ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' quarterback competition has become a two-man race between veteran free agent Kevin Kolb and first-round draft pick EJ Manuel.
After the release of veteran Tarvaris Jackson a day earlier, Kolb and Manuel saw their practice repetitions logically increase over what they were during organized team activities when the Bills kicked off a three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
Kolb, Manuel and rookie free agent Jeff Tuel are the quarterbacks left on the roster. Even though he'll get more repetitions, too, Tuel is a project player and not a factor.
The Bills re-signed Jackson, the former Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks starter, early in the offseason as part of a shakeup at quarterback that also saw them release Ryan Fitzpatrick. It became clear during OTAs how difficult it is, however, for the coaches to get a good look at three players competing for one job and Jackson quickly became the odd man out.
Jackson's release means Manuel's development can be accelerated heading into training camp in July.
"I think in all of the quarterbacks, including Kevin, who is a veteran, you never start where you left off," coach Doug Marrone said. "Even for the better QBs I've been around, you start from the beginning and grow a foundation. With EJ, we just want to make sure he's taking a natural progression. He's not seeing the same things Kevin is now and we're working on building him up."
Manuel said he knows how important it is to take advantage of his increased practice time. He said he could definitely feel more into the flow of things not having to wait around as much.
"I'd say the only difference is that your body stays warm, you get some continuity with the offense and you get in a groove unlike taking three plays and resting," he said. "It's a lot different (that way)."
Manuel said that even though there is one less person to beat out for the starting job, he can't ease up, not with Kolb in his way.
"It's not anything I have to remind myself of," he said. "I'm just trying to get a feel and earn the respect of my teammates. The best way to do that is to keep producing. You are only as good as your last snap."
Manuel had good things to say about Jackson, who in their brief time together helped him get acclimated to the NFL.
"Someone great in the room, a great teammate, and I looked up to him because he's a veteran who has been a long time in this league," Manuel said. "I heard the news and it's tough, but it's part of this league."
Jackson, 30, was obtained in a trade with Seattle last August for a seventh-round pick. He never saw action in a game last season and was unable to even unseat Tyler Thigpen as Fitzpatrick's backup.
Jackson was due to receive a $1.25 million base salary had he made the 2013 roster. He was given virtually the same amount of snaps as Kolb during the course of 10 OTAs, all at the expense of Manuel, who the team would like as the starter sooner or later. Manuel was the 16th overall pick in the draft and is viewed as the quarterback of the future.
Jackson has a .500 record (17-17) as an NFL starter and is scheduled to visit Seattle to discuss a possible return to the Seahawks, ESPN reported.
"I've been in this league going on eight years now," he said. "Hopefully, I'll make it eight. But I know how it goes. Like I said, I just come out here and do my best. In certain situations, your best might not be good enough. They invested a lot in a player in the first round."
Meanwhile, the first day of minicamp saw tight end Scott Chandler practicing on a limited basis. He's just five months removed from major ACL surgery, so his progress is very encouraging to the Bills.
All players under contract were in attendance. Safety Jairus Byrd, who was given the club's franchise tag but has yet to sign his tender, was not in attendance. He and the team remain locked in contract talks. Since he's unsigned, Byrd is not subject to being fined.
Marrone is taking Byrd's absence in stride.
"You have rights and he has the right not to be here and I respect him for that," Marrone said. "I'm not going to worry about things out of my control and I'll concentrate on the players here. I have great admiration for Jairus -- but I've never met him. I look forward to meeting him in the future."