Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer 285d

Lee Smith: Raiders have a 'great' QB in EJ Manuel to replace Derek Carr

ALAMEDA -- The way Bruce Irvin put it, he's actually a little bit excited to see what EJ Manuel can bring to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

No disrespect to Derek Carr, of course.

"I guarantee you," Irvin said Tuesday, "there was no way EJ woke up Sunday morning thinking he was going to play that day. But look what he did."

Irvin's words represent the thoughts of a locker room still dealing with the prospect of its franchise quarterback being lost for two to six weeks with a transverse process fracture in his back. It was suffered in the 16-10 loss at the Denver Broncos, and Manuel is taking over in the interim.

Manuel completed his first eight passes and finished 11-of-17 for 106 yards and nearly led an improbable comeback that ended with his deep pass to Amari Cooper being intercepted inside the Broncos' 10-yard line with less than two minutes to play.

Of course, teammates are expected to keep a stiff upper lip in such situations and remain positive in the public eye. This isn't like last winter, when Carr went down with a broken right fibula in Week 16 and the Raiders had to turn to untested rookie Connor Cook in the playoffs. Manuel has already played in 29 NFL games, starting 17, with the Buffalo Bills before losing the job to Tyrod Taylor last season and coming to Oakland as a free agent this spring.

And for two of those years, Manuel was teammates with tight end Lee Smith with the Bills.

"It didn't pan out for EJ to be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, but I'm glad he's here with us," Smith said.

"For whatever reason, it didn't work out in Buffalo, I'm glad it didn't. Because now that Derek is banged up a little bit, we have a great quarterback that we get to go to battle with Sunday. So it worked out good for the Raiders."

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Still, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was Manuel's training camp roommate in Napa, California, is all in, too, referencing the QB's preparedness.

"He's in the meetings just like he's playing each and every day," Patterson said. "It's the next-man-up mentality around here.

"[We will] just keep praying for Derek but as of right now, EJ's the man. We've got to do everything we can to [raise] his confidence."

Manuel is 6-11 as a starter in the NFL and has completed 58.5 percent of his career passes for 3,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 29 games.

Manuel has a career passer rating of 76.9 and his last victory came on Sept. 14, 2014.

"EJ, he's a starter in this league," Patterson said. "He got drafted high in the first round for a reason. We're not impressed with the things that he did on Sunday; we see that each and every day in practice.

"When his time comes, we know he's ready. All the work he done put in, the extra time, that's what quarterbacks do. So we're just excited for him."

Manuel will meet with the media Wednesday at the team facility.

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