x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Battling to start, Kevin Kolb will not shuffle off from NFL's Buffalo Bills

Kevin Kolb said he is ready to compete with rookie EJ Manuel for the starting quarterback job with the Buffalo Bills.

Rookie EJ Manuel, left, is a step or two ahead of veteran Kevin Kolb in the battle to be the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.
Rookie EJ Manuel, left, is a step or two ahead of veteran Kevin Kolb in the battle to be the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.

Calling himself "hard-headed," Kevin Kolb said he is ready to compete with rookie EJ Manuel for the starting quarterback job with the Buffalo Bills.

Despite continued soreness in his left knee, Kolb returned to practice on Monday for the first time in eight days, with the intention of resuming an off-season-long competition with the Bills' first-round draft pick.

"They said, 'We're going to ease you in', and I said, 'No you're not. I want you to put me in'," Kolb said.

"I wasn't going to waste another day. I wanted to get out there." Kolb acknowledged he has plenty of catching up to do since twisting his knee while slipping on a wet rubber mat during practice on August 4. He missed five practices and was held out of the Bills' preseason-opening 44-20 win at Indianapolis on Sunday.

It is unclear whether he will play in Buffalo's pre-season game against Minnesota Vikings on Friday.

"I'd love to tell you right now that I'm playing for sure, but that's not necessarily correct," Kolb said.

He is coming off a difficult week.

Aside from getting hurt, Kolb was then excused from training camp following the death of a family member. He rejoined the team Friday and only took part in individual sessions.

Kolb was walking with a slight limp on Monday and had difficulty moving around in the pocket while wearing a padded brace around his knee. On his first pass attempt during team drills, he rolled to his right and threw the ball into the feet of his intended receiver.

Kolb eventually removed the brace and participated in a team red-zone session at the end of practice. That is when he zipped a hard pass over the middle to Da'Rick Rogers for a touchdown.

"I think we're taking it slowly and carefully," Kolb said. "But yeah, I'm trying to push the envelope a little bit, you know what I mean?"

Coach Doug Marrone wants to see how Kolb performs in practice before determining whether he will play against the Vikings.

Manuel suddenly has the edge in the quarterback competition. Enjoying far more practice time with the starters, the Florida State product is showing signs of progress after making his pre-season debut.

Shaking off a slow start, Manuel played the entire first half in building a 20-14 lead over Indianapolis.

He capped the outing with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson that completed a 10-play, 92-yard drive in the final two minutes.

Manuel completed all nine of his attempts for 68 yards during the drive. He finished 16 of 21 for 107 yards with a touchdown but lost a fumble following a botched exchange with running back CJ Spiller. Marrone liked the poise Manuel showed on the final drive, and also in running the Bills' no-huddle attack.

"You saw him settle into the game and then really start to do some really good things," Marrone said. "There's a lot of things that we need to work on ... but I'm happy with the way he's played."

Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel took over the second half and finished 19 of 23 for 212 yards and two scores. Rookie Marquise Goodwin scored on a 107-yard kickoff return, and undrafted rookie cornerback Jumal Rolle returned an interception 17 yards for another score.

Kolb was impressed while watching the Bills set a franchise record for most points scored in a pre-season game. And he is itching to get in on the action.

"It's a good way for us to start our season," Kolb said. "And that's why I want to get in on the fun. It was a good time over there."

The injury could not have happened at a worse time for Kolb, a seventh-year player who signed a two-year contract with the Bills in April.

It came a day after Kolb enjoyed what he referred to as his best practice. And it happened to someone with a history of being hurt.

Kolb lost the starting job due to injury first with the Philadelphia Eagles, and in each of the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

"I just got through telling everybody, 'Man, this is the most comfortable I've felt in a while'," Kolb said. "And for something goofy like that to happen was very frustrating."

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