Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- It's been a crazy week-and-a-half for quarterbacks at One Bills Drive. First EJ Manuel had to have a procedure done on his knee, then Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion which reportedly has put his career in jeopardy, and now the Buffalo Bills may have to start a player in Week 1 that didn't even start his full senior season in college.
"Right now, we’re planning on Jeff Tuel playing the first game and we’re working with EJ to get back as quickly as possible," Head Coach Doug Marrone said on Monday.
Caught by surprise a bit, reporters asked the head coach to clarify if that meant Manuel, the team's first round pick, had been ruled out of the opening game against New England. Marrone then said the team remained hopeful that their top pick from 2013 would indeed be ready for the home opener against the Patriots.
"We’re planning on (Tuel) now because he’s the one out there practicing and as soon as we get EJ out there practicing then obviously things will change," he said.
The unexpected potential starter said he's been preparing as though he'd get his chance his sooner rather than later. In every other instance than this one, fate sides with the latter.
"I came here to play football, and that's what I'm doing," Tuel remarked. "Anybody that comes to a team thinking, 'I want to come here and just sit on the bench,' is wrong. That's not what I came here to do. I came here to play. Whether that was going to be four years down the road, one year or this year, I was ready for it."
If it is indeed Tuel that gets the start against the Patriots, it would be the first time in the modern-draft era that a team would start an undrafted rookie free agent in a team's season-opening game.
"That's pretty cool. It'd definitely be an honor if that's the case. I'm surprised I'm the first."
The only other undrafted first-year player to start in the first week of the season was in 1976 when the Seattle Seahawks, then an expansion franchise, chose Jim Zorn to start. Zorn was not a rookie, however, because he had signed with the Dallas Cowboys out of college in 1975.
Tuel heads into the final preseason game on Thursday as the top quarterback on the depth chart. It's unknown if he will get time on the field or how long he'll play against the Detroit Lions. He'll be backed up by the recently acquired Matt Leinart and Thad Lewis.