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Bills QB Manuel returns to practice; team releases QB Flynn

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The Canadian Press
11/4/2013 1:33:59 PM
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills are starting to get their injured quarterbacks back.

And it is giving coach Doug Marrone more options to improve the Bills' offence.

A day after watching undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel throw two interceptions in a 23-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Marrone on Monday was preparing to welcome back his two most experienced quarterbacks to practice.

Rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel is cleared to play after missing four weeks with a sprained right knee. And Manuel's replacement, Thad Lewis, will be back after missing one game with bruised ribs.

Marrone wants to see how both perform in practice before determining which one starts Sunday, when the Bills (3-6) travel to play the Steelers (2-6). He didn't rule out either, but was particularly cautious in assessing Manuel's chances of playing.

"We feel really good, but we've got to be careful, though. Let's make sure," Marrone said. "In the back of my mind, I'm thinking to make sure he's 110 per cent and we're not putting a player out there that can jeopardize himself."

Manuel called himself ready to play, which is something he's already made sure to stress to Marrone.

"He knows where I'm at," Manuel said, speaking to reporters for the first time since being hurt. "It's up to coach. I know I'm going to be out there ready to go to practice and get back to work with the guys."

Manuel spent last week throwing passes to receivers before and after practice. He stepped up that process during pregame warm-ups Sunday.

"It's feeling a lot better," Manuel said. "Definitely looking forward to getting into practice full course and taking as many reps as coach allows me to get."

Lewis, meanwhile, threw passes on Monday for the first time since being hurt in a 35-17 loss at New Orleans on Oct. 27.

Buffalo also made a move at quarterback by releasing Matt Flynn, three weeks after signing the sixth-year player in free agency.

The Bills' depth at quarterback has been unsettled since Manuel was hurt in a 37-24 loss at Cleveland on Oct. 3.

After Tuel struggled in replacing Manuel against the Browns, the Bills turned to Lewis by promoting him from their practice squad.

Lewis went 1-2 in three starts -- including a 23-21 win at Miami on Oct. 20 -- before being sidelined.

That left Buffalo with little choice but to start Tuel against the Chiefs.

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.

Running back Fred Jackson acknowledged the constant change at quarterback has stunted the offence's development.

"I think any time you have inconsistency back there it's going to make it tough, or adverse," Jackson said. "You want to be consistent. You want to have somebody back there that's steady throughout the season. And that helps you grow as an offence. Not having that I think it definitely has played a role in us having some ups and downs.

Manuel got the Bills off to a 2-2 start before getting injured for the second time in two months.

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 said 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."

In cutting Flynn, the Bills filled the roster spot by signing fullback Evan Rodriguez.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by Chicago, he had four catches for 21 yards in 12 games last season. Rodriguez was waived by the Bears in June after being charged with driving under the influence, his second alcohol-related arrest.

EJ Manuel (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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