and finished with just a pair of tackles.

    But Taylor was inexperienced, too. Hicks will be matched up on Sunday against a more experienced foe, nine-year veteran Anthony Pleasant.

    "'Hicksie' is a big man and he's going to have his hands full," Fina said. "He's not playing against any slouches, but he'll be ready."

    The left tackle position is regarded as one of the most important, if not the most crucial, on the line. Hicks will be counted on to protect quarterback Doug Flutie's blind side.

    "I got some confidence in myself last week and I just want to go out there and contribute," Hicks said. "I want to give all the running backs big holes to run through and protect Doug."

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