Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bills still unsure about Manuel's availability for finale


The Buffalo Bills held E.J. Manuel out of the team's bout with the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, assuming he'd be healthy enough to try and finish the season on a high note against the New England Patriots this coming weekend.

Less than three full days to kickoff, the Bills are now not sure that will happen.

Manuel, who is nursing his third knee injury in four months, was limited in practice Thursday and didn't get reps with the first team. He was also kept inside to avoid the slippery elements.

If the rookie signal-caller is not ready for live action by Sunday, Thad Lewis will get yet another start in his absence. Lewis got the nod last week in the Bills' 19-0 victory and has seen action in five games with Manuel sidelined.

"People can look at things and say it’s an easy decision as to what you should do," Bills coach Doug Marrone said of his impending decision, via "We’re getting reps and everything and looking at it and it’s not as easy as people think.

"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."

With Buffalo far removed from anything playoffs, the risk might outweigh the reward regarding Manuel, even though every rep is crucial in the young player's development. If he were to take the field and something bad happened, the decision to put him in harm's way would be heavily scrutinized given the circumstance.

Manuel is completing just under 59 percent of his passes and has accumulated close to 2,000 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 games. He's also rushed for two scores.

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