Just a few weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills were the walking wounded.
In their loss at Cleveland, the sight of C.J. Spiller dashing for a 54-yard touchdown and then limping back to the sideline summed up Buffalo's season to date. Then came Sunday, when the Bills, already down to their third quarterback, got a scare when Thad Lewis was in a walking boot after an overtime loss to the Bengals. The good news for Buffalo is that Lewis is still expected to play next Sunday.
It was a bullet dodged, just as with linebacker Manny Lawson. The veteran leader left Sunday's game in the second quarter and did not return, but coach Doug Marrone said Monday that he'll be fine.
The stroke of injury luck comes just as the Bills got a trio of players back to game action: safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Next up should be cornerback Ron Brooks, who returned to practice last week. And wide receiver Stevie Johnson is on pace to play this Sunday after missing Sunday's game due to a lower back injury.
The effect of all the happy returns has been seen in the team's roster decisions. Cornerback Justin Rogers, who started the first five games of the season, was a healthy scratch Sunday. And on Tuesday, the Bills released guard Colin Brown, who also started the first five games. With Doug Legursky back to health after a preseason knee injury, Brown became expendable.
That leaves just one banged-up player whose status is still unclear: quarterback EJ Manuel.
The rookie quarterback walked through the locker room Monday showing no obvious signs of the knee sprain that knocked him out of the Cleveland game. Soon after, Marrone said that Manuel is ahead of schedule in his recovery, and should start rehabilitation work this week.
The timetable for Manuel's return should come into focus soon.
Either way, the Bills are becoming healthier just when it may matter most. Their next three games may be their toughest stretch of the season.