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Doug Marrone "110 percent confident" Manuel will return against Pats

Posted Dec 18, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about EJ Manuel's injury, starting Thad Lewis at quarterback this week, and Stevie Johnson potentially missing the Dolphins game as well.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Opening Statement:
Did not participate in practice, Aaron Williams with the ribs, Kyle Williams Achilles, Fred Jackson ribs. Excused from practice obviously Stevie Johnson. Again, I don’t believe that he will be available for our game on Sunday and I think it’s important we realize this tragedy and our thoughts and our prayers are with Stevie and his family. I think that really sums it up because everything else, it’s a tough situation and it is personal. I appreciate everyone understanding that. Limited in practice is Brandon Smith, Marcell Dareus and EJ Manuel. The situation with EJ is this; he went out there after I spoke to you guys on Monday. We were not able to—there was swelling on the knee. We were not able to get that swelling to respond with the treatments the way we wanted. We went out there today, I think you saw, you guys that were there, you saw him where he’s able to throw the ball in the pocket, but the stability in that knee with the swelling, he does not have the escapability or the ability to run after the fake or zone read or those type of things that we feel is important for us to win. Thad Lewis will start, Jeff Tuel will be his backup and I feel very confident that EJ Manuel will start in our final game of the season versus New England.

Q: So you’ve already made that determination?

A: Yes. I think we all do understand that we would have had to miss practice time and continue the treatment to get that swelling down and I think it’s very difficult to miss practice time and go out there and give us the best opportunity to win on Sunday.

Q: The idea of EJ, this now being his third injury in his rookie season, he can get a label of injury prone. Can you speak on any concerns you may have about that?

A: From my opinion, people are going to think that and write that. I totally understand that. My personal opinion is this, he’s not injury prone. His history has shown that he has never been hurt. He’s gotten hurt here, yes. He reinjured that left knee that he hurt in training camp. When he has been injured, he has done everything he could to come back faster than what was expected, faster than what was possible. I think in this league what is difficult for any player is to be able to keep coming back, keep coming back, keep coming back and never really fully recover. Especially the younger you are. I think it’s very difficult for the younger players when you think about what they go through from a process of after they’re done playing their college season they start getting ready for the combine. They train much differently than you’re going to train going in to the following season. Now, those are my personal things. I think you can get people that obviously think differently than that. I don’t really feel that way about him.

Q: He’s been hurt running the ball now twice. Will this make you think long term about how you want to use him?
A: The three things that occurred were obviously the first one in Minnesota with the scramble. Again when I look at it they’re contact injuries that you look at and you say, ‘Wow,’ maybe freak injury is the word. You’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe the luck on that situation.’ The second one obviously was Cleveland, again taking off and running. I feel that we’ve learned from that experience and he’s gotten better with how he played. The third one, which we didn’t know at the time where it occurred, we went back and looked was really the second or third to last play of the half in Jacksonville. Where he’s hit in the pocket on an incomplete pass on the check down and then another player comes over the top while his left leg is up and hits it. To answer your question, I think we’ve got to keep working that, making sure he makes the right decisions, but I don’t think it’s going to hinder us to be able to do the things we need to do for us to win.

Q: To clarify, EJ won’t be available in any capacity on Sunday?

A: No because I think that would be a mixed message for people. In other words I feel 110 percent confident that he’ll be ready For New England and play in New England.

Q: Do you think you’ll have a discussion this week about if it’s worth having him ready for New England instead of shutting him down?
A: No. Absolutely not. I’m glad you asked that question. Everybody knows, I’ve already said it, every snap, every time we can get him in there, that type of experience the better and better he gets and we’ve seen that with him. We’ve seen, make no mistake about it, last game we saw him get off to a tough start and then really start to play well. We’ve seen at times him play extremely well in games and that type of experience is what we need. That’s why it’s not, I don’t even think of that.

