Offseason? What offseason?
That has been EJ Manuel’s approach to the start of his second year as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, he said Tuesday.
“As far as football, I really didn’t take a true offseason, necessarily, as far as straight-up taking time off,” Manuel said during the team’s opening day of organized offseason conditioning workouts at One Bills Drive. “I might have took just one week after I left Buffalo to hang out with my family. Then after that I was pretty much getting myself back healthy and getting smarter in the film room.”
Manuel conducted his own on-field workouts with a handful of teammates over a five-day period late last month in Los Angeles. Joining him were Bills C.J. Spiller, Tony Moeaki, Chris Gragg and Brandon Kaufman. Then a couple weeks ago, he spent four days in Miami throwing passes on the field with Stevie Johnson, Kevin Elliott and Kaufman. Former NFLer Chad Ochocinco joined one day, as well.
“I think the biggest thing was to get back in football mode,” Manuel said. “I want to throw to my guys, as far as getting the timing down, or enunciating plays, changing plays at the line, because this is the time where you can do all that kind of stuff.”
“Obviously in the game we have to execute what we have called,” Manuel said. “But when you get the opportunity to go out on the field, it’s just you five or six guys, nobody else is watching you, nobody else is timing you or whatever. You can take all the time you want, you can go over anything you want.”
Before the L.A. practices, Manuel spent time working with quarterback coaching consultant Steve Calhoun, who runs QB camps in California and has worked with NFLers Cam Newton and Jake Locker, among others.
“He’s been like my quarterback trainer, I guess you could say,” said Manuel, who has known Calhoun since his junior year of college at Florida State. “He’s helped me out a lot, especially with my footwork. After my knee healed up, I had to get back into it, the actual movements you do in a game. He helped me out a lot.”
Manuel underwent minor knee surgery in January to clean up debris from the injury he suffered in December, which kept him out of the Bills’ last two games of the season. He said the operation took a mere 20 minutes and he is fully healed from it.
“I have no limitations; I feel great,” Manuel said. “I haven’t had any setbacks since I had everything taken care of. It’s healed up great. … I’m very eager to play a full 16-game regular season. Having five preseason games I think is going to help, not just myself but our team. … For me it will be five more at bats before we get into the regular season.”
Manuel said he has looked at video of every one of his plays from last season. The Bills were 4-6 in games he started. He threw 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
“Even while I was rehabbing, I was still trying to get better mentally,” he said. “I’ve looked at pretty much every rep that I took last year, and I’ve learned from all of them, whether it was a good play or a bad play. I had some success and I had some bad games, as well. That’s obvious. Like I said, I’m just looking forward to moving into this next portion of our offseason, getting back in Buffalo. It’s cool to see familiar faces. It’s not like I’m brand new anymore.”
Manuel thinks having a full offseason of work will speed his development.
“Last year at this time I was probably on a flight to one of the teams, doing a private workout, visiting with coaches,” he said. “Being able to focus from January to this point now as far as getting ready for September has been great for me. I know who I’m working with. I know my teammates. They know me. It’s a lot better feeling.”