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EJ Manuel on heavy NFL responsibility: Bring it on

By Tim Graham

BEREA, Ohio -- Occasionally, a thick cloud would obscure the sweltering sun and provide a fleeting respite.

On the fields behind the Cleveland Browns' training facility this morning, an NFL Play 60 event would seem like a blithe community interlude, where AFC rookies interacted with local kids and taught some fundamentals.

Sweat streamed down Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel's face.

"I feel like this is a practice for me," Manuel said.

Manuel, making his first public remarks since signing his Bills contract last week, was one of only three rookies who had news conferences today as part of the NFL Rookie Symposium.

On a field that welcomed the first three picks in this year's draft, only Manuel, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith and San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o were the ones in special demand.

The NFL Rookie Symposium is an orientation not only to the league, but also to the lifestyle and potential hardships that come along with being a player. Seminars advise, warn and implore rookies to do the right thing.

"This is when you need to start setting it up," Manuel said. "This is the foundation of everything. You have to take advantage of every single thing. This is a great opportunity to network and meet other guys that have been in the league and try to get advice from them.

"We feel like we're just football players, but at the end of the day we're still men. We still have to learn to be men. You have to learn to one day have a family and be the provider for that family."

As the first quarterback taken in this year's draft, Manuel claimed he's ready for the obligations and expectations.

"It's a great responsibility," Manuel said of being a franchise quarterback. "You're always going to be watched, always going to be evaluated each and every day. You've got to take that responsibility and respect it."

Manuel agreed with the sentiment he should be Buffalo's leading man plus the best quarterback from this year's draft class.

"I had high expectations no matter where I went in the draft," Manuel said. "I'm a natural competitor. I mean, that's something I was going to work toward anyway. So I don't feel any added pressure."

Manuel admitted it's instinctive to contemplate a legacy at an event like the NFL Rookie Symposium.

Successful players such as Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes and Super Bowl hero David Tyree share their stories alongside frequent defendants Tank Johnson and Adam "Pacman" Jones and hoops flameout Chris Herren.

"I've always been taught that a good name is more important than great treasure," Manuel said. "So just keeping that respect for yourself and keeping your name clean, I think that's what adds to your legacy.

"Obviously, when you play well you have a football legacy. But at the end of the day, I still want to be known as more than a football player. I want to be remembered as a great man."


EJ Manuel | Manti Te'o
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |