ORCHARD PARK, NY - (WKBW) Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel practiced Sunday for the first time since undergoing minor knee surgery two weeks ago. He took part in individual drills and is expected to practice fully on Monday.
Below are comments from Manuel, Head Coach Doug Marrone, Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller, who rejoined the team following several days off dealing with a family tragedy in Florida. Transcripts provided by the Buffalo Bills.
HC Doug Marrone
September 1, 2013
Q: We saw that EJ (Manuel) was out there at the beginning of practice. Can you give us an update on what he was able to do?
A: Sure, first day of transitioning him back in. He did all of individual. He didn’t take part of the team part of it. Tomorrow we’re expecting him to take part in the full practice.
Q: A good step forward today to be able to take part in the individual?
A: Very much so. I think that the he’s transitioning in, I think it’s no secret. I said it before, if we can have him practicing on Wednesday and we feel that he’s good enough and mentally ready to play, then he’s going to play. I’ll be able to give everyone an answer on Wednesday
Q: How would you evaluate him today?
A: He looked good. He looked good. I say that not knowing what can happen in the next couple days. As far as today, I think he looked good and we were excited about , but I don’t want to give the wrong impression that two to three days from now I don’t want to be communicating ‘Well wait a minute, he looked good, you led us on to believe that he’s feeling alright,’ I don’t try to play any games. Again, we’ll just see how he goes during the week and Wednesday we’ll make the decision. It’s either going to be EJ or its going to be Jeff (Tuel). Both guys will be available for the game.
Q: You said you hoped to have him back by Wednesday. To have him back tomorrow, would that mean he’s ahead of schedule?
A: I would say yes.
Q: Any update on Jairus Byrd?
A: He’s still working his way back in. Doing a couple of team things, but again still working his way back in to get him in a position where he can help us.
Q: Do you foresee him in next week’s game or is it too early to say?
A: I’m not sure on that.
Q: Is it a good feeling to have some guys returning from injury?
A: I appreciate your comments on that. Yes. I didn’t know if that was a question or not.
Q: Is C.J. (Spiller) just getting back to town?
Q: Will he back at practice tomorrow?
Q: Is there any trepidation on your part carrying two rookie QB’s on the active roster?
A: I think that’s our situation and we feel that we’re going to go in to it with the players we feel give us the best chance to win. I don’t have a problem if someone is a rookie, a veteran, whatever it may be. Our job as coaches is to make sure we put people on the field that we can rely on and we feel that we can win with. That’s our responsibility and accountability to the rest of the team. To answer your question, no I don’t, I don’t worry about.
Q: What can you tell us about Brandon Burton?
A: I can tell you he’s in transition, on his way here. That’s all I know.
Q: Is there any news on the other two open roster spots?
A: No, I think we’re still working on that and again I think it’s very difficult for me to sit here and say, ‘here’s where we are,’ until we get them in here and it becomes official. I just think it’s better for me to do that, rather than just spreading rumors.
Q: In general why did you leave those spots open on your roster?
A: I think anything else is going on, we’re in constant transition or constant motion going forward of trying to put together the best team we can. I think we’re always looking to upgrade this team, no matter what position it is. I think you’ll see that going through the season week to week. If there’s someone out there that we feel can better this football team, then we have to look at what those moves may be. I think that’s our responsibility as an organization to our fans and it’s our responsibility as coaches to our team.
Q: Do you have any update on Doug Legursky?
A: It’s a positive sign. I still think it’ll be some time. The positive thing is it’s not long-term because obviously we didn’t put him on IR.
Q: Would he be a candidate for the IR-Return designation?
Q: So it’ll be a shorter timeframe than that?
A: Yes. In our opinion, if everything goes well than yes.
Q: Burton doesn’t have a lot of game experience, but how important is it to bring in a guy who’s been in the league?
A: I think we’ll see when he gets here. For me, I think it’s very difficult for me to discuss that down until he gets in and we get him out there. I think I’ll have a better feel and feel more comfortable answering that question.
Q: Did Jairus get a clean bill on the second opinion on his foot?
A: I think the definition of clean bill of health is very difficult. I really do. When a player is working his way back, obviously some people will view that as a clean bill of health. I think I see that, but there is a point where obviously the player has to feel good about coming back from whatever it may be, soreness or whatever. I think he’s transitioning back in to that, that type of role.
