on September 1, 2013 - 11:18 PM
, updated September 2, 2013 at 12:27 PM
The Buffalo Bills got some long-awaited good news Sunday afternoon.
It came in the form of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel’s presence on the practice field. Manuel, the team’s first-round draft pick out of Florida State, took part in the individual portion of practice, according to coach Doug Marrone.
It was his first time practicing with the team since undergoing what the organization termed a “minor” knee surgery Aug. 18.
“He looked good. I say that, you know, not knowing what can happen in the next couple days,” Marrone said. “But as far as today, I think he looked good.”
Manuel was held out of the team portion of practice Sunday, Marrone said, but he’s expected to take part in that today. That puts Manuel ahead of the schedule his coach set last week. Marrone said then that Manuel would have to practice by Wednesday to play in Sunday’s season opener against the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium. If not, undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel would get the start.
So far, Manuel is on track.
“We were excited about it, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” Marrone said of Manuel’s participation Sunday. “Two or three days from now, I don’t want to be communicating, ‘but wait a minute, he looked good, you led us on to believe that he’s doing that.’ I don’t try to play any games.
“We’ll just see how he does during the week and Wednesday we’ll make a decision. It’s either going to be EJ or it’s going to be Jeff.”
As it stands, those are the Bills’ only two options. The team has just the two rookie quarterbacks on its 53-man roster, although it did give itself some insurance Sunday by adding Thad Lewis — who had been released Saturday — to the practice squad. If Manuel were unable to serve in any role Sunday against New England, Lewis would need to be promoted to the active roster to serve as Tuel’s backup.
“Thaddeus showed us some things in a short period of time that we’re excited about working with him and he had practice squad eligibility,” Marrone said. “We’re fortunate to get him back here. … Obviously that’s an option if something happens.”
If Manuel is able to get through a full practice today without any setbacks, it would be the best sign yet that he’ll be able to play against New England.
“It felt great to be back out there with my teammates and get back in the mold of practice and things like that instead of doing rehab,” Manuel said. “Each day my injury’s gotten better. I’ve been doing 2-3 treatments a day so that’s been helping me a lot.”
Manuel said that if the decision were up to him, he’d play.
“Most definitely,” he said.
Manuel wore a small brace on his left knee as he took part in warm-ups and throwing drills with his fellow quarterbacks on the grass field next to the fieldhouse. He did not have a noticeable limp, or report any discomfort when dropping back to pass.
“If you’re going to play you can’t think about any kind of injuries that you have — whether it’s something you’ve had a procedure on or if it was a sprained finger or something like that — you’ve just got to go out there and play,” he said. “I try to work hard at everything. … I can control trying to get my knee better, and that’s what I’ve done.”
Manuel said that he knew right away he was injured in the Bills’ second preseason game against Minnesota, but continued to play.
“Obviously a lot of adrenaline helps with that,” he said. “When I kind of had a chance to slow down and sit down, it got a little more stiff.”
Manuel said the team’s training staff has had to slow him down in his rehab.
“I understand that part of it, and that’s what they do. That’s why they’re here, and I trust all their judgment,” he said.
As for who will make the final call on whether he takes the field against New England — be it Manuel, the team’s medical staff, or a combination of both — that is to be determined.
“We’ll probably see when we get there,” Manuel said. “I definitely just want to be back to help the team. I’m a huge team player and just want to get back. Obviously if I’m healthy enough to go out there and make plays and coach Marrone makes the decision, I’ll be more than happy to go out there and play.”
Receiver Stevie Johnson said he got a boost by seeing the team’s franchise quarterback throwing passes Sunday.
“It feels good to see him out there actually moving fluidly,” Johnson said. “He’s obviously a valuable piece to our puzzle.”