Q: Do you think you’ve seen enough from EJ to have a definitive answer as to whether he’ll go in to next season as your starter?
A: Yeah. I think I will have enough and I’ll talk about that after the season no problem at all. I don’t think I’m going to assume it, I feel very confident about him playing in New England.

Q: What do you know about Thad Lewis playing in this weather?
A: I know when he was at Duke they came up North a couple times. We’re practicing in it which I think helps, being out there. I have all the confidence in the world in Thad going out there and playing well. I don’t think weather will be a factor. Obviously Sunday’s report there is a lot of things that we’re tracking. Rain, snow, wind, wind gusts and it is sporadic what we can get. The one thing we know is there will be elements on Sunday.

Q: Would one positive be that Thad has a return performance against Miami?
A: He’s played against them before and I would think it does help. I think it helps that he has played against them before and he’s done a very good job of making sure that he is ready to go. We’ve been able to take extra reps in practice on offense because we have a young group at quarterback and he has taken reps during practice. Other places that I’ve been the veteran quarterback takes them all.

Q: How have you left things with Stevie that leads you to feel it is unlikely he’ll be available Sunday?
A: I think we have to look at ourselves at times and realize the type of personal tragedy. I think if we do that, the compassion for us as people, we need to make sure that our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. I’m just going to say that and that’s how I feel. If I have to answer those questions, then our empathy isn’t where it should be from all of us and I apologize if anyone feels differently.

Q: How disappointed is EJ?
A: Extremely disappointed. We’ve talked about it. We know what’s going to come out and again we shouldn’t assume that, but it’s going to be questioned. Just like with the injury (prone) and that’s why I’ve come out and said what I said. I really don’t believe that. I think it’s important for him to make sure for him and our football team to put us in the best position to win. He is extremely disappointed.

Q: How is Fred with his ribs?
A: Yeah, we’re just resting him.

Q: How mentally challenging is it to get the team up for practicing outdoors since you’re out of the playoffs?
A: I was fired up. We have a lot to play for. I said it the other day when I say this is critical and it is. It is critical at least from my standpoint and that’s how I’m addressing the team. There’s a lot of things that we’re playing for. We haven’t had a winning record within our division in a long period of time, this last time being in 2007. I think that’s in a twelve year period. That’s a lot on the line because in order to turn it around, yes we’d all like to say we’re going to accomplish all these feats in one year, but we’ve got to start doing some of these little things that we talked about before to prepare as we move forward. I think the other thing that comes to mind is when you look, we haven’t won the fourth quarter, of how I said we’d present things to the team, of the season in a long period of time. I think it’s important we have two division games and when people say, ‘You’re out of it,’ and things like that, I can understand the reality of that, but again at the same time I hope everyone understands how important it is for us to play.

Q: Do you struggle sometimes to not think about games that you let slip away that could have you in the middle of the playoff race?
A: I’d like to be able to stand up here and say absolutely not my whole focus is on the game at hand, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth. You do do that. What happens is you do it and you go back and forth and at the end of the day, you are what you are. That’s the reality of it, so the what if game is really a battle within yourself. So to answer your question, do I do that? Yes I would like to say I don’t, but I think I do it probably less than people presume because I’ve realized that in my career. That’s how I was very early and young in my career doing that. I realize now that’s why every day is critical, everything you do is critical. What you never want to do is be able to look in that mirror and play the what if game and have regrets of how you prepared, what you did, how you go the team ready, what happened, what could you have done better because that’s very difficult to live with.

Q: What’s the outlook like for Aaron Williams?
A: I think Aaron is going to be 50-50. I think we’re going to have to, I really can’t say right now either way. We’re going to be monitoring that situation and going through that process. That will be it and I’ll be able to comment on that every day.

Q: Was there any thought of shutting down Manuel for the rest of the season?
A: Absolutely not. I thought that I communicated that very well since we’ve been here. I am 110 percent confident that he will play against New England.

