The Buffalo Bills’ quarterback competition took a drastic turn Saturday afternoon.
Rookie first-round draft pick EJ Manuel woke up to swelling in his left knee, according to the team, and will need to undergo a “minor” procedure that will sideline him for the remainder of the preseason.
“EJ Manuel had some swelling in his left knee this morning and was examined by our medical staff,” read the statement from coach Doug Marrone, which was released by the team shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday. “An MRI revealed that he will need to have a minor knee procedure and that has been scheduled. He will miss the remainder of the preseason and then be re-evaluated at that time. Kevin Kolb will be our starting quarterback for this weekend’s game at Washington.”
Neither Marrone nor Manuel made any mention of the injury following Friday night’s 20-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Ralph Wilson Stadium. When or how the injury occurred is unknown.
Manuel entered the game after halftime and played the third quarter. He scrambled twice and was sacked on his final play of the night by Vikings defenders Desmond Bishop and Andrew Sendejo.
Manuel led the Bills on a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on his first series Friday night. He finished the game 10 of 12 for 92 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 126.4.
In leading the Bills to a 2-0 start in the preseason, Manuel is 26 of 33 for 199 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 111.9.
“I thought personally I did well when I had the chance to go out there and play,” Manuel said after Friday night’s game. “I just want to continue to show … that I can learn and continue to show what I can do out on the field to my teammates and continue to earn their respect. I’m satisfied and happy we won the game and I thought we played well.”
The Bills’ media relations department transcribed 16 questions that Manuel was asked after the game. None of them – or any of his answers – hinted at any injury. He did not walk with a noticeable limp after the game. Marrone also did not make any mention of an injury in his postgame press conference.
“The only player that I was informed of that we’ve lost from the game – we’ll see the evaluation tomorrow – was Kevin Elliott,” Marrone said, a good indication Manuel’s injury took the team as much by surprise as it did the team’s fans Saturday afternoon.
Manuel had established himself as the favorite to start the season opener Sept. 8 against New England through the first two preseason games. He had outplayed Kolb in game situations, and he also had more practice time after Kolb was absent for eight days because of a minor knee injury and an excused absence for a death in the family.
Manuel played the entire first half in Buffalo’s first preseason game against Indianapolis.
“I look at these preseason games as another opportunity to show what I can do,” he said Friday, “to continue to learn and grow in this offense.”
That opportunity will now belong solely to Kolb for the next two weeks.
The seventh-year veteran got off to a difficult start Friday against the Vikings, as his second pass was intercepted. He completed just three of his first eight passes for 17 yards, but settled in to direct a pair of drives that resulted in field goals near the end of the first half.
“Forget the competition; it was good to get back in the groove for myself,” he said after the game. “I think knocking off the rust … that’s what it felt like I was doing. When I went out there, I was just overthinking things and that happens whenever you’re excited about something. It’s happened to me a couple times in my career. You get there and you start overthinking things. You’re not reading and reacting like you normally do, then you let it all fly out the window and you just start playing football again.”
The Bills return to practice at 8 a.m. today at St. John Fisher College. Marrone is expected to provide an update on Manuel’s condition following practice.
Elliott, a second-year wide receiver, suffered a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee against the Vikings and will miss this season.
Elliott, 24, signed with the Bills toward the end of last year after playing 13 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent. He suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Bills’ first preseason game earlier in training camp.
Elliott played only seven snaps against Minnesota, all on special teams.