ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — EJ Manuel to the rescue?
The Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback on Monday declared himself ready to return after missing four weeks with a sprained right knee. All that's standing in Manuel's way is a green light from coach Doug Marrone.
And that won't likely come until later in the week, and after Manuel gets a chance to test his knee. The team returns to practice Wednesday in preparing for the game at Pittsburgh (2-6) on Sunday.
"It's feeling a lot better," said Manuel, who added he's been cleared for full contact. "Definitely looking forward to getting into practice full course and taking as many reps as coach allows me to get."
As for his chances of playing, the first-round draft pick called that Marrone's decision.
"He knows where I'm at," he said. "It's up to coach. I'm going to be out there ready to go to practice and get back to work with the guys."
Manuel spoke at his locker in the morning, making himself available to reporters for the first time since being hurt. Marrone was scheduled to address the media later in the day.
Manuel's return would provide the Bills' offense a boost in filling a position that's been unsettled since he was hurt in a 37-24 loss at Cleveland on Oct. 3. The Bills (3-6) have gone 1-3 without Manuel, forced to fill the starting spot with untested players.
Thad Lewis was promoted from the practice squad and went 1-2 before being sidelined with bruised ribs. That left Buffalo turning to undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, who was inconsistent in making his first career start in a 23-13 loss to Kansas City on Sunday.
Tuel went 18 of 39 for 229 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Tuel's second interception was particularly costly, coming on third-and-goal at the 1. He was picked off by cornerback Sean Smith, who returned it 100 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 10 in the third quarter.
Another turnover sealed the loss after linebacker Tamba Hali returned receiver T.J. Graham's fumble 11 yards for a score.
Buffalo lost despite having a big edge on the Chiefs in numerous categories, including yards gained, 470-210, and first downs, 25-15.
Manuel got the Bills off to a 2-2 start. He was hurt in the third quarter against Cleveland with the game tied at 17, and after he scampered 14 yards for a first down at the Browns 27. With Tuel taking over, Fred Jackson scored on a 1-yard run four plays later.
The Bills were unable to hold the lead or generate much more offense under Tuel, who sealed the loss by having an interception returned for a touchdown with 1:44 left.
It was the second time in two months Manuel was hurt. He missed the final two preseason games after having surgery to repair a left knee injury, which he hurt while scrambling in a 20-16 win over Minnesota. In both instances, Manuel was faulted for putting himself in a position to get hit by failing to slide or get out of bounds.
Manuel acknowledged he needs to be smarter when it comes to avoiding injuries.
"I'm not going to play scared or anything like that," Manuel said. "I'm going to continue to get as many yards as I can, but at the same time slide or get out bounds, throw it away or whatever when I you get out of the pocket."
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