Q: Well with three knee injuries doesn’t it seem risky?
A: Like I said before, he went there—I’m going to reiterate exactly what I said, I am 110 percent confident that he will be out there and play. He has the ability to go back there and throw it. His escapability is not where it needs to be. We were in a process, his knee swelled up, we’re not able to get it down fast enough for him to be ready. The other thing taken in to factor is the reps in practice. We feel that he needs those reps. I think we’re good with the way I answered it.

Q: The structural integrity of the knee is fine, it’s more just a swelling issue?
A: Exactly. Once that goes down and the stability goes up, then we’re fine.

Q: Do you think it mattered that you were practicing outside?
A: Well he was inside when we looked at it. What we did today was we went out there, the field was prepared the same way it’s going to be prepared on Sunday so our players can look at it. This is how we’re going to practice as long as I’m the head coach. When we’re playing outdoors, unless it’s something where common sense wise it’s just not the brightest thing to go outside with, when we’re playing outside we’re going to go ahead and take the snow off and practice outside on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Q: So it was when you took EJ outside is when you decided that he didn’t have it?
A: I would think everyone that was in here and watched him would say the same thing. It doesn’t take—you saw a guy drop back and he threw ok dropping back. But when you saw it after when he went with his fakes and his stability from side to side, you would go, ‘He doesn’t look too good there.’

Q: So he never made it outside?
A: He came outside with us, but that’s when we made the decision of not putting his health in any more jeopardy knowing that if we’re smart about this there is no problem with him coming back and playing in New England.

Q: So it was outside that you realized mobility wasn’t there?
A: Tell me the gist of the question. Are you saying when was the decision made?

Q: Yes.
A: The decision was made prior to us going outside. That’s all you have to ask.

Q: What would you think about a mandatory knee brace for him?
A: I think you see a lot of quarterbacks brace their left knee even though they haven’t had any problems. We’ve had tape and brace on the left, we have the brace on the right. I take information from our doctors and our trainers and I go from there. That’s probably better answered by them. They’re recommendation is what I do. For me to say I believe and the data from the doctors and trainers don’t prove that, would be foolish on my part.

Q: What have you seen from Thad in the games and the last several weeks in practice?
A: I feel good. I think it’s the same thing, he has been out there taking reps so it’s not something where I haven’t seen him for a period of time. Plus I’ve been in that room seeing how he prepares himself to play. I’m excited about this opportunity for Thad. To have the ability to go out there and show what he can do and I have all the confidence in the world of him going out there and playing well. Obviously he had success against them the first time, we won. We know that Miami is coming in here hungry as hell and we’re excited for that challenge. He is too.

Q: What is Miami doing differently than the first time you played?
A: Their efficiency is better, their turnover ratio is better in the games that they’ve won. Their third down stuff is better. I think all the things that we talk about of how come you’ve lost the game or how come you’ve won a game, I think those are the things they’re doing well. Those areas come to mind right off the bat.

Q: How have you seen their offensive line come together given the challenges they’ve faced?
A: That’s a better question for Coach Philbin and the coaches, but I see a very good football team that is playing extremely well.

Q: Seeing as they haven’t played much together, do you see a chance to attack them?
A: I would never say not play well. Again I’m not the one evaluating it. I would say that they’re playing well, obviously they’re doing the things they need to do and they’re obviously in the hunt. They’re a good football team and I have all the respect in the world for those guys. Obviously Joe and I know each other, Coach Turner who is the offensive line coach and I worked together. I know those guys are good coaches, they’re going to get their guys ready to play and I have to do my part and get my players ready to play.

