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Rookie Edwards in the mix for Bills backup spot

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Trent Edwards could turn out to be a steal.

Marv Levy thought so in April when the Buffalo Bills -- despite already being set at their two top quarterback spots -- made the eyebrow-raising decision to select Edwards in the third round of the NFL draft. A few weeks later, the Bills general manager received a curious phone call that confirmed he made the right decision.

Just weeks before his death, Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh was on the line touting the Stanford product.

"It's the first time he's done this in all the years I've known him," Levy said Monday, referring to his friend and former colleague, who died last month. "But he called me and said, 'Marv, you've got yourself one heck of a quarterback.'"

Four weeks into training camp, Edwards is showing signs he'll prove Walsh correct and the Bills astute for drafting him.

Bills quarterbacks coach Turk Schonert has even more reason than most to respect Walsh's judgment: he played under him at Stanford in the 1970s.

"For Bill to say that, it gets you excited. And then when the player comes in here and lives up to or exceeds it, it's even better," Schonert said. "He's been everything we thought he would be on film and more."

That's high praise not usually reserved for rookies, particularly ones listed third on the depth chart.

Edwards might not be anywhere near ready to compete with J.P. Losman for the starting job, but his solid play has him in contention to challenge Craig Nall for the backup spot. In a 13-10 loss to Atlanta on Friday, Edwards played the entire second half.

It was an outing that saw Edwards finish 11-of-16 for 101 yards passing and a touchdown, a heads-up 10-yard pass he made under pressure and threaded to a partially covered Roscoe Parrish.

In two games, Edwards has gone a combined 21-of-27 for 150 yards, the touchdown and no interceptions - albeit playing against backups.

The only one not impressed is Edwards.

"I would definitely say I'm making progress," he said. "But when you look at how many mistakes I've made, there's still a lot of room to make more progress."

He brought up his throw to Parrish as an example. The touchdown was nice, but Edwards said he put himself in a bad position by locking in on the receiver rather than checking his third option.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds, Edwards has the size to stay in the pocket, the quickness to scramble out of trouble and the strength to shed tackles. He is seventh on Stanford's career list with 5,429 yards passing and 36 touchdowns.

Edwards was the sixth quarterback selected in the draft, with several knocks against him. Besides missing the final month of last season with a broken ankle, he played for a Cardinal program that won only 14 games during his four years.

Schonert said the problem wasn't Edwards, but the lack of talent around him, particularly noting the number of times the quarterback was hit or sacked.

Schonert credited Edwards for not pointing fingers at his teammates and said he showed poise by staying in the pocket knowing he was going to get hit.

"It hardened him," Schonert said. "There were two ways to go: He could stand there and make throws or he could bail every time. He stood there and made throws."

As difficult as some games were, Edwards enjoyed playing at Stanford, where he also had an opportunity to befriend Walsh, who remained involved with the football program.

Before the draft, the quarterback sent Walsh a note, thanking him for his support in helping him prepare for the NFL.

Edwards was surprised to receive a reply, a note of encouragement which he's posted on his fridge.

"I'd rather keep it to myself," Edwards said without revealing the letter's content. "But to think, the great Bill Walsh would take time out of his day to do that for me. That was pretty cool."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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