Niagara Gazette

Sports

September 5, 2013

Bills to start Manuel in opener

Niagara Gazette — ORCHARD PARK — Once Bills quarterback EJ Manuel practiced Sunday for the first time in two weeks, coach Doug Marrone had an inkling the rookie first-round draft pick might be ready to open the season.

On Wednesday, Marrone was convinced, announcing Manuel had fully recovered from a left knee injury and will start against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

“He’s 110 percent. He looks good out there,” Marrone said following practice. “And that’s what we’re going to go with.”

That’s a relief for Marrone. He was expressing uncertainty about Manuel’s status since the quarterback was hurt scrambling during a 20-16 preseason win over Minnesota Aug. 16.

“Obviously, being a Catholic, there were a lot of prayers to that,” Marrone said. “I mean, honestly, you go home and say ‘Gosh, I hope he’s healthy,’ but you really don’t know.”

Manuel was far more confident he would be ready, especially after taking part in individual drills on Sunday in his first practice since having what the team called a “minor procedure” Aug. 18.

“I felt I would be good to go a few days ago as far as my knee,” Manuel said. “I know mentally, if I had the chance to go out and play, I’d be ready for it.”

Manuel showed little sign of a limp despite wearing a small brace during practice.

“I haven’t had any hesitation,” Manuel said, noting he hasn’t determined whether he’ll wear the brace on Sunday. “It feels fine. It feels strong, so I can do all my normal movements.”

He opened practice as he had done in training camp. Taking the snap, Manuel dumped a short pass over the middle to C.J. Spiller, and then took off running without a sign of a hitch toward the end zone with the rest of the starting offense.

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