E.J. Manuel was a little off target early in his NFL preseason debut. For the Buffalo Bills rookie signal-caller, it was all about relaxation.
"Obviously it was my first time out there," Manuel said Sunday after the team's 44-20 exhibition victory over the Indianapolis Colts. "I wanted to do great, but I thought as a team we played well. The main thing is just relax and take your time.”
The former Florida State Seminole took the field with under two minutes to go in the first half and his team knotted with Indy at 13 apiece. Manuel led the Bills on a 10-play, 92-yard drive capped off by a 17-yard scoring strike to Dorin Dickerson. The series lasted a little more than a minute and a half.
"When we got out there and we were able to get the first down and make those plays obviously you’re excited about what the quarterback did," Bills coach Doug Marrone said. "I think the other thing is you’ve got to remember there’s a whole football team watching this thing.
"When you talk about players believing in themselves, the defense is watching it and everyone is watching it. Here’s this guy right out of college, doesn’t really matter what round, and here he comes. One of the hardest things I’ve always found is when nothing’s open deep down the field, let’s go ahead and drop it off to the backs. He did a great job of that."
Manuel, who finished with a line of 16-of-21 for 107 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, felt the love on the sidelines after driving his team into the end zone just before the break.
“They were very happy for me. A lot of the guys congratulated me, getting that first touchdown and then also having a successful two-minute drive," he said. "It’s always good to have guys that you grew up watching on TV and things like that, now my teammates, give you some props.
"I just want to continue to get better and build upon that.”
Manuel's direct competition for the starting job, Kevin Kolb, didn't get on the field in the preseason opener. Kolb had returned to practice Friday after hurting his leg by slipping on a mat at camp earlier in the week. As a result, Manuel got a whole half of action.
Third-stringer Jeff Tuel came in after Manuel and put up an impressive 19-of 23 for 212 yards and two-touchdown showing.