EJ Manuel returned to the practice field for the Buffalo Bills, raising hope that the rookie quarterback could be ready in time for the team’s Week 1 matchup with the New England Patriots.
Manuel has been out for the past two weeks after undergoing what team doctors called a minor surgical procedure on his left knee. The rookie from Florida State returned to individual drills on Sunday and was expected to practice in full on Monday.
Bills coach Doug Marrone said Manuel is ahead of schedule in his rehab.
“He’s transitioning in,” Marrone said. “If we can have him practicing on Wednesday, and we feel that he is good enough and mentally ready to play, then he’s going to play.”
Manuel’s return could add some stability to what has become a shaky quarterback situation in Buffalo. Shortly after the team announced that Manuel would miss the rest of the preseason, veteran Kevin Kolb went down with what appears to be a career-ending concussion.
That left the team with only one quarterback remaining during camp, undrafted rookie free agent Jeff Tuel. The team said last week that it was preparing to move forward with Tuel as the starter in Week 1, but at the same time brought in free agent Matt Leinart and traded with Detroit for quarterback Thad Lewis to provide depth.
Leinart and Lewis both missed the team’s final cut, though the team brought Lewis back for the practice squad.
The Bills said they are still prepared to go with whichever quarterback is healthy in Week 1.
“Wednesday we’ll make a decision. It’s either going to be EJ or it’s going to be Jeff,” Marrone said Sunday. “Both guys will be available for the game.”
EJ Manuel was still wearing a brace on his knee during workouts on Sunday.