It took until Friday for Thad Lewis to get out on the practice field with sore ribs keeping him sidelined for much of the week. The quarterback who has started each of the past three games for Buffalo was very limited in practice, and head coach Doug Marrone listed him as doubtful for Sunday's game.
Marrone described Lewis' chances of playing as 50-50 earlier in the week, but a doubtful designation by NFL description means a player has just a 25 percent chance of playing. Still, Marrone is not going to make a decision on his starting quarterback until the weekend.
"We're trying to hold out to see if Thad will be ready. We feel that if he is, we have the option to play him if he's healthy enough for us to win," he said. "When you're dealing with muscle injuries, they kind of take it all the way up until game time. This one's a pain tolerance situation to see what he can do."
Lewis did not throw much in practice Friday according to Marrone, but they do plan to have Lewis throw this afternoon and then again work out on Saturday to make a final determination.
"He may throw the football this afternoon, he may throw it in two training sessions (Saturday), and then have one pregame," said Marrone. "So I think we can catch him up if he does that.
"It's a point of the soreness in the ribs, just being able to turn and throw. That's the one thing that's holding him back is being able to turn his torso and throw. That's it. If he can get by that, he'll be able to play."
If Marrone and his offensive staff determine that Lewis will be unable to play it will come down to a decision between rookie QB Jeff Tuel and recent free agent signee Matt Flynn.
"We're going to have discussions this afternoon and (Saturday) if Thad can't go, which quarterback gives us the best chance to win," he said. "That's really not finalized in our minds. Those discussions will be myself, (offensive coordinator) Nathaniel Hackett, and (General manager) Doug Whaley. That's the way it is."
Tuel has been in Buffalo's offensive system since May, while Flynn just completed his third week in the offense. Both players got snaps in practice this week with Lewis sidelined, but Tuel has a better handle on the system and has accumulated significantly more time on the field with Buffalo's receiving corps and other offensive players through training camp and the preseason.
The undrafted rookie had a strong preseason, but struggled when he was thrust into the second half of the Week 5 game at Cleveland. Having been the beneficiary of a lot of reps in practice this week he feels his readiness for Sunday's game, should he be tabbed the starter, to be significantly better.
"I'm a lot more prepared," he said. "I got a lot more reps this week than any other week, so I definitely feel a lot more prepared. It's all about confidence with your guys, them trusting you and you trusting them. It's definitely big."
While for some it might be a bit nerve wracking not knowing if you're starting or not, Tuel has been through this situation twice before. The first time leading up to the season opener when it was uncertain as to whether EJ Manuel would be able to recover from a knee injury in time to play in the season opener.
Then heading into Week 6, with Manuel out with a knee injury he and Thad Lewis were options to start against the Bengals with the coaching staff ultimately turning to Lewis that week.
"I feel really good," said Tuel on the John Murphy Show. "I have a real good relationship with the O-line and the receivers. I've got experience in this area of being thrown into situations with unfortunate things happening to quarterbacks in front of me and dealing with injuries. I've had to be in and out of the starting lineup to the number twos, to whatever it may be, the number three—all of it. I've had to do it all. I've had to really learn to just mesh with all possible players and combinations that could be in the lineup. But I'll be ready for whatever is asked for me."