Thad Lewis calls this week “business as usual.” While he may believe that, it’s been anything but since a Monday conversation with Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone.
Lewis vividly remembers the moment Marrone told him he would be activated from the practice squad and start at quarterback for the Bills against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6.
“He said, ‘You ready?” Lewis recalled during a telephone interview with FOXSports.com Thursday. “I said, ‘Yeah’ and I knew what I had to do. There wasn’t much he had to tell me to get me ready to play this game.
“I was excited but I knew that I had to get to work right away on the Bengals to get a head start. I needed to get a jump on those guys and make sure I have a head start on the game plan.”
Lewis has spent this week, spending extra time in the film room, taking first-team reps and fielding media requests. Lewis knows this is a rare chance to showcase his ability as opposed to not dressing.
After spending the first five weeks on the practice squad, Marrone decided to go with Lewis’ upside opposed to undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel out of Washington State.
Upon receiving the news, Lewis called his mom.
“She was screaming and shouting,” Lewis said. “I’m a little more calm than she is, she gets excited.”
Tuel, of course, was temporarily tabbed as the Week 1 starter in the preseason had Manuel not recovered in time from “minor” knee surgery in August. Lewis admits both Tuel and he were surprised when the coaching staff handed him the starting role because of media reports that indicated the Bills were looking to go outside the organization.
Regardless, it will be Lewis taking the snaps under center.
Lewis watched the franchise’s prized quarterback sustain an LCL sprain from the booth in Cleveland last Thursday. While practice-squad players don’t traditionally have a role on gameday, the Bills coaching staff thought so much of Lewis that they had him playing an integral one.
“Coach actually had me traveling with the team,” Lewis said of his time on the practice squad. “Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett had me in the booth with him during the games. As he would call plays, I would be [charting] the coverages so he can know what they’re playing on first down or second and third down. So I felt a part of the team.”
Lewis, 25, has bounced around the NFL in his first four seasons. Amidst a quarterback battle for a backup role between Kellen Moore and himself, the Lions dealt Lewis to the Bills for middle-of-the-road linebacker Chris White.
Lewis was waived, then signed to the practice squad less than a week later. Life on the practice squad isn’t glamorous, but he understood anything can happen.
“I obviously knew I had an opportunity, but I just had to wait until my chance,” the 6-foot-2, 219-pounder said. “I continued to stay humble and hungry in my preparation and my time will come. That’s what I did.”
Lewis will face a Bengals ferocious defense, which allowed six points to the high-flying Patriots offense last week. Lewis must get up to speed in a hurry playing with all the starters. He also could be without go-to wide receiver Stevie Johnson.
Whether Johnson is able to suit up as he battles a nagging back injury, rookie wide receiver Robert Woods has played beyond his years and currently leads the team in receiving yards.
“I just want to be at the right spot at the right time to make [his] job easier,” the rookie from USC said. “He’s doing pretty well stepping in the role and making some good throws for us all week at practice. He’s making the right calls and he’s stepping in and taking the job and running with it.”
Bills coaches will likely rely on a heavy dose of the running game between Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The latter, who has been banged up the last couple weeks with an ankle injury, is reportedly progressing.
If Hackett decides to air it out, Lewis knows what he has in Woods.
“He’s a great young receiver. He comes to work every day. You can tell his preparation on the football field,” Lewis said. “He rarely drops a pass, but that’s what you look for in a receiver. He’s a great route runner and you know when you get the ball in his hands, he’s a dynamic playmaker so he’s a great addition to this team.”
The experts will write off the Bills Sunday because Lewis is starting. He’s fine with that.
“What people say doesn’t matter. You can’t worry about things you can’t control. I know what I’ve been doing,” the 25-year-old said. “I know the confidence I have in myself and the confidence the team and the coaching staff have in me so we know what we have to do on Sunday.
“Are we worried about what people are saying? Absolutely, positively not.”