Q: Did he show up here with that injury?
A: I think that’s a good question. Obviously he passed our physical when he came in.
Q: Is the plan to start Justin Rogers Week One?
A: I answered that question before; we have four corners that we’re rotating through right now depending on what packages and what personnel groups are out there. We’ll make that decision as the week goes on who takes the first snap.
Q: Bringing Thad Lewis back, does that bring some flexibility in case EJ isn’t ready Sunday?
A: I think that’s obviously an option, but I think Thaddeus (Lewis) has shown us some things in a short period of time that we’re excited about and he had practice squad eligibility. We’re fortunate to get him back here at least from our standpoint and how we feel. Obviously that’s an option if something happens.
RB C.J. Spiller
September 1, 2013
Q: Can you take us through the emotions of last week?
A: Well it was very emotional. If anybody in here has lost anyone close, I’m sure some of you have, a grandparent or something, you can understand or feel the emotions that I was going through. First, I just want to say I found out before the (Redskins) game, then my decision was to play. This organization, I mean this a first class organization. The way they send their support, their thoughts and prayers to everybody involved because if you don’t know, my hometown is a 1,900 population. It’s a small community, so when they wanted to send their condolences down to all of Union County, it speaks volumes about the organization that we have here. Like I said the supporting cast of Coach Marrone, our CEO Russ (Brandon) and our GM Doug Whaley; I was texting those guys, checking up on them, they were checking up on me. I was letting them know I was pretty good. I just wanted to get that out the way and thank everybody for the privacy for the most part with my family. We were grieving and everyone was trying to get a statement, but it wasn’t the appropriate time that I thought. I told them I’d handle everything as far as a statement or whatever once I got back to Buffalo.
Q: I know you just shared a hug there with Coach Marrone. In the short time that you’ve gotten to know him, is he someone you can lean on for support in that situation?
A: Yeah. He’s our Head Coach. It doesn’t matter if I had known him for one day or I had known him for one hour, he was very supportive when we found out about the accident and he’s going to continue to be supportive. Those were his words and for that to come from your head coach, someone who I haven’t had a long relationship with, it means the world to me. My running back group, Fred (Jackson) was the first one that knew. He came right up to me and he held his support and Coach Wheatley. He was up there talking to me and giving me support, just letting me have the moment to myself. Like I said, the whole staff and the players, it’s been great support.
Q: Just to be back with your football family, will that help?
A: Obviously it will. This is what I wanted to do. I know reports out there about when I was going to return. I knew it was going to be this week and I knew it was probably going to be today because I wanted to be around my guys and be able to come and practice with these guys and get ready for New England. I understand that it is a tragic event that took place and it’s going to take a while to cope with, but at the same time I can’t forget the task and the goal and the dreams that we have here as a team and an organization. I wanted to be a part of that. I’ll do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go.
Q: How do you go about putting this behind you and getting ready to go?
A: Well obviously I’d be lying if I said I’ve put it behind me. It’s still early, there are still emotions there. When I get out there on the football field, that’s all I’m worried about. Obviously when I go home and stuff like that you should be able to cope with it. I’m pretty sure if I need any guidance or counseling, I can get that. For the most part, once I touch the field, my main focus is football. That’s how my whole family wanted it. That’s how my Mom wanted me to do. She told me when I come back to make sure my focus is on getting ready for New England.
QB EJ Manuel
September 1, 2013
Q: How did it feel to at least be out there and participate in some of practice?
A: Yeah, it felt great to be out there with my teammates and get back in the mode of practicing and things like that instead of doing rehab.
Q: How confident are you that you will be able to get in there by Sunday?
A: Well each day my injury has gotten better and like I said, I have been two or three treatments a day. That has been helping me a lot. Chris Fischetti has done a great job helping me get back on the field. I have been progressing every day.
Q: It did not look like you were favoring your knee. How natural does it feel and are you still thinking about it?
A: When you play and if you are going to play you cannot think of any kind of injuries that you have whether it is something you got a procedure on or it is a sprain finger—anything like that. You just have to go out there and play.
Q: You are not feeling it that much?
A: Not really.
Q: Was that knee brace new?
