By Mark Gaughan
PITTSFORD – Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone said rookie first-round draft choice EJ Manuel will start the exhibition opener in Indianapolis Sunday and be backed up by rookie Jeff Tuel.
Veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb returned to practice Friday night after a five-practice absence but was limited.
Kolb injured his left knee Saturday and then was excused from camp due to a death in the family. He took part in individual drills for the first hour of practice. But Kolb did not take any snaps in the 11-on-11 team work.
In fact, after the first portion of team drills, Kolb went into the locker room with trainers and did not return.
“Kevin has been gone for a couple days and coming off an injury, we’re just working him back in,” Marrone said. “We’re going to dress him for the game but EJ will start the game.”
Marrone indicated Kolb probably is not going to play against the Colts, unless needed as the third quarterback.
“The travel I think makes you a little sore, and not having the treatment, being away for a couple days because of the personal issue, I think that it’s a little tight,” Marrone said of Kolb’s knee.
“If we wanted to push it he could go out there and play,” Marrone said. “But that wouldn’t be in the best interest of the player’s safety. He is going to dress. He is going to be there. But knock on wood … we don’t need the third quarterback. If we do need one, we’ll put him in there and obviously he’ll just be handing the ball off and not put him in jeopardy.”
Marrone said Kolb left the practice field Friday to get more treatment on the knee.
“We’re just trying to get him as much treatment as possible because we’re going to take him,” he said. “I was a little concerned about getting him on a plane again because he just came off a plane. We just want him to get as much treatment as possible.”
Manuel and Tuel split the snaps Friday night.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Manuel said of Sunday’s game. “I think the biggest thing is just to relax, go play football, do what you’ve been coached to do.”
Meanwhile, the Bills held a finesse-oriented workout in preparation for Sunday's game before a capacity crowd of more than 5,000 at St. John Fisher College Friday night.
The session ended with two-minute drills. Manuel and the first-team offense got stopped on four plays against the starting defense. Manuel went downfield on third and 1 and fourth and 1 and probably should have looked for a safer throw.
Tuel was stoped on four plays on his first two-minute drill. Arthur Moats blew up a screen pass for a 4-yard loss, Kourtnei Brown had a sack and Jonathan Meeks intercepted a deep pass.
Tuel's second two-minute drive went better. He hit a pretty, 19-yard out to DeMarco Sampson on third-and-14 with 18 seconds left to the defense's 24. Then the coaches sent out Rian Lindell for a 50-yard field goal try (they pushed the ball back for the kick) and his boot hit the crossbar and went through the uprights.
The Bills worked on red-zone plays during 11-on-11 sessions. C.J. Spiller burst round left end for a 20-yard touchdown run and had several other good runs. Tashard Choice capped a Tuel-led drive with a short TD run. Da'Rick Rogers drew a pass interference penalty on a post pattern, then got in the end zone two plays later with a nice catch on a crossing route and a stiff arm of a defender to reach the corner.
In 1 on 1 pass protection drills, Cordy Glenn had two straight good pass sets, stopping Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson. Hughes got him back by beating him once during the red-zone work.
Punter Shawn Powell had a fine night, booming six striaght punts and then executing an end-over-end Aussie kick. That was better than Brian Stahovich, who had four good punts but shanked a fifth.