Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel returned to the practice field on Sunday, exactly two weeks removed from a surgical procedure on his left knee.
Manuel only participated in individual drills on Sunday, but Bills head coach Doug Marrone told reporters that the first-round pick is expected to participate in full-team activities during Monday's practice. Calling Manuel "ahead of schedule" in his recovery, Marrone confirmed that the team would make a decision on Wednesday as to which quarterback would start in next Sunday's season opener against the New England Patriots.
Buffalo practices tomorrow, then the players have Tuesday off before resuming preparations for the Pats on Wednesday. The built-in off day will allow the team to assess Manuel's knee after a full practice, and how he responds to that increased workload will be critical. If Manuel can't play, Jeff Tuel will get the start - but clearly, signs are more optimistic that Manuel will be ready than they've been at any point since his surgery.
The Bills made the decision on Sunday to keep only two quarterbacks on the active roster heading into the regular season, so it's possible that even if Tuel starts against New England, Manuel will be healthy enough to serve as his backup. Ideally, however, he'll start.
Manuel told reporters that he took two to three treatments per day in his two-week absence from the practice field, and studied a bunch of tape on both the Patriots and the Bills' Week 2 opponent, the Carolina Panthers.
Manuel: "I'm not feeling any pressure, but personally, I want to play"— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) September 1, 2013