ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Once Bills quarterback EJ Manuel practiced Sunday for the first time in two weeks, coach Doug Marrone had an inkling the rookie first-round draft pick might be ready to open the season.
On Wednesday, Marrone was convinced, announcing Manuel had fully recovered from a left knee injury and will start against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
"He's 110 percent. He looks good out there," Marrone said following practice. "And that's what we're going to go with."
That's a relief for Marrone. He was expressing uncertainty about Manuel's status since the quarterback was hurt scrambling during a 20-16 preseason win over Minnesota Aug. 16.
"Obviously, being a Catholic, there were a lot of prayers to that," Marrone said. "I mean, honestly, you go home and say 'Gosh, I hope he's healthy,' but you really don't know."
Manuel was far more confident he would be ready, especially after taking part in individual drills on Sunday in his first practice since having what the team called a "minor procedure" Aug. 18.
"I felt I would be good to go a few days ago as far as my knee," Manuel said. "I know mentally, if I had the chance to go out and play, I'd be ready for it."
Manuel showed little sign of a limp despite wearing a small brace during practice.
"I haven't had any hesitation," Manuel said, noting he hasn't determined whether he'll wear the brace on Sunday. "It feels fine. It feels strong, so I can do all my normal movements."
He opened practice as he had done in training camp. Taking the snap, Manuel dumped a short pass over the middle to C.J. Spiller, and then took off running without a sign of a hitch toward the end zone with the rest of the starting offense.
Manuel also spent another half-hour throwing passes following practice.
His return is the first bit of positive news for the retooled and rookie-laden Bills, who have been stung by a series of setbacks over the past week.
Starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore will miss the first month with a broken left wrist. Starting safety Jairus Byrd's status is uncertain because of a foot injury and after he missed most of the offseason before signing his franchise tender two weeks ago.
Kicker became an issue after rookie Dustin Hopkins hurt his right groin in practice Monday. Marrone called the injury minor, but ruled Hopkins out from playing Sunday. Dan Carpenter will fill in after the fifth-year player signed Tuesday.