LANDOVER, MD. — The Buffalo Bills have a crisis at quarterback two weeks before the start of the regular season.
They are down to one healthy quarterback — undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel — in the wake of Saturday’s 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Veteran Kevin Kolb was knocked out of Saturday’s game against the Washington Redskins with concussion-like symptoms after taking a blow to the head. Rookie EJ Manuel is out this week — at the least — after undergoing minor knee surgery last week.
The prospect of Tuel starting the season opener against New England on Sept. 8 looms as a distinct possibility.
“That’s kind of scary to look at with only one guy back there,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “Hopefully it’s not too serious with Kevin. Hopefully EJ can continue to get better. Jeff’s done a good job when he’s played. But you don’t want just one going into any game.”
General Manager Doug Whaley said in the locker room after the game the Bills were hoping to have a quarterback signed and on hand for the next practice, at 8 a.m. Monday in Orchard Park.
“Absolutely,” Whaley said. “All we have is one arm so we’ve got to get somebody in. There’s not a lot of options. We’ve got guys beating the pavement right now.”
According to multiple media reports late Saturday, the Bills had scheduled tryouts today with Matt Leinart and John Beck. Leinart has an 8-10 career record over parts of six NFL seasons. Beck played for Miami in 2007 and Washington in 2009 and is 0-7 as a starter.
The Bills could shift receiver Brad Smith to quarterback, as well, as an emergency replacement, and coach Doug Marrone threw running back Fred Jackson’s name out as well.
“We had a plan going into the season,” coach Doug Marrone said. “Obviously Brad is part of those plans, as well as Fred Jackson.”
The Bills’ exhibition finale is in five days, against Detroit at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Marrone would not rule out the possibility of Manuel returning in time to face the Patriots, although that would require a dramatic recovery, even though the Bills have described his surgery as minor.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Marrone said. “He had a procedure done. He was with us on the field the other day — just watching and observing. I think you just have to wait for that period where the doctor looks at him and says here’s where we are. People recover so differently from minor stuff.”
Regardless of when Manuel comes back, Kolb’s injury looms as a major concern.
The seventh-year veteran took a blow to the head at the end of an 8-yard scramble around right end midway through the first quarter. Kolb dived head-first to the ground with Redskins linebacker Brandon Jenkins in pursuit. Jenkins’ knee caught the back of Kolb’s helmet as Jenkins tumbled to the ground.
Kolb has a history of concussions, which makes this blow to the head potentially more significant. He has had at least two prior concussions.
A concussion in 2010 took Kolb off the field for two games when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles. He suffered a serious concussion that caused him to miss the last three games of the 2011 season.
After helping Arizona to a 4-0 start last season, Kolb saw his season end due to a rib and sternum injury suffered against the Bills. He missed more than a week of training camp after suffering a minor knee injury during a slip at practice.
Kolb stayed on the field after the hit and directed four more plays. The drive ended in a touchdown run by C.J. Spiller that tied the game, 7-7. But Kolb walked off from the sidelines to the locker room with trainers a couple of minutes later.
“That’s really all I know right now, it’s concussion-like symptoms,” Marrone said.
The Bills players were keeping stiff upper lips about their QB injuries.
“We’ve got to protect him now because we’re down to one,” said center Eric Wood. “We’ve lost two quarterbacks on scrambles and that’s a tough deal. We need Tuel to step up and he will. He’s played well through the preseason. He’s been there every day. He’s a great kid, good head on his shoulders. In the meantime we have a lot of confidence in him to do the job.”
Jackson said the team will need to lean on its veteran running backs.
“We know that we can make things a lot easier for everybody if we can get some type of running game going, and that’s what it looks like we’re going to have to do,” Jackson said. “We’re up for that task and we’ll make this thing go.”
“We expect big things from Jeff,” Jackson said. “He’s handled this offense, made plays when he had the opportunity. When we go out and start scheming teams. We’re very vanilla on offense right now. So that’s something to take out of this, some confidence we can take out of it.”