PITTSFORD — The clock is ticking on the Buffalo Bills’ competition for the starting quarterback job.
Kevin Kolb got back in the battle Monday, but his injured knee still is not 100 percent, and time is running out on his bid to beat out rookie EJ Manuel.
Kolb was the third quarterback in the rotation during practice, behind Manuel and Jeff Tuel. Kolb took 16 snaps during the 11-on-11 portions of practice, while Manuel and Tuel got 20 snaps each.
Kolb did all the drills the other two quarterbacks did, but he was not moving around at peak efficiency.
“I’m pretty good. It’s getting better every day,” Kolb said after taking part in a full practice for the first time in 10 days. He injured his knee on Aug. 3 in an innocuous slip on a rubber mat between two of the Bills’ practice fields.
“I think we’re taking it slowly and carefully,” Kolb acknowledged. “But I’m trying to push the envelope a little bit. I’m trying to get out there and get a little part of this fun.”
Both Manuel and Tuel performed well in the Bills’ 44-20 win at Indianapolis Sunday. Kolb likely will have to wow coaches in the next two exhibition games if he has any chance of edging Manuel, who has been impressive since camp opened.
Bills coach Doug Marrone would like to pick the starting QB after the third preseason game. NFL starters generally see minimal if any time in fourth exhibition to prevent the risk of injury for the season openers.
However, it’s still not certain Kolb will be healthy enough to play Friday when the Bills face the Minnesota Vikings.
“I hope so,” Kolb said, when asked if he expects to play Friday. “Obviously that’s the plan. That’s what I’m pushing for. But I gotta let my body tell me what I can do. It’s not an ideal situation.”
“It’s too early for me to say,” Marrone said of Kolb’s availability for Friday.
Kolb, a seventh-year veteran signed from Arizona, missed six days of practice in addition to the Colts game. He had to leave training camp a day after his injury due to a death in the family.
He said the freak nature of the injury — he didn’t even fall – was maddening.
“I had just come off my best practice probably and was feeling really comfortable and had just got through telling everybody, ‘Man, this is the most comfortable I’ve felt in awhile,’” Kolb said. “For something goofy like that to happen was very frustrating. And then with the family situation, having to leave the team, it was obviously not a good time. But you fight through those struggles and try to move on.”
Kolb described the slip on the mats, that were a bit wet.
“It rained the day before and my front leg went out and my left knee came in a little bit,” he said. “I got a little kneecap damage there.”
Kolb started Monday’s practice with a flexible brace on the knee. Halfway through the workout, he took it off.
Kolb admitted it takes time to get back into the rhythm of the offense after being away.
“It’s harder than anyone can imagine,” he said. “You come back and you see the exotic front for the first time and you’re like ‘whoa.’ It’s blurry all of the sudden. It takes a couple of days for you to get back in that rhythm of identifying things and understanding things and vocalizing things. A long weekend will do that to you, much less four, five, seven days, whatever it has been since I was back on the field. That’s why I didn’t want to waste another day. I wanted to get out there, even if I only got a few reps, I wanted to get some live bullets again.”