NFL players are used to losing their teammates to injury through the course of training camp, the preseason and the regular season. Nevertheless, the sudden revelation of EJ Manuel's injury late Saturday caught some of his teammates off guard, especially when it became known that surgery was required. Come Sunday morning however, Buffalo's offensive players faced the fact that they have to finish their preparations for the regular season without him.
"He's a guy that can make plays for us," said Fred Jackson of Manuel. "But we've also always felt we want to make this thing go through us as running backs. We have all the confidence in the world in Kevin (Kolb) and we'll do whatever we can in that running back room to help make that situation a lot better for everybody in that quarterback room to make it easier for them."
Kolb, who will handle the first team reps for the rest of the preseason, knows what Manuel is going through. It was just a week ago that Kolb was working his way back from a knee injury after a freak slip on a rubber mat jogging from one practice field to the other.
"I think the first thing is whenever you're progressing the way you want to progress and then you have a setback, I felt like that happened to me a little bit," said Kolb. "I'm sure he feels like that's happening to him a little bit because he had two good games under his belt. I can't put words in his mouth, but that can be a little bit frustrating."
As difficult as it might be for Manuel, Buffalo's offense still has to round into form. T.J. Graham, who returned from a groin injury Sunday, knows when you're down a man everyone else has to pull on the rope a little harder.
"We know we've got to step it up," said Graham. "Stuff like this happens during the season all the time. This is a chance for us to kind of work on that scenario if anything were to happen. It was a good chance for Kolb to get in time with us and for anything to happen during the season, we can all, quarterbacks and receivers be on the same page."
The small silver lining for the backs and receivers is they've only got one first team quarterback to get used to after spending most of the last three weeks working with both Kolb and Manuel.
"Definitely you know what you're going to get," said Jackson. "But at this level all these guys are professionals so it makes it a lot easier to do whatever we need to get everything taken care of on that field knowing what they want to do when we're doing pass protection and things like that. Those guys have a lot of similarities, but they have their differences, but in that running back room we can make it work with anybody out there."
Kolb has seen different variables compromise a quarterback competition in his career before, so to see injury get in the way is anything but a shock. He'd prefer a true and even competition, but at this point the priority is pulling together as an offensive unit to ensure progress all the way up to the regular season opener.
"The season is a long season, 16 regular season games, four preseason games and hopefully with playoffs and a Super Bowl," said Kolb. "I know you guys want to hint towards the position competition, but it is a full-team game. Whoever the starter is going to be, you're going to have to rely on that other guy at all positions because you're going to step in, make plays whenever your name is called and win a couple of those football games in the middle of the season. It happens every year with every team. We're in it together and hopefully they can all transpire into wins and getting through different situations."