The Bills announced that Tuel will be the starter if Manuel isn't ready to play in Week 1, as noted NFL on ESPN:
THIS JUST IN: Bills announce undrafted rookie QB Jeff Tuel to start Week 1 vs Patriots if EJ Manuel isnt ready to go.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 26, 2013
After undergoing minor surgery on his left knee following the team's second preseason game, Manuel has yet to practice with the team.
First-year head coach Doug Marrone has said that the first-round draft pick will likely need to practice by Wednesday, Sept. 4, to be seriously considered to start in Week 1, as noted by Tim Graham of The Buffalo News:
"If the doctor said, 'You're not going to get him on that field until Thursday, and then he'll be ready to play on Sunday,' I would be concerned about doing that," Marrone said. "If they said, 'Hey, we can get him on that field on Monday or Wednesday, I would see how he played and make a decision."
Marrone also made it clear that Manuel isn't ready to go as of right now, and if the rookie shows signs of rust when he returns, then he's not likely to get the start.
The NFL season isn't a sprint to the finish line—it's a marathon.
Throwing Manuel to the wolves in Week 1 fresh off a knee injury—however minor—isn't a smart move.
He's clearly a talented young quarterback, and he gives the Bills the best chance to win this year, which is all the more reason to guard against rushing him back into action.
Realistically, the Bills will be hard-pressed to beat the Patriots, no matter who starts at quarterback. New England features one of the NFL's top offenses and a burgeoning young defense that is capable of bringing the heat to opposing quarterbacks.
Should the Bills start Manuel in Week 1 if he can practice by Wednesday?
Tuel went undrafted for a reason. In his career at Washington State, he compiled a shockingly bad record of 4-22 and showed questionable judgement, throwing 33 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
He's not the answer for the Bills this season, but he's the right man for the job in Week 1. He's seen extensive playing time this preseason, so he definitely has a solid grasp of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's system.
If Manuel comes back too soon and gets banged up, then the Bills' 2013 season could be over before it ever begins.
The team needs him to be available throughout the long season. Taking the long view, sitting the player who is being hailed as the future of the franchise for Week 1 is far more beneficial than rushing him back into action before he's ready.
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