Q: Can you talk about the development of Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams and how they’ve progressed since you got here?
A: I’m going to go across and if ‘m not on the right track, just correct me. When we came in here and looked at the talent on the roster and we’ll start with Leodis first, we felt there was a lot of talent and I think a lot of people have seen that. What you’ve seen from Leodis is the ability to understand the process during the week. He’s worked extremely hard and I’ve said he’s kind of been under the radar a little bit and has put together a string of very good football games. He’s worked extremely hard along with Coach Henderson to make himself a better prepared, things that hurt him in the past, you would think that honestly schematically there were things you would think the corner would be able to do last year much easier than what we’re doing now with as much man to man that we’re playing, which is more difficult for a corner. I’m proud with the way he’s done it. I had a conversation with him, why do you think you’re playing better, I think I have my opinion. I talked to him about I think it’s process and how he’s been doing things during the week. I think he’s been playing extremely well and at a high level.

I think with Aaron Williams we were thinking the same thing. Was he a better fit for safety when we looked at the talent? Aaron has done an unbelievable job because here we are at safety and getting him going, communication is the key thing. At corner, our corners are getting the call from the safety and when you’re at safety you have to communicate more. People may think that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is when you’re conditioned one way as a player. Aaron obviously went back and was playing safety, working on that communication and doing a good job. We had some injuries, he moved to corner, played very well at corner for us and then moved back to safety which is a better position for him. He’s had a little bit more adversity moving back and forth and has played extremely well.

Q: You said you’ve talked to EJ about what people are going to say, is he sensitive about the idea that people are going to say he’s injury prone?
A: I always try to prep them, no different than myself coming out here, this is what it is going to happen, this is the reality of the situation and people are going to think this. That’s how we work, everyone knows, it’s not a secret. When I talk to him I said, ‘Look, here it is it is plain and simple. The stability of that knee to make you escape, to extend plays, to run the proper fakes, to run the read is not where it needs to be for us from a stability standpoint. People may question what you are injury prone and I said just so you know this is how I feel about it and I understand this is how you feel about it. We just need to keep pushing forward. As long as you  and I feel the same way, then it really doesn’t matter what people say.’ That’s the truth.

Q: Will this latest injury require a procedure of any kind in the offseason?
A: I’ve been told no.

Q: How unusual is it that two of the three injuries you don’t know what play it happened on? That seems strange.
A: No. Two of the three afterwards after the game and you’ve got to remember—I don’t want to talk down to anyone—but when you play in a game and I think we can all realize this, your adrenaline level is sky high. There have been times, and it happens, where players come in the next, it’s happened to me as a player. I felt great after the game and all of the sudden overnight I’m like, ‘Holy cow, where did I get this shot on my thigh that blew up and I can’t even walk.’ Those things happen and then you try to remember where it happened and then you’ve got to do some research and look in to it. It doesn’t happen all the time, but ti does happen. Specifically we know exactly what plays they are after we went back and really looked at it.

Q: How much might this stunt the development of this team beyond this season?
A: We don’t feel, obviously me sitting here, we can’t afford to stop the progress of this team. We need to keep pushing forward and the next guy up. As far as EJ, we’re going to be able to do things like we have been doing when he hasn’t been available to keep his progress going in other things that we need to keep improving on.

Q: He’s been inconsistent and you need more consistency from him and the only way he can improve on that is to be out there.
A: Yeah, I mean when we get him consistent I think we’ve all seen him in games where he’s given us the ability to win some games that we haven’t. He put us in position to and he’s played well enough that we won some games. Again we’ve seen those moments and I think it’s part of the process of a young quarterback. When we can get that consistency throughout, then I think we all have what we want and that’s what we’re striving for and that’s what he’s striving for.

Q: Are Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks close to playing some meaningful snaps on defense?
A: Yes. When you look at it, we have Jimmy Leonhard, we have obviously (Da’Norris) Searcy, Meeks has just come back and then obviously we have Duke. So we have four players back there that are able to do that. All four players, depending on the packages and what we’re trying to do, could be involved in the defense, but again we’re looking for all players to participate on special teams.

Q: Jairus (Byrd) as well?
A: I’m assuming everyone thinks that Jairus is the starter.