The Buffalo Bills began Sunday with only one healthy quarterback — undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel.
By nightfall they’d acquired two more.
First, the Bills signed former first-round draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, a free agent who’d been waiting all year for the phone to ring.
A couple hours later, the Bills traded backup linebacker Chris White to Detroit for the Lions’ third-string quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis. (That’s my training-camp photo of Lewis.)
Like Tuel, Leinart and Lewis are mere insurance — space-holders until first-round draft pick EJ Manuel recovers from the minor knee procedure he underwent a week ago.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Manuel is “on track” to return in time for the Bills’ regular-season opener Sept. 8 against New England.
Manuel and seven-year veteran Kevin Kolb had been battling for the starting job all spring and summer, but Kolb suffered a suspected concussion on Saturday against the Redskins in Washington.
Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reported Sunday night that the Bills fear Kolb’s latest concussion might be career-ending, as he has suffered previous concussions in his career.
New Buffalo offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett obviously will have to slow down, and pare down, the Bills’ hurry-up West Coast attack for Leinart and Lewis. One or both probably will play on Thursday, behind Tuel, when the Bills play host to the Lions to close out the preseason.
Leinart, a college superstar at USC, has been a huge flop as a pro. The Arizona Cardinals selected him 10th overall in 2006. He mostly backed up Kurt Warner, and looked mediocre in 18 starts.
The 6-foot-5, 232-pound Leinart wore a ball cap behind Matt Schaub in Houston in 2010-11, and backed up college teammate Carson Palmer in Oakland last year.
Lewis is a four-year journeyman. St. Louis signed the 6-foot-2, 219-pounder as an undrafted rookie in 2010. He was on the Rams practice squad that year, then spent two years in Cleveland bouncing between the practice squad and active roster.
Lewis has played in one NFL game: the Browns’ season finale last year against Pittsburgh, when he completed 22-of-32 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Leinart will wear No. 7. Lewis wore No. 5 in Detroit but rookie placekicker Dustin Hopkins has that in Buffalo. No. 9 is now available, after kicker Rian Lindell was let go.
PRYOR STARTING ENGAGEMENT: After he gave his Oakland Raiders a spark in the third quarter of Friday’s preseason game against Chicago, quarterback Terrelle Pryor will start at Seattle on Thursday.
Matt Flynn, acquired from Seattle in the off-season, has looked terrible so far in three preseason games. The team now says he has a sore arm.
Bear this in mind about Pryor. A tall, speedy, supreme athletic talent, he doesn’t like throwing from the pocket. At Ohio State almost all of his dangerous passes and runs came after he bailed from the pocket and freelanced.
He’s still doing it. Friday night against the Bears, almost all of Pryor’s big runs and passes similarly came after he scrambled right or left, whether under duress or not.
If head coach Dennis Allen and the Raiders opt to go with Pryor, they’d better build an attack that suits his default rollout preference. He’ll likely fail miserably otherwise.
LATEST JETS IMPLOSION: If you happened to follow the happenings at the Meadowlands late Saturday night, either on NFL Network or Twitter, you saw it: The latest craziness that could only happen to the New York Jets.
The club clearly wants rookie Geno Smith to start ahead of veteran Mark Sanchez. Healed from a dinged-up ankle, Smith started Saturday against the Jets’ New York rivals, the Giants, and promptly threw three awful interceptions by midway through the second quarter
Smith settled down but did not impress in three quarters of play.
Then the fun really started.
Inexplicably, head coach Rex Ryan inserted Sanchez at QB in the fourth quarter. Sanchez didn’t appear ready to go; third-stringer Matt Simms had had his helmet strapped on.
Sanchez got walloped on a second-down throw. He clutched his chest a bit. Ryan kept him in.
On third down, Sanchez rolled left, lofted a deep pass as three Giants bore down on him — and got clobbered on his right throwing shoulder.
Down he went.
Helped off. Ice-pack wrap. Early exit. X-rays.
Jets beat writers went ballistic, screaming on Twitter over the outrage of Ryan playing Sanchez at that point in a meaningless preseason game, when it appeared clear to everyone that Sanchez by default had just won the quarterback battle over the struggling rookie Smith.
Ryan defended his choice and got his back up. When a persistent reporter demanded Ryan answer his question, Ryan said: “I can say anything I want. That’s the beauty of this country. I can answer it 100 (times). I can stand backward and and answer the question. I’m going sideways.”
Ryan proceeded to turn sideways and repeated his earlier answer — as bat-shoot crazy a press-conference act as notorious nutball college coach John L. Smith’s.
Sanchez did not suffer a serious injury, BTW. On Sunday the club said he is day-to-day.
EXTRA POINTS: Since winning the Super Bowl a year-and-a-half ago, the New York Giants seemingly can’t put a team on the field without some key player suffering a major injury. On Saturday, safety Stevie Brown — who finished second in the league with interceptions as an injury fill-in himself — tore an ACL and is gone for the year … The Eagles cut safety Kenny Phillips, the Raiders KR Josh Cribbs, the Packers QB Graham Harrell and the Giants LB Aaron Curry … Teams have to be down to 75-man rosters by Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT. Most clubs are now close. On Saturday at 6 p.m. EDT they have to be down to 53.