ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.- Running back Willis McGahee is out indefinitely with three broken ribs, leaving the Bills without their best offensive threat against the Indianapolis Colts this weekend.

Coach Dick Jauron on Wednesday ruled McGahee out, adding the player’s injury is more severe than initially thought. Jauron said follow-up tests showed McGahee damaged three ribs in Buffalo’s 24-10 win over Green Bay last weekend.

McGahee was originally diagnosed with one broken rib and later tests showed breaks in two others.

Jauron did not say how much time McGahee might miss, and said his return will depend on the healing process and the player’s tolerance to play with pain.

Tampa Bay tight end Dave Moore missed four weeks after breaking a rib earlier this season.

When McGahee does return, he’ll likely have to wear a protective jacket.

Jauron also announced Josh Reed is out indefinitely. The backup receiver spent two days in a Buffalo-area hospital this week after bruising his kidney against Green Bay.

“It depends on how you define a while, but definitely not this week, and it could easily go longer,” Jauron said of Reed. “We’ll be conservative.”

Without McGahee, the Bills will turn to Anthony Thomas, the 2001 NFL rookie of the year who joined Buffalo as a free agent last spring. Thomas had 20 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown filling in for McGahee on Sunday.

A second-round pick out of Michigan, Thomas spent four seasons with Chicago before splitting last year between Dallas and New Orleans, combining for a career-low 92 yards rushing and no scores.

Thomas already has two touchdowns with the Bills this season, and ranks second on the team with 134 yards rushing.

“I never had any doubts that I could do it,” Thomas said of his resurgence this season. “I believed in myself and I knew when the opportunity would come, I could go out there and do it.”

The Bills (3-5) are counting on their running attack to produce against Indianapolis (8-0) and keep the Colts’ potent offense on the sideline.

Jauron is familiar with Thomas and has confidence in him. Jauron was Bears coach during Thomas’ first two seasons with Chicago.

“Wherever he’s been, at every level, he’s succeeded,” Jauron said. “We’re in a situation that we got him for. Running backs take a beating in our league. Now, hopefully, he’ll rise up and play outstanding football like he did last Sunday.”

McGahee has been durable, missing only one start since earning the No. 1 job seven games into the 2004 season. Buffalo’s first-round pick in the 2003 draft, McGahee missed his rookie season after blowing out his right knee in his final college game with Miami.

McGahee has struggled this season, with just one 100-yard game – a career-high 150 yards in a 28-20 loss to the New York Jets in Week 3. He was limited to 175 in his next three games, and managed just 15 yards before being hurt against Green Bay.

He was hurt on Buffalo’s seventh play from scrimmage, stuffed for a 3-yard loss by defensive tackle Colin Cole. Cole and fellow lineman Ryan Pickett then both fell heavily on McGahee.

Reed was hurt early in the second quarter after being hit following a 6-yard reception. He finished the half before being diagnosed with a bruised kidney and going to the hospital.

The fifth-year veteran ranks third on the team in catches with 23 and second with 229 yards. He’s scored one touchdown this season.

While Reed is out, the Bills are prepared to welcome back reserve receiver Sam Aiken, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury.

AP-ES-11-08-06 1734EST

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