ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) _ Buffalo Bills assistant coach Elijah Pitts has been diagnosed with cancer and could miss the rest of the season while he undergoes what the team described as ``prolonged therapy.''

Pitts, 59, the assistant head coach to Marv Levy, underwent surgery earlier this week to remove a malignancy in his abdomen at Buffalo General Hospital. He already has started chemotherapy.

Pitts' illness had been kept private until this week. Levy admitted during a new conference Wednesday that Pitts was in the hospital, but he refused to speak in detail about his top aide.

Levy underwent surgery for prostate cancer two years ago and was replaced for three games by Pitts, who has never been a full-time NFL head coach. He has spent 16 of his 25 NFL seasons as a coach with Buffalo.

As a player, Pitts spent nine years with the Green Bay Packers during their glory years under Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi. The Packers won four NFL championships and two Super Bowls during Pitts' career.

In 1967, he became the first player to rush for a touchdown in the Super Bowl when he scored against the Kansas City Chiefs. He also played for Chicago, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans before retiring in 1971. He was elected to Green Bay's Hall of Fame in 1979.