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 Southern California star that he could have been referring to his own seven-year career that’s gone from the promise of first round potential to spending nearly the 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 quarterbacks, rookie EJ Manuel (left knee) and veteran Kevin Kolb (concussion), Leinart might still have been 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) today. 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, who was acquired Sunday in a trade with Detroit, will get the majority of snaps after only two days of practice and a walkthrough.
“I’m just excited to be here, obviously, and humbled and just thankful for the opportunity,” said Leinart, 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. He was drafted 10th overall in 2006 by Arizona after a 37-2 record at USC.
Leinart started 16 games his first two seasons in Arizona before being sidelined by a broken left collarbone in 2007. He spent his final two seasons with the Cardinals backing up Kurt Warner.
Seeking a fresh start, he signed with Houston in 2010, where misfortune struck Leinart the following year. Taking over a playoff-bound Texans team that was off to a 7-3 start, Leinart broke his collarbone in the first half of his first game in place of injured starter Matt Schaub.
“Talk about lows. That was one of the toughest times of my career,” he said. “It was like, ‘Why? Like this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for two, three years.’ And it was just taken away from me like that.”
Leinart spent last season in Oakland, splitting backup duties with Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor gets chance
SEATTLE — If this story seems all too familiar for Matt Flynn, well, it is.
While Flynn sits on the bench and rests a sore elbow today, Terrelle Pryor will get his opportunity to earn the Oakland Raiders’ starting quarterback job when they close out the preseason against the Seahawks.
It’s almost the exact scenario as a year ago when Flynn entered training camp with the Seahawks expected to be their No. 1 quarterback, only to see Russell Wilson race past him on the depth chart and nab the starting nod.
“I’m definitely not all the way there in terms of the playbook and in terms of just being a quarterback out there,” Pryor said. “I’m learning still. Don’t get me wrong, I can lead if I was called upon to do it. I’m just out there getting better and trying to get in synch with the guys.”