ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – No one on the Buffalo Bills has a definitive answer as to whether quarterback Josh Allen’s injured throwing elbow will be healed in time to play against the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings this weekend.
The best coach Sean McDermott could say regarding Allen’s playing status on Wednesday was, “We’ll see.”
What’s more clear is the confidence the team has in 10-year journeyman backup Case Keenum’s ability to step in and take over the NFL’s leading offense in yards gained in a pinch.
“One hundred percent,” receiver Stefon Diggs said of Keenum, with whom he played with in Minnesota in 2017. “That’s my guy. You know me and Case go way back. He’s a true pro. He’s been around this league for a long time. So I anticipate him preparing the right way ... I have complete confidence in him.”
Allen did not practice Wednesday, and was spotted wearing a brace on his right elbow, which he hurt in a 20-17 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.
McDermott wouldn’t reveal the severity of the injury and stuck mostly to an opening statement in which he referred to Allen as being day to day. The coach then anticipated the next question by saying: “Is he going to play? And the answer is we’ll see.”
Allen was hurt while failing in his attempt to drive the Bills into field-goal position on their final drive against the Jets.
Facing second-and-2, Allen dropped back and was in the process of throwing the ball when his arm was wrenched down and to the side by defensive lineman Bryce Huff, who also knocked the ball loose for a 19-yard loss.
Following the game, Allen played down the injury.
“There’s some slight pain,” he said, “but we’ll get through it.”
The injury is similar to the one that forced him to miss four games during his rookie season in 2018, the previous time he missed a start. While Allen is lobbying to play through the injury, the AFC-leading Bills (6-2) might decide to rest the NFL’s third-leading passer for a week or two in order to have him healthy for a late-season playoff push.
Keenum is a 10-year NFL journeyman and accustomed to the backup role, while noting it made no difference that he once played for the Vikings.
“I’ve played a lot of my former teams before — that’s what happens when you have a lot of former teams,” said Keenum, who is on his seventh team. “I’ve done it a bunch of times so I know how to treat those weeks.”
It just so happens that Buffalo plays Cleveland — another one of Keenum's former teams — the following weekend.
The Bills acquired Keenum in a trade with the Browns in March to fill their backup role following Mitch Trubisky's departure in free agency.
“I’ve been in all situations. Played a lot without any practice, know how to do that, step into the middle of the game. I’ve practiced some and then played, I’ve practice very little and played,” he said. “So just come in each day, take it a day at a time and see what the plan is and get ready to go.”
Keenum had only two starts — both wins — for the Browns over his past two years. His best season came with the Vikings in 2017, when he finished 11-3. He was most remembered for the 61-yard touchdown pass to Diggs as time expired to secure a 29-24 win over New Orleans in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.
“If he’s the one that we roll with, we have the utmost confidence that we’ll fly around and compete,” center Mitch Morse said. “Case’s commanded the huddle at the highest level. He’s had his own huddle before. He understands this offense completely. We trust him implicitly. He’s been a soundboard for Josh for a very long time this year. And we just have the utmost confidence in him.”
The uncertainty at quarterback comes with the Bills preparing to host a surging Vikings team that has won six straight and sits second in the NFC standings with a 7-1 record.
The Bills still have a direct path to winning their third consecutive AFC East title and finishing first in the conference for the first time since 1993, but their margin for error shrunk with the loss to the Jets. Buffalo dropped to 0-2 against division opponents, including a 21-19 loss at Miami in September.
NOTES: In addition to Allen, Buffalo’s leading tackler, LB Tremaine Edmunds (groin, heel), did not practice on Wednesday. ... LB Matt Milano (oblique) was limited after missing Sunday’s game against the Jets. ... McDermott declined to say whether CB Tre'Davious White will play Sunday. White was activated to the roster last week, but has yet to play since tearing a left knee ligament nearly a year ago.
AP freelance writer Mark Ludwiczak contributed to this story.
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