EJ Manuel’s most recent knee injury is cause for concern, but not a reason to give up on him.

At least that’s the opinion of Stephania Bell, a physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist who serves as ESPN’s injury expert.

Manuel, the Buffalo Bills’ rookie franchise quarterback, will miss Sunday’s home finale against the Miami Dolphins because of a knee injury – the third one he’s suffered this year.

“It’s not ideal to see a guy have these three things in a year, but I’m not ready to say he’s never going to make it in the league as a franchise quarterback, or he’s doomed,” Bell said in a phone interview with The Buffalo News this week. “He could have a blip in a 10-year career, and this could be the blip. It’s kind of too early to make that claim.

“I’m reluctant to make anything of it, other than it’s some bad luck for him. I think it’s too early to tag him ‘injury prone.’ I’m sure that it’s understandably going to be a question when you have that many injuries this close together, but it may just be that that’s this year and he does fine going forward.”

Coach Doug Marrone said Manuel suffered a sprained left knee when he was hit on the third-to-last play of the first half of Sunday’s 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He injured the same knee in the preseason and missed the final two exhibition games, but returned in time for the season opener.

Manuel also suffered a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee during a Week Five loss at Cleveland, forcing him to miss four games. In each of the previous cases, he’s returned to the lineup on the shorter side of the initial time frame given.

“He benefits from being young,” Bell said. “When you’re younger you tend to recover a little more quickly. He hasn’t had any major blowout injuries, but it’s certainly something that you look at and you go ‘hmmm.’ This is twice now on this one knee that he’s had an issue. The other knee, he sprained his lateral collateral, which isn’t insignificant.”

Manuel’s latest injury – coupled with his inconsistency when healthy – has led for some fans to call for his replacement. But even one of Manuel’s harshest critics coming into the season thinks that would be rash.