Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- At the start of this week, the on-the-field portion of the Buffalo Bills competition for the 2013 starting quarterback position officially got underway with the beginning of Organized Team Activities at One Bills Drive.
Monday marked the first time that all of first-round pick EJ Manuel, free agent acquisition Kevin Kolb, and the re-signed Tarvaris Jackson were on the field taking reps with the team. In the only practice made available this week on Tuesday, all eyes were predictably on Manuel to see just how much or little he'd do now that the majority of the team was in attendance.
To start things off, it was Jackson and Kolb getting more reps than the former Florida State signal caller. Head Coach Doug Marrone said Manuel will progressively be integrated more and more throughout the month.
"We've done a good job because we're watching the reps of the quarterbacks and we're trying to make it to a point where it's equal," the coach said. "Well obviously Kevin and Tarvaris have been here a while so it's not to that point yet but we are getting a lot of reps out of EJ right now. Probably a little bit less than the other two are, but our goal is to somewhere along this line during these OTAs as he progresses, to have those equal amount of reps."
In the meantime, while he's not behind center Manuel must make good use of his practice time to stay on the same plane as both Kolb and Jackson. To do that, it's all about keeping the mind sharp and on the ready.
"That's exactly what it is though, you just have to take those mental reps," Manuel said Tuesday. "When you hear the play being called, you might say it out loud just like you would in the huddle. Just treat it like you're actually out there playing."
The whole notion of a quarterback competition is nothing new to either of Manuel's opponents. Since entering the league, it's been a battle for the most part to get time on the field throughout their careers.
In Kolb's case, he was in a training camp battle with John Skelton in Arizona -- a job he eventually lost to open up the season. While the Cardinals didn't draft a quarterback in the early rounds while he was there, Kolb knew what the score was in Buffalo before he signed his deal to play in western New York.
"I knew that was in the plans," he said. "Does it scare me, does it concern me? It's just part of the job and you move on. Like I told you before, it's all about competition in this league. I'm competing against everybody. EJ seems like a great kid and I'm happy to work with him."
For Jackson, it's a case of déjà vu. For the second straight year, he's the only hold-over at quarterback from the year before, witnessing an addition to his position both through free agency and the draft. Last time around for Jackson in Seattle, the rookie won out and he was jettisoned from the roster.
In that respect, Jackson may have a leg up on what to expect and a certain mindset to have while going through the summer of workouts. He knows it's important to stay on point at all times.
"When you're not in, you just try to get a mental rep. That's the best you can do," Jackson remarked. "If you just tune it out and the other guy might do something right and the other guy might do something wrong, you want to learn from his mistake or learn from what he does right. Try to add it to your game."
Not having to battle for his starting spot in a very long time, Manuel is just attempting to soak it all in while working both with and against Kolb and Jackson.
"For me, I watch those guys all the time whether it's in the film room or warming up out here on the field," he said. "Seeing what they do throughout the practices, see how they talk to the teammates and direct guys out there on the field. They obviously help when I ask questions, but probably the biggest thing they just lead by example."
The quarterbacking trio and the rest of the Bills have one more day of OTAs on Wednesday before it wraps up for the week. The team will reconvene on Monday, May 20 for the second set of the voluntary workouts.