The whole quarterback scenario that has played out with the Buffalo Bills is just as strange to Matt Cassel as it is to those outside the organization.
“It’s a long story,” Cassel said of how he went from being released Saturday to re-signing Tuesday and being named the backup to Tyrod Taylor. “I think it’s better if” General Manager Doug Whaley and coach Rex Ryan “explained it. I was caught a little bit off guard myself, but at the end of the day we were able to resolve it and I’m able to be here. Now the important thing is for us to get ready to go, for me to help Tyrod, and get this team ready to go and play Indy.”
Cassel said other teams – he declined to specify how many – were interested in his services, but that “the end result is I am where I’m supposed to be. I’m happy to still be a Bill and I’m happy to start the season.”
As a vested veteran, Cassel did not have to go through waivers upon being released and could have signed anywhere else.
So did he know the Bills wanted to bring him back?
“To a certain degree, yes,” he said.
It turns out Cassel was open to a reconciliation for a couple different reasons.
“There’s a lot of factors in life, you know what I mean?” he said. “First and foremost my family comes first, my wife’s eight months pregnant, and while football’s something I do for a living, you know, they’re No. 1 in my life. Obviously there were opportunities to go other places and everything like that, but at the same time when you look at this situation, the hard work that went in throughout this entire offseason, I thought it was the best place for me.”
Bills coach Rex Ryan originally was not scheduled to address the media Tuesday, but briefly addressed Cassel’s return to the team by confirming he would serve as Taylor’s backup, with EJ Manuel in the No. 3 role.
“As I’ve said from Day One, we like all three of the guys and we never want to lose anybody, obviously,” Ryan said. “That’s why we made the decision we did.
“What was important to me is the entire room. Those three guys, I mean they work in concert with each other. That’s important, I think, in all those types of things. They push each other, yet they are there for each other. They watch tape together. It’s really a unique deal because sometimes it’s not always like that.”
Bills quarterbacks coach David Lee took it to another level, calling Cassel the “glue in that quarterback room.”
“I’ve seen him when things get difficult to sit those guys down and go through it with them,” Lee said. “I’ve seen him share his notes, Xerox his notes and say ‘this is how I categorize this.’ I’ve never been around one that good. Chad Pennington was really good with the other quarterbacks, but this guy is really, really good.”
Cassel said he’s been in quarterback rooms before where each player wasn’t supportive of the other.
“People really don’t understand how much time we spend together throughout the course of the year,” he said. “When somebody else is playing the position – there’s only one guy that can do it – but hopefully you’re in support of that guy, because the job is hard enough as it is on some days, and then to have people working against you within your own building, it’s a bad environment. I’ve been around that before, so this is a great situation to be a quarterback in. I think we’ve got a great room with guys that have character and a great attitude toward it.”
Lee said Cassel “almost got the job,” that ultimately went to Taylor.
“We chart everything, ever since they’ve been here, since OTAs, it was a tight race,” he said. “And EJ, too. I’m so glad we kept all three because I like all three. I think all three can play. This is a happy morning for me.”
Manuel likely didn’t feel the same way. His rollercoaster career in Buffalo took another dip Tuesday when he was relegated to the role of No. 3 quarterback.
Naturally, the Bills’ 2013 first-round draft pick was asked following practice whether he felt like a change of scenery was required in his career, and if that meant he would consider asking the team for a trade.
“For right now, I’m in my current place. I’m still here with the Bills,” he said. “I want to be part of this team and help this team win. I’m good where I’m at right now.”
Ever the optimist, Manuel tried to put a positive spin on Tuesday’s development.
“It’s still important to continue to get better,” he said. “I did what I was supposed to do, and that was have a good preseason, play well in the games. This is just what it is.”
Manuel said he had no idea the Bills were interested in re-signing Cassel.
“Those things aren’t up to me,” Manuel said. I “had heard he got released, obviously I texted him and told him thanks for all the stuff he’s done for me. But they re-signed him this morning, so just got to go with it. My focus is still getting better.”
Like Lee, Manuel also praised Cassel’s veteran leadership.
“Extremely helpful,” he said. “He doesn’t hold back any information and if it’s something he’s gone through himself, he’s more than willing to share it with us younger guys. You don’t really get that a lot from a veteran quarterback.”
Despite what is an obvious setback to his career, Manuel said he’s proud of the way he’s battled back from adversity.
“It almost sometimes seemed like all odds were against what I had going on,” he said. “To come out, prevail, and still play well, still perform when the lights were on, I think that’s what’s most important. Just keep working and be ready for that opportunity. The league works in mysterious ways sometimes. It’s a business, so I know that opportunity is going to come.”