Bills head coach Doug Marrone said all along that after EJ Manuel was a couple of weeks into his rehabilitation that the team would be able to better assess when he'd be able return to the practice field. Marrone couldn't say if practicing with his teammates would definitively happen this week. What he did say was Manuel is going to be pushed hard with trainers to see if practicing is possible.
"He will be working extremely hard this week," said Marrone. "I can't answer the question is he going to be practicing or not. I don't want to get into that. He's going to be working extremely hard to a level of a great stage of where we should be."
Manuel, who suffered a sprained LCL in his right knee on a scramble play in the Week 5 primetime game against Cleveland, will be four weeks removed from sustaining the injury on Thursday. The initial prognosis was four to six weeks.
The first couple of weeks of rehab for Manuel involved a lot of cardiovascular and strength work to keep his body ready to return to full action. Now it sounds as if the Bills rookie quarterback will be doing more football related work in preparation for a return to practice.
"He's going to ramp it up this week," said Marrone. "He's closer to getting to the practice setting. I've got to watch him. I haven't seen him out there yet. We're getting ready to ramp him up, so we're going to throw him out there and see how he does."
For the first two weeks Manuel has been out of the lineup he's sat in the coaching booth during games sitting alongside offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to get a different perspective on how the offense is called. In New Orleans Manuel took in the game on the sidelines.
Marrone made it clear at the outset of Manuel's injury that he wanted to keep him engaged in the goings on with the offense week to week even though he was sidelined.
"We're just trying to get him in a developmental stage where we keep working him, giving him different things to do," said Marrone. "Giving him different perspectives and keep him going. One of the things that's important for us, is that when we have players that are injured, we keep working with them and keep developing them not just cast them to the side, and say, 'OK, we're going to concentrate on the ones that are healthy, we can't worry about you right now.' I think that sends a poor message."