- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone informed quarterback EJ Manuel that he will remain the starter next season despite lingering questions about the rookie's durability and uneven development.
Manuel, the Bills' first-round draft pick last April, missed six games this season after suffering three separate knee injuries. In his place, the Bills turned to backup Thad Lewis, who posted a better completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and passer rating in half as many games.
Asked Monday about his status entering next season, Manuel said Marrone assured him he would remain the starter, adding that he can't take that role for granted.
"With the season that we've had, I don't feel like I can just sit here and be comfortable," Manuel said. "You know changes are going to be made all the time. I know for me personally, I'm going to always continue to work hard and make sure I'm ready to go. I do know I'm the leader and the quarterback right now of this team."
Manuel brushed off questions about whether he has improved since being named the Bills' starter in September.
"Even though the record is 4-6, my record as a starter from start to finish is 4-6, I think there are at least two or three games that we could have won," he said. "We put ourselves in position to win and we didn't. The record is what it is but I know, like I said, there's a lot of things to really take from it.
"I'm always going to be positive with myself. I'm still a young guy, so I know there's a lot more room for improvement, and I expect to improve."
The Bills signed veteran Kevin Kolb last offseason to compete with Manuel, who was selected 16th overall. Kolb suffered a season-ending concussion during the preseason, which left Manuel and undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel as the only quarterbacks on the Bills' opening day roster.
Kolb is under contract for next season but may not return, which could lead the Bills to pursue another option to compete with Manuel.
"I don't really know who's questioning things, but as far as me, I'm just continuing to get better," Manuel said Monday.
Manuel did not rule out having offseason surgery on the sprained LCL in his left knee, an injury that kept him out of the Bills' final two games.
"When you have the injuries I've had, there's always surgical things you can do to repair it, and then there's also ways if you just get rest and certain things like that, it might repair itself," Manuel said. "So I just have to make that decision."
However, Manuel said any procedure would be minor and that he would have played through the injury had the Bills been in playoff contention.
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