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Bills QB Manuel eager to shed rookie questions

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 22, 2014 at 5:43 pm •  Published: April 22, 2014
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Raising his right leg for emphasis, Bills quarterback EJ Manuel declared both knees to be fine, and his mind feeling refreshed.

The next step is showing how capable Manuel is in shedding the injuries and inconsistencies that limited the first-round draft pick's development during his rookie season last year.

"I definitely agree there's a lot out there for myself as a quarterback to get better," he said, after joining his teammates for the start of Buffalo's offseason voluntary conditioning program on Tuesday. "I had some success. And I had some bad games as well. It's obvious."

Manuel wasn't kidding, and the bluntness he provided in assessing his up-and-down season was a departure from a player who had become defensive in the face of criticism last year.

With a season behind him, Manuel has a new perspective for the job and feels better prepared to work on what he needs to improve upon.

"I'm eager about it. I'm excited," he said. "I know there is a lot of area for me to grow. That's why I took these last four months to allow that growth."

The first step was getting healthy after being sidelined three times because of knee issues. Manuel missed two preseason games after hurting his left knee. He sat out four regular-season games in October with a sprained right knee, and then missed the final two games after re-injuring his left knee.

"I feel fine. I feel normal," Manuel said, adding there were no limitations placed on him during Tuesday's workout. "I'm very eager to play a full 16-game regular season."

Manuel went 4-6, completed just 58.8 percent of his attempts and finished with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Bills went 6-10 to extend the NFL's longest playoff drought to 14 seasons.

Manuel's performance — and missed playing time — didn't reflect the type of production the Bills were counting on a year ago, when they used the No. 16 pick to make the Florida product the first quarterback taken in the draft.

Coach Doug Marrone maintains his trust in Manuel's potential, and expects him to continue developing.

"I think it's like all the other players. Everyone has inconsistencies in what they do, and they can work on it," Marrone said. "We have EJ who has experience coming back. ... Granted it's not a lot of experience, but at least we've seen him in those situations, and that's what gets us excited."

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