ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -Buffalo Bills rookie offensive tackle Demetrius Bell recently received a healthy reminder of how far he still has to go before being regarded as an NFL-caliber player.
``I had a guy come up from NFL Madden, and he told me I was their lowest-rated player,'' Bell said this week. ``And I was like, 'That's nothing to me.' It makes me feel even better because this time next year, I want to see what my rating is.''
Motivating, sure, but the mere fact he rated any mention on the popular video game is consolation for Bell, the first of Buffalo's three seventh-round draft picks.
Here's someone who went to Louisiana's Northwestern State on a basketball scholarship before switching to football a mere three years ago; and someone who arrived in Buffalo better known for being the estranged son of former NBA star Karl Malone.
Bloodlines aside, Bell might be still considered by the Bills as a raw project, but he's beginning to make a name for himself a month into his first training camp.
As reward, there's a good possibility Bell will play among the starters on Thursday when Buffalo (2-1) closes its preseason hosting Detroit (3-0) in a game in which neither team's regulars are expected to play much.
Bell will get his chance because the Bills are depleted at tackle. Starter Jason Peters has refused to report to the team over a contract dispute, while interim starter Langston Walker is expected to be held out as a precaution after hurting his left arm in a 20-7 win at Indianapolis last weekend. And then there's reserve Matt Murphy, who's out indefinitely with a partially torn left rotator cuff.
Bell's aware of the circumstances, but excited about the opportunity.
``It's a big deal for me,'' Bell said. ``It's a lot of pressure, but I'm ready for it.''
Bell has been a quick learner going back to college, where he was thrust into the starting lineup at left tackle - a position he had never played before - two weeks before the start of the 2006 season. He finished with 22 straight starts and was named to the All-Southland Conference team as a senior.
With Buffalo, he's already appeared in all three preseason games and earned the attention of head coach Dick Jauron.
``It's really accelerated his development, and he's worked really hard at it,'' Jauron said. ``He's done a nice job.''
Jauron, however, cautioned that Bell is by no means ready to play at the NFL level in a regular-season game.
``I think that's a stretch,'' he said. ``Could he play? I think he's athletic enough. But you'd like to get him more seasoned before he had to be out there.''
Bell agreed, but noted he's ahead of where he expected to be.
``I wouldn't say I'm ready,'' Bell said. ``But I think I'm developing more every day.''
Otherwise, Thursday's game is one in which both teams have nothing on the line - except for determining which players will make the final cuts on Saturday - in preparing for their respective regular-season openers.
The Bills have already shown progress on offense, with the first-stringers producing three touchdowns and two field goals in seven possessions. And there's a possibility that starting quarterback Trent Edwards will be held out as a precaution because he's still nursing a bruised thigh.
Buffalo's revamped defense is also showing signs of jelling, after generating five turnovers in a 20-7 win at Indianapolis last weekend.
Detroit has an opportunity to become the only team to go undefeated this preseason, though that won't mean much when the regular season opens.
``This is a foundation for what we want to do this year,'' defensive tackle Shaun Cody said. ``Winning (preseason) games is not the important topic. What it's really about is playing your technique and fundamentals and getting that right before the season starts.''
The Lions, coming off a 26-6 win over Cleveland, have outscored their opponents 66-26 this preseason. Their starting defense has allowed just two field goals in 11 series. On offense, starter Jon Kitna has gone 18-of-21 for 280 yards and two touchdowns.

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