ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills rookie coach Doug Marrone understood he was in for a long day, when stepping to the podium with a long list of unsettling news to deliver to open this week.
"All right," Marrone said, Monday, "I know we have a lot of questions."
That's nothing new in Buffalo, for a team that's not made the playoffs in 13 seasons. Less than two weeks before the opener against New England, the Bills find themselves in midseason form when it comes to facing adversity.
Their top two quarterbacks — rookie EJ Manuel and veteran Kevin Kolb — are hurt. That leaves open the possibility of undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel starting the season.
Top cornerback Stephon Gilmore will miss six to eight weeks with a broken wrist.
And don't forget safety Jairus Byrd, who signed his franchise tender last week. The two-time Pro Bowl player doesn't expect to be entirely ready for the start of the season.
These are sobering reminders for a team on its sixth coach since 2000.
"In addressing the adversity situations, I think we're fine," Marrone said. "As far as what we need to do to become a better team, we still have work to do, and it's a work in progress."
Receiver Stevie Johnson remains confident.
"All the worry is coming from the outside," Johnson said. "But it's not as bad as it looks."
That remains to be seen.
Here are five things to watch for the Bills, who haven't enjoyed a winning finish since going 9-7 in 2004:
TUEL TIME? Tuel wasn't part of the conversation when Marrone opened training camp saying he intended to have a starting quarterback in place within 10 days of the opener. The competition for the job was supposed to involve Manuel, the only quarterback drafted in the first round, and Kolb, a free-agent addition.
Turns out, it could be Tuel, the Washington State product who is in position to become the NFL's first undrafted quarterback to start in Week 1 directly out of college.
Manuel, who hasn't been entirely ruled out, has yet to be cleared for practice. Kolb is out indefinitely.
The Bills scrambled to bring in reinforcements by signing 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and acquiring Thaddeus Lewis in a trade with Detroit.
Manuel, however, is the team's future, being asked to fill a position that's been unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired.
When healthy, Manuel showed encouraging signs in training camp and two preseason games of being capable of running the offense. He's yet to prove himself consistently against opposing first-team defenses.