EJ Manuel says he's 'stronger' and '100 percent healthy'

EJ Manuel says he's '100 percent healthy' for 2014.
EJ Manuel says he's '100 percent healthy' for 2014. (USATSI)

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The biggest problem for the Bills in evaluating first-year quarterback EJ Manuel last year? He was never really healthy.

Manuel suffered an injury during the preseason and underwent knee surgery. He returned and played with mixed results, while also dealing with the injury throughout the year.

Bills fans should be thrilled to hear him say he's not just "stronger" this year, but also "100 percent healthy."

“I think that’s one thing I had to learn to be smart when I take off with the football. Instead of trying to get an extra three yards, either step out-of-bounds or slide," Manuel said on NFL Network's Total Access recently. "Those are all of the nuisances I had to learn. Obviously, I didn’t want to go down with an injury because I’m a competitive player. I go hard each and every time I step on the field. It just so happened that I had to come down with an injury. I moved past it.

"Thankfully, I am 100 percent healthy right now. I feel like I’m stronger than I was last year, so I’m looking forward to moving on."

It seems weird, but the Bills are "all in" on Manuel this season. They took him with a first-round pick in 2013 and then made the bold move of trading up in the first round this past year to grab Sammy Watkins as a future No. 1 wideout and giving up their first-round pick in 2015 in the process.

Buffalo used a second-round pick on Cyrus Kouandjio to protect Manuel. C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler, Marquise Goodwin, T.J. Graham and Mike Williams should provide enough recieving options for Manuel to excel if he's ready.

And the Bills need him to be ready because of the concerns over ownership and the future of the front office if the team doesn't succeed in 2015.

Given Buffalo hasn't been over .500 since 2004, it would be a huge, huge step for the Bills to become a playoff contender in 2014.

If it's going to happen, though, it'll be because Manuel is healthy and playing well.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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