Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- The EJ Manuel era with the Buffalo Bills will officially begin on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The rookie quarterback selected by the Bills in the first round was named the starting quarterback of the team on Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation regarding the status of his injured knee. Head Coach Doug Marrone said Manuel is back and ready to start without any trepidation on his part.
"When he first came back, I was like 'Wow, he looks pretty good.' The thing was to be smart about it in bringing him back. I think that EJ and the trainers, and the doctors, they did a very good job," he said. "What I was trying to make sure of is that putting him back out there, was there any chance for it to get worse, meaning that he's not 110-percent. Once that was taken out of the equation, and he's out there, I feel very comfortable with that decision."
Manuel has been aggressively attempting to get the training staff to allow him to do more and more on the field. Getting back to practice even before the week started was big for him in his recovery from a minor knee procedure, and he knew there wasn't much more time to wait.
"I felt I would be good to go a few days ago, as far as my knee," Manuel said. But other than that, I know mentally, if I had the chance to go out and play, I'd be ready for it."
A big part of the rookie's game while at Florida State was being able to utilize his legs, and also figured to be a big part of the Bills' offensive approach. The inherent flaw, however, is that you need healthy legs to run and Manuel just had a procedure done on his knee.
Both Marrone and Manuel think it's going to be a non-issue and they'll likely approach the game without any reservations as to what could happen.
"No, he's actually looked a little bit faster," Marrone told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "I think because the time off and the rest a little bit, you know how we use that expression 'fresh legs?' I think we were able to see that, and the trainers throughout the rehabilitation process worked him very hard because we wanted to make sure about that."
"I haven't had any hesitation. It feels fine," the quarterback said. "It feels strong, so I can do all my normal movements I would do if I didn't have the brace on. Just had the brace on just for, I guess, extra comfort."
Since he's returned to practice, Manuel has sported a light brace on his left knee to help with the post-surgery effects. In some other instances, players would hate the idea of wearing an extra piece of equipment in a game that requires the players to be their absolute fastest. Not so with Manuel, however.
"When you play football, man, your body just takes over," he said. "You don't worry about an injury. It doesn't matter really what you have. When you've got guys flying at you, Wilfork and those kind of guys, you've got to get out of there. So I won't be thinking about it at all."
Manuel said that his decision on whether or not to wear the brace on Sunday will come down to how it feels as the team gets closer to their home opener against the New England Patriots. He then remarked that if he didn't want to wear the knee brace in the game then he just wouldn't wear it.
Now with the kickoff weekend decision totally behind them, the Bills and their fans can see just how Manuel will do against live NFL defenses. Marrone is setting the bar high for his rookie quarterback.
"I'd be lying if I'm standing here saying that I don't expect him to do great things," he said before qualifying it by saying he expects all his players to perform the same way. "It's his first game. He's gonna go in there, we're gonna give him everything he needs to be successful and he's gonna go out there and play."
Manuel, on the other hand, made no qualifying statements for his own personal expectations. He's just eager to get his NFL career started and in a big way.
"For myself, I expect greatness all the time," he said. I know this is my first NFL game. But I'm not going to look at it like that. I'm looking at it as the Buffalo Bills 2013 season, the first game of that. We've got to go out there and play hard and execute our offense and know the defense will do their job, too."
Manuel and the Bills take on the New England Patriots Sunday afternoon.