A: Yeah, that is new. Obviously having a different type of equipment that you usually do not wear—it is different. After a while you just get used to it.
Q: Are you surprised that you are back this soon?
A: I am not really surprised. Like I said, I try to work hard at everything. I can control whatever I can control and I’ve been controlling trying to get my knee better. That is what I have done.
Q: Did you know right away that something was wrong when you got hit?
A: Yeah. I knew something was going on after that play and the MRI just showed what was going on.
Q: You played through it though, right?
A: Yeah, I think we had three or four more series. However many series we played. It was very early when I got in. I just continued to play on and play football.
Q: Do you regret that decision looking back or do you feel that you could keep going?
A: I definitely felt like I could continue to play. Obviously a lot of adrenaline helps with that. When I kind of had a chance to slow down and sit down, that is when it got kind of stiff and things like that.
Q: In general, how anxious are you to be able to be out there for the season opener?
A: Well I definitely just want to be back to help the team. I am a huge team player and just want to be back. Obviously if I am healthy enough to go out there and make plays, Coach Marrone makes the decision, I would be more than happy to go out there and play.
Q: Has the training staff had to slow you down in terms of your rehab? Have you wanted to do more?
A: Yeah they have. I understand that part of it. That is what they do. That is why they are here. I trust all their judgment.
Q: Whose call will it be when you get to Sunday on if you will play?
A: I am not sure yet. We will probably see when we get there.
Q: How would you describe the procedure that they did? And it was just two weeks ago?
A: It was just basically…well I think Coach Marrone handles all those injury questions. So I will let him answer that.
Q: Is that the first time something has happened to your knee?
A: It is. First time anything has happened to my knee.
Q: Are you feeling any pressure to start and be out there on Sunday?
A: I am not feeling any pressure. So I would not say it is pressure, I want to play. Go out there and be a part of the team, the first game of the season. That is how I feel.
Q: How caught up do you feel just taking part in the meetings and things like that? Do you feel mentally all there?
A: Definitely. Right on schedule as far as the mental part. When I was not at practice, I just went in mentally watching the practice film and then watching the game film on New England and things like that. And Carolina—depending on when I was going to come back.
Q: Does it make it harder having to think about your knee while you prepare for your first NFL game against New England?
A: I would not say it makes it more difficult. Just prepare like you’re not hurt and prepare like you are going to play.
Q: In college whenever you might have been dealing with injuries, were there a certain amount of practice that you felt like you needed to be ready to play?
A: Well in college we always practiced through injuries. If you could walk, you went out there and practiced. If you were expected to play on Saturday, you should go out and practice. If you did not practice, Jimbo (Fisher) was not going to play you. That is how we handled it and that added to a lot of the toughness when it comes to playing with it when I actually hurt it. It is just part of being a football player.
Q: How has the last week been between you and Jeff Tuel?
A: We both are still learning. I think we both have a good grasp on the offense. We both had a lot of reps during the summer camp and things like that. Whoever is going to go out there and play, coach is going to make the decision. He will choose the guy that is going to help us win.
Q: How comforting is it to already be out here practicing?
A: It is very reassuring. I just want to see how it reacts tomorrow as far as the soreness or anything like that. Which I don’t think I will have any soreness because I did not have any after I was running around and threw the other day. I am just looking forward to moving on tomorrow and getting more reps in practice.
Q: If it was your call to play on Sunday would you play?
A: Most definitely.
WR Stevie Johnson
September 1, 2013
Q: As an offensive leader, how nice is it to see EJ Manuel back on the field?
A: It feels good to see him out there actually moving fluidly. With leg injuries it’s tough. He’s obviously a valuable piece to our puzzle and it’s good to see him out there throwing the ball around.
Q: So he looked pretty good to you?
A: The only thing we know is the ball was there when we needed it. We obviously know how this is and we don’t want him to rush back. Obviously the season is starting and everything is turned up. We’re ready to have everybody out there, but we don’t want him to have to deal with this the rest of the year or the season, so we want to be smart about it.
Q: How important was it seeing CJ Spiller back today?
A: It was good seeing him. He’s been going through some things and we’re all there to support him. When it happened we were there to support him. Just to see him here, I smiled just seeing him walk across the field.