Bills Cut Quarterback Leinart, Rookie Tuel May Start Opener

Quarterback Matt Leinart was one of 18 players cut by the Buffalo Bills, setting the stage for Jeff Tuel to become the first undrafted rookie quarterback to start a National Football League season opener.

The Bills plan to start Tuel in the home opener against the New England Patriots on Sept. 8 if EJ Manuel, the team’s 16th overall draft pick who is recovering from a minor procedure on his left knee, cannot play, coach Doug Marrone said earlier this week.

“Right now we’re planning on Jeff Tuel playing the first game and we’re working with EJ to get back as quickly as possible,” Marrone told reporters, according to the team’s website.

The Bills yesterday placed quarterback Kevin Kolb on the injured reserve list while he recovers from concussion-like symptoms that followed his injury in the team’s preseason loss against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 24.

Tuel, 22, who signed as an undrafted free agent in April, will be the first undrafted rookie quarterback since 1967 when the common draft era began to start an NFL team’s season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Tuel appeared in 31 games, going 531-of-865 for 5,936 yards and 33 touchdowns at Washington State University. He recorded one 400-yard game, five 300-yard games and nine 250-yard contests and also ran for two touchdowns.

Last season, he led the team in passing, completing 212 of 333 passing attempts for 2,091 yards.

Leinart joined the Bills along with Thaddeus Lewis, who was acquired by Buffalo in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Leinart’s Resume

Leinart, 30, has played with the Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals over the past four National Football League seasons. A first-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2006, Leinart won college football’s Heisman Trophy at the University of Southern California in 2004.

He was waived by the team the day after the Bills’ 35-13 preseason loss to the Lions. Leinart completed three of 10 passes for 11 yards and two interceptions.

Lewis, 25, spent the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns -- mostly as a member of their practice squad -- before starting the team’s 2012 regular-season finale. The Bills sent linebacker Chris White to the Lions for Lewis, who entered the NFL in 2010 as an undrafted free agent from Duke University.

Lewis completed seven of 16 passing attempts for 132 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ loss to Detroit.

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