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Bills notebook: Ryan to let QB competition play out

Eventually, someone will have to play quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.

Coach Rex Ryan, however, is in no hurry to declare a winner – or even a leader – in that three-man race between EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor.

“Wisdom tells me to let it all play out and we’ll see what happens,” Ryan said Wednesday after the Bills finished their penultimate organized team activity of the spring.

In other words, there is no leader in the clubhouse, to borrow a phrase from golf.

“I don’t think we’ll see anything during minicamp that will say, ‘hey, this guy is our starter.’ That’s not going to happen,” Ryan said. “We’re going to keep that competition going and at least give guys opportunities when it’s time for football. But as far as being here, I feel good. I feel great about this team. I think there is going to be some competition at that position, and I think we have confident players at that position. But for us to say this guy’s the starter, that’s not going to happen.”

Ryan was asked if he’d have an established pecking order heading into training camp at the end of July, even one he’d keep to himself.

“It will probably be a way, but there’s also going to be guys with equal opportunity,” the coach said, keeping open the possibility the Bills won’t name a starter until Week One when the Indianapolis Colts come to town. “It’s until you earn things. That’s how I see it.”

Ryan, a big fan of other sports, started off his news conference Wednesday gushing about LeBron James’ performance in the NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers. A few minutes later, a reporter asked Ryan who would be the Bills’ “LeBron” at quarterback.

“Safe to say we won’t have LeBron at quarterback,” Ryan said. “We may have a LeBron at defensive tackle or defensive end, but we don’t have him at quarterback.”

Ryan made another comment in passing Wednesday about the uncertainty at quarterback when talking about Bills center Eric Wood, whom he compared to his center in New York, Nick Mangold.

“I was blessed with the Jets to be around a great one,” Ryan said. Wood “is very similar to Nick, so I think that’s been a good thing. I know I haven’t had an ideal situation at quarterback, but I’ve had an ideal situation at center for my career and Eric is just that way.”

Cassel and Manuel split reps with the first team Wednesday.

“Matt did some real good things, and then some other ones he was kind of late on the deep ball,” Ryan said. “I think that thing was up the rails and got to be thrown a little bit quicker. There are some things that you probably think you can get better at and then some things that he did well.”

The newest addition at quarterback, meanwhile, is seeing his workload increase gradually.

“He hasn’t gotten a whole lot of work right now,” Ryan said of Matt Simms. “It’s kind of catch-up mode right now for him, but he will get a lot more work when we get to training camp.”

The end is in sight for the Bills.

The end of spring practices, that is.

Perhaps as a result, attendance was a bit less Wednesday than what it has been, with offensive tackles Seantrel Henderson and Tyson Chandler, cornerback Leodis McKelvin, safeties Deon Broomfield and Aaron Williams, running back Boobie Dixon, wide receiver Percy Harvin and guard Chris Williams not taking part.

Williams’ absence is not a surprise – he’s skipped all of the voluntary workouts to this point. General Manager Doug Whaley told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Williams is still recovering from the back surgery that ended his 2014 season.

The rest of the absences are not injury related, Ryan said. The Bills will hold their final OTA on Thursday – that is, if Ryan doesn’t cancel it in favor of a team-building exercise.

“We’re going to have another tomorrow as far as you know,” the coach told the media. “There’s an OTA on the schedule, so that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.”

After that, it’s three days of mandatory minicamp next week, then coaches and players will scatter for summer vacation before the start of training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford at the end of July.

Ryan singled out middle linebacker Ty Powell as a player who has impressed him during the pads-less spring practice schedule.

“Powell jumps out to me on defense,” the coach said. “He had four interceptions in these camps. You can ignore it if you want, but he makes plays, he’s smart. I know the history and he seems to have found a home at inside middle linebacker.”

Ryan also said left guard Richie Incognito has done an “outstanding” job.


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