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Bills must be careful with rookie Nathan Peterman in preseason finale

Rookie Nathan Peterman could use the snaps, but it might be wise to sit him in the preseason finale with the Bills' other quarterbacks hurting. Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- If you cannot remember former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart's five-day stint with the Buffalo Bills, here is a brief history lesson.

In August 2013, the Bills held a competition for their starting quarterback job between veteran Kevin Kolb and first-round rookie EJ Manuel. By the final week of the preseason, Kolb was sidelined with a concussion (not long after injuring his knee slipping on a rubber mat), and Manuel's status was uncertain after emergency knee surgery.

The Bills' only healthy quarterback at the time was Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie. Wanting to keep Tuel healthy in the event he would have to start in the regular-season opener against the New England Patriots, then-first-year coach Doug Marrone held Tuel out of the preseason finale despite his young quarterback's desperate need for game experience.

Instead of playing Tuel, the Bills traded for Lions backup quarterback Thad Lewis and signed Leinart four days before their preseason finale. Leinart played the first five series, completing 3 of 10 passes for 11 yards, two interceptions and a 0.0 quarterback rating before being pulled for Lewis. Both players were later cut. Manuel was able to return for the opener, avoiding Tuel having to start.

Fast forward to this week, when Bills first-year coach Sean McDermott must decide whether it makes sense to play rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman in Thursday's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions.

Both Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates remained out of practice Tuesday with concussions suffered in Saturday's preseason game in Baltimore. Neither player has been spotted in the locker room. If Taylor does not pass the necessary steps of the NFL's concussion protocol in time to practice by Wednesday or Thursday of next week, it seems logical that the Bills would instead start Peterman in their regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the New York Jets.

Like with Tuel in 2013, the Bills should be cautious with exposing Peterman to the risk of injury if there is any doubt that Taylor will be able to play Week 1. Even though Peterman -- a fifth-round pick in April's draft from Pittsburgh -- needs the game experience, the Bills need him healthy for the opener more than anything.

McDermott seemed aware of that point Tuesday.

"Yeah, we’re on top of that," he said. "You’re right on with that. It’s something that we need to stay on top of and get the best feel we can with respect to Tyrod and T.J. and how that affects Week 1. We have to monitor that very closely."

Similar to the additions of Leinart and Lewis four years ago, the Bills signed quarterback Keith Wenning on Monday to help eat up snaps under center in Thursday's game.

"A lot of [Wenning's playing time] depends on how quickly Keith gets up to speed, which it’s a short week so there’s a challenge," McDermott said. "But Keith’s been in [offensive coordinator Rick Dennison's] system before in Baltimore, and that was the main attraction with Keith. He’s a good football player, so I look forward to seeing him in action Thursday night. How much remains to be seen.

"The balance of Nate and Keith is what we’re driving at right now for Thursday night."