Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel has a new lease on life - and an opportunity to win the starting job back - under new coaches Rex Ryan and Greg Roman, and he joined WGR 550's The Howard Simon Show on Wednesday morning to talk about the new season.
The most interesting bit of that conversation, however, had to do with last season, when Manuel was unceremoniously benched after a Week 4 loss to Houston in favor of veteran (and now retired) quarterback Kyle Orton. A big part of the reasoning behind that benching was Manuel's conservative and frustrating play, which he says is now behind him.
"I think I was doing what I was coached to do," Manuel said of his conservative play last season. "I know now that I'm more willing to take chances, just because of the confidence I have in my throwing motion and my arm. I think more of those vertical passes will definitely be showing (up)."
Manuel has previously discussed the experience of sitting on the bench for 12 games this offseason, and he echoed some of those comments this morning in talking about what stuck with him from that stretch.
"Just watching Kyle's resiliency... obviously when things aren’t always going right, I think as a QB you just have to stay steadfast, and you have to just be yourself," Manuel said. "I think that's the biggest thing I learned - don't try to be somebody you're not, don't try to always say the right thing, just be yourself and let your personality show."
"What I went through, I think that's what grew me up. That was true adversity in my playing career," Manuel continued. "As far as the competitive edge I have now, it's crazy. I really feel like it's almost an obsession now, as far as mastering this position - and obviously mastering this offense - but mainly just the mechanics and the fundamentals of the game. Why not spend all my time doing that? There’s really nothing else to do right now. The main thing is just being all in and invested in yourself."
The third-year quarterback out of Florida State, who will compete with veterans Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor for the starting job this summer, began the interview by emphatically stating that Bills fans have yet to see the best version of himself.
"I know (Bills fans) haven’t seen what I have to offer," Manuel said. "I think that's the most exciting part. That’s why I enjoy coming in to work every morning... I was really happy with how I played in minicamp, and how I've been doing these past weeks since then. I'm excited. I'm just excited. It's obviously more important to show it, and that's what I'd rather do - I'd rather show it than just sit here and talk about it."
Be sure to listen to the interview if you haven't yet, as he also goes into detail about the work on his throwing motion and footwork that he and Steve DeBerg did over the winter months.