ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills quarterback EJ Manuel has no intention of taking the first benching of his career sitting down.
Manuel on Thursday accepted his demotion as something he has to live with and acknowledged having plenty of room to develop. More importantly, the 2013 first-round draft pick plans to work harder to improve his game and vowed “I’m not going to hold myself back” when the next opportunity to start presents itself.READ MORE: Stretch Of Ocean Drive Reopen For Vehicular Traffic After Nearly 2 Years
“I just want to cut it loose, man,” Manuel said in his first comments since losing the starting job to veteran backup Kyle Orton on Monday. “I think at some point in your career, when you’re mad or you just want to open up, you just go out there and let it rip. You don’t worry about the repercussions.”
And, he added: “If something happens, at least you went down guns loaded or guns blowing or whatever.”
Manuel’s failure to let it rip was among the key reasons behind his demotion, which came after two consecutive losses dropped Buffalo’s record to 2-2.
Manuel was knocked for being hesitant, struggling with his accuracy and having difficulty finding open receivers downfield.
The last straw came in a 23-17 loss at Houston on Sunday, when Manuel went 21 of 44 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Though he completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams, Manuel’s next longest completion was a short pass over the middle to Fred Jackson, who turned it into a 14-yard gain.
Manuel’s first interception was costly. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt returned it 80 yards for a momentum-swinging touchdown that put Houston ahead 14-10 early in the second half.
A day later, coach Doug Marrone handed the job to Orton, who will make his debut as Buffalo’s starter at Detroit (3-1) on Sunday.
“It is a tough pill to swallow,” Manuel said. “But at the same time, I’m going to always be positive with myself. And I still believe I’m a good football player. And I know there’s tons of room for me to grow, and I’ll get there.”
The question is when.READ MORE: Chiefs Defeat Bills In Thrilling Overtime Battle In Exciting Weekend Of NFL Playoff Games
Orton has quickly made a good impression with his teammates two days into practice.
Receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods both noted Orton for having a quicker release and how he immediately established a presence in the huddle.
The demotion is the latest setback for Manuel, whose development was stunted already by three separate knee injuries that limited him to playing just 10 games last year. It’s also a setback for the Bills, who were counting on Manuel to grow into a position that’s been mostly unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
Manuel, who led Florida State to four bowl victories, was the first quarterback taken in the 2013 draft when the Bills selected him 16th overall.
He refused to allow the benching to be a distraction for him or the team.
“The team’s bigger than I am. And whatever (Marrone) feels is best to help the team, we’ll go with it,” Manuel said. “I’m not going to be one of those guys around here moping.”
He’s also confident he will bounce back.
“When I am back out there, I want to be a different player,” Manuel said. “I think in the long run, I’ll look back at it as something I can say that helped build me, and helped me become a stronger man.”
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