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Bills objective to make sure EJ Manuel gets more prepared than he was last year


INDIANAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills have placed an unmistakable emphasis on preparing EJ Manuel for 2014 better than they did last year.

A major part of that, though, depends on Manuel staying off the trainer's table.

"He played last year and really didn't practice that much," Bills coach Doug Marrone said this morning at the NFL scouting combine. "If you think about all the players that played in the league, he probably practiced the least and played.

"For us, the priority, just like all the players, is to make sure that we keep him healthy. It's important for us, important for his development."

The Bills also have tripled up on Manuel's coaches As a rookie, Manuel worked with one coach, whose plate was too full. This was one of Marrone's biggest miscalculations.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett also served as quarterbacks coach and, making in-game instruction even tougher, called plays from the press box for much of the season.

The Bills added former Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and hired former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator and Baltimore Ravens receivers coach Jim Hostler to be a senior offensive assistant.

Marrone noted the Bills also could add a veteran quarterback to the roster through free agency. Manuel lacked an experienced voice last year, too. Last year's QB depth chart had one NFL start prior to 2013.

Nobody can criticize the Bills anymore for not giving Manuel enough support.

"We're excited about it," Marrone said, "because when he was in there, with the lack of time that we had, there were things that he did very well."

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.