By Sal Maiorana - Rochester D&C
ORCHARD PARK - Once Doug Marrone said a couple weeks ago that EJ Manuel's minor knee procedure wasn't something he was too worried about, you had the sense that the rookie first-round pick had a good chance to start opening day against the New England Patriots.
That reality came to fruition Wednesday when Marrone informed the team at the beginning of the work day that Manuel would indeed be the starter.
"When he first came back, he looked pretty good," Marrone said, recalling Manuel's first few workouts after the surgery. "I started to feel this was the way we were going."
Manuel returned to full practice on Sunday, participated fully again Monday, and then took all the prime first-team reps Wednesday, and Marrone said Manuel actually "looks faster" than he did prior to the injury, though he believed some of that might have been the residue of the extra rest he received.
Manuel, who was clearly ahead in the quarterback competition with Kevin Kolb when he suffered his injury against Minnesota in the second preseason game, said he knew he'd be ready for the opener a few days ago. He was moving around without limitation during Sunday's practice, and there wasn't anything the coaching staff was throwing at him that he couldn't do.
With the first opponent being the Patriots, Manuel could not have picked a more daunting challenge for his first game. However, the opponent will not be an excuse for failure as far as Marrone or Manuel is concerned. "I'd be lying if I said I don't expect him to do great things," said Marrone.
Added Manuel, "For myself, I expect great things all the time. We're going in to win; that's my expectation."