ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Preposterous as it might have once sounded, quarterback Matt Leinart finds himself suddenly having much in common with Jeff Tuel.
Upon arriving in Buffalo last weekend for what could be a last chance at resurrecting his career, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner offered Tuel – an undrafted rookie out of Washington State – advice on how to prepare for the possibility of being the Bills’ opening-day starter.
“With football, it’s crazy,” Leinart said. “I told him, ‘Hey, in this league, anything can happen. You always have to stay ready.’ ”
Leinart spoke from experience. It wasn’t lost on the former USC star that he could have been referring to his own seven-year career that’s gone from the promise of first-round-draft-pick potential, to spending nearly the entire offseason wondering if he still has an NFL future.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen the worst in this league. And I’ve seen some pretty good highs,” Leinart said. “So I’ve been through a lot.”
If not for injuries sidelining the Bills’ two top QBs, rookie EJ Manuel (left knee) and veteran Kevin Kolb (concussion), Leinart might still be waiting by the phone.
Instead, after signing with Buffalo on Sunday, Leinart will have what’s essentially a one-time tryout to compete for a backup spot as the Bills (2-1) close the preseason against Detroit (2-1) tonight.
Tuel is expected to get limited playing time because the Bills are wary of having yet another quarterback hurt before opening against New England on Sept. 8.
That means Leinart and Thaddeus Lewis, acquired Sunday in a trade with Detroit, will get the majority of snaps after two days of practice and a walkthrough.
“I’m just excited to be here … and humbled and just thankful for the opportunity,” said Leinart, who is on his third team in as many seasons. “For me, at this point, I don’t feel like there’s anything to lose. That’s exciting because I’ve had a lot of pressure over the years.”
The pressure of expectations along with injuries, coaching changes, loss of confidence and bad timing have combined to derail Leinart’s career after he was drafted 10th overall in 2006 by Arizona.
Leinart, who spent last season in Oakland, where he appeared in two games, has no guarantees after today. Tuel is slated to start the opener.