Doug Whaley realizes the last thing an NFL general manager should be doing — or at least hopes he’s doing — in late August is scrambling to find a quarterback.
But that’s just the spot the Bills’ GM found himself in Saturday evening as he walked through a hushed locker room that was quieted by a 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins, a personal situation for C.J. Spiller that involved an alleged murder-suicide of his step-grandfather, a wrist injury to starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore and a head injury to quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
That last part, which is extremely troubling considering Kolb has had at least two concussions, was foremost on Whaley’s mind because, following the injuries to Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel (knee), the Bills now have only one healthy quarterback on the roster in undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel.
They’re going to need a veteran, and quickly, for their next game.
"For practice. We only have one arm," Whaley said to correct the questioner. "We have guys back home beating the pavement right now to try and scour …"
Whaley trailed off as his phone rang.
"And this may be one right now," he said, excusing himself.
Perhaps it was the agent for Matt Leinart, or maybe John Beck’s representative, because those two veteran quarterbacks will be working out for the Bills in the coming days, a source told FOX Sports.
This is the risk the Bills took this offseason by signing Kolb, drafting Manuel and then cutting Tarvaris Jackson after initially re-signing him.
For the first two weeks of the preseason, it appeared Manuel was about to make Whaley and coach Doug Marrone look like geniuses for carrying only three quarterbacks on the roster, with only one who had ever played in an NFL game before. Manuel completed 79 percent of his passes for 199 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in those games.
But now, Manuel is hurt. And so is Kolb, who missed the preseason opener with a knee injury suffered when he slipped on a wet mat on his way to practice.
These are not the things a GM and coach want to see while looking at the roster with two weeks left before the Bills line up against the New England Patriots for real.
"It’s a concern. I mean, I’m not going to sit here and say everything’s fine and dandy," Marrone said. "The thing I look at is EJ was playing very well for us and doing a heckuva job. We have to get him back as soon as we can, obviously. But also, Kevin has missed some things and we really needed to get him back in there to get some reps.
"It is a concern, but we knew that going in. I made the decision to go in with three quarterbacks, knowing that we were going to get them all ready. And this is the situation we’re in, so we’re going to have to deal with it."
They’re dealing with it by bringing in Leinart and Beck. One of those two might go from working out on his own to playing a chunk of the Bills’ final preseason game, with Tuel likely starting.
But more important, this latest concussion for Kolb, which occurred when Redskins linebacker Brandon Jenkins accidentally kneed a sliding Kolb in the back of the helmet, could be really bad news for his near-term and long-term future.
"You wait and see what the doctors say," Marrone said. "I’ve been part of it in college where we’ve had those situations with a player and that’s it and he can’t (play again)."
Kolb wasn’t available to reporters, per the league’s rules on players who suffer concussions not speaking to the media.
Running back Fred Jackson was among the players expressing confidence in Tuel and arguing the one touchdown the Bills put on the board Saturday wasn’t an indication they’re in deep trouble.
"We’re not at full strength right now. We expect big things from Jeff," Jackson said. "He’s handled this offense, he’s come in and made plays when he had the opportunity. Nothing to take away from him. When we go out and start scheming teams and things like that, we are very vanilla on offense, so that is something to take out of this."
Credit Jackson for looking for the positives here because, one open doorway away, Whaley was still on the phone, hoping the answer to the team’s current problem was on the other end.
The best answer figures to be Manuel. He could make it all go away by walking back onto the practice field before the start of the season and proving his early success in the preseason was not a fluke.
"That’s what I’m hoping for," Marrone said. "He was with us on the field the other day, just watching and observing. I think you just have to wait for that period where the doctor says, ‘OK, here’s where we are,’ because people recover so differently from minor stuff."