Starting EJ Manuel in the season finale at New England sounded like a firmly entrenched plan last week. This week Manuel's sprained left knee has forced head coach Doug Marrone into a holding pattern as he hopes the quarterback's knee improves to the point where he can in fact start against the Patriots Sunday.
Manuel was listed as a limited practice participant for the second straight day on Thursday, but Marrone said the rookie signal caller did work with the first team offense.
"Both quarterbacks participated in practice," said Marrone of Manuel and backup Thad Lewis. "Both quarterbacks participated in team. EJ looked improved today and we're still in the process of making a decision on how we're going to move forward."
Marrone had hoped to have his team practice outside, but with snow falling in Orchard Park for most of the morning and early afternoon the slick field conditions in the stadium were a risk the head coach did not want to take knowing the state of Manuel's knee injury.
"I was still a little backed up as far as getting EJ out there and working on that type of field where the conditions are a little more slippery, along with some other guys that have some nicks and bumps," he said. "If the weather report for Saturday was going to be snow then that would've trumped that thinking and we would've gone outside."
When asked what he still needs to see from Manuel in practice this week to convince him to give his rookie quarterback the nod for Sunday's game, Marrone wants to see him performing without any restrictions.
"I just want to see the confidence to be able to do the things that we're asking him to do to win the game," he said. "That's where the responsibility gets a little tough where you have to make tough decisions. The responsibility to the player who wants to play and go in there and the responsibility to the team of saying, 'Is he ready?'"
Naturally Marrone would prefer to see Manuel get another regular season start under his belt after already missing five starts this season including last week's win over Miami due to injury. But it's clear he's not going to put his quarterback at risk.
"People can look at things and say it's an easy decision as to what you should do. We're getting reps and everything and looking at it and it's not as easy as people think," said Marrone. "There are a lot of things that are involved like stability. Is it stable enough to do what we want to do, field conditions, weather? How is the game plan? How well does he know it? The confidence level of the team in doing it. I think there are a lot of things that go into that decision. It's not easy. It's one that I think about quite a bit because of the importance of that decision.
"My responsibility is to put the best players out there at any position where we have an opportunity to win. I really think of it that way. If I start thinking of it any differently I don't know that you can make the best decision."