EJ Manuel has been cleared by team doctors to play, but Bills head coach Doug Marrone is reserving judgment until he sees the team's starting quarterback on the practice field later this week. All signs are pointing to Manuel being back on the field this weekend, but there are things Marrone needs to see from the rookie signal caller.
"EJ has been cleared," said Marrone. "I know he said that and he has been cleared by the doctors, but we have to make a good decision. We have to get him out there and see how he's doing from a football movement standpoint. We've had him out there throwing, which was something that we amped up quite a bit after the individual sessions that he was allowed to do last week. So we'll get him out there and put him in the mix and see how he's doing. We'll do that obviously early in the week."
Marrone will also have backup quarterback Thad Lewis available as well this week as his sore ribs are healing up well at this point.
"Thad (Lewis) is feeling better and he should be available for us too," Marrone said. "As of right now that's what we're looking at."
Last week while holding out hope that Lewis would recover from his rib injury in time for the Chiefs game, the offensive staff gave Jeff Tuel most of the reps with the starting offense, but also worked in Matt Flynn a bit. Marrone is hoping to avoid a similar scenario with Manuel and Lewis this week.
Come Wednesday Marrone would prefer to have the situation at quarterback spelled out so one of them is designated as the starter and they can prepare that quarterback sufficiently for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh.
"Is that something I would like to do? Absolutely, but is it something that we can afford to do I don't really know that yet until they get out there," said Marrone. "Yes, I would like to do that, but again just to see them out there first I'll have a better sense of that."
Manuel suffered an LCL injury in his right knee, which is his back leg on drop backs. It's also the leg quarterbacks plant and drive off of at the top of their drop to turn their hips into the throw to drive it down the field.
Through some rigorous passing workouts over the past week Manuel has experienced no limitations as a result of the injury.
"I haven't really felt any difference in what I've always naturally done, so you just rehab it get it better and perform," he said.
Naturally there will be some rust to knock off, but Marrone intends to keep a watchful eye on Manuel's throwing mechanics to make sure the injury is no longer limiting him.
"We've just got to see him go out there and drop back and push (off his back foot), throw the football," Marrone said. "Just really the football movements. I don't think there's anything else I would be looking for. He's been working and practicing."
Despite being out of the lineup for the past month, Marrone believes his rookie quarterback has progressed with his understanding of the offense and how to attack defenses.
"I think mentally he's better than he's been because he's worked extremely hard in that phase of the game," said Marrone. "Now it's just a matter of going out there. One of the things that gets missed in all this is Nathaniel Hackett, it's been very difficult for what he's been going through along with the rest of the players with the different quarterbacks having to play and what's going on and who's playing.
"He's really done a nice job of getting those guys ready to play. We'll do the same thing with EJ. We've worked with him extremely hard and we'll see where he's at as far as really what he does right on the field. We think mentally he's in great shape."
Lewis also an optionMarrone is also expecting to have his backup quarterback available for Sunday. Thad Lewis, who missed last Sunday's game with sore ribs after starting the previous three games in Manuel's absence, healed up considerably over the weekend.
"We expect him to be back. He threw (Monday)," said Marrone. "He's getting better each day and he's got two more days and should be fine by Wednesday."