PITTSFORD – Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus broke his team-imposed silence Tuesday, speaking to reporters for the first time since the start of training camp.
Dareus, however, stayed away from any questions involving his legal matters and the possibility of an NFL suspension stemming from his arrests this offseason – first for felony drug possession in his native Alabama, then for multiple misdemeanor charges following an alleged drag-racing incident in Hamburg.
Dareus was asked if he had heard from the league regarding either or both of those incidents, and whether he was concerned a suspension could be forthcoming.
“If I do, or when I do, that’ll be something I have to take up with them,” he said. “I’m not really discussing that. … When we get to that point, we’ll get there. When I talk with them and I hear from them, that’s when I’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on.”
Dareus hadn’t spoken publicly since May – with the team saying it wanted him to “focus on football.”
A lengthy training camp that has exceeded a month at St. John Fisher College has given him the opportunity to do just that.
“It’s been great,” he said. “The team has been so supportive, and the coach has just been outstanding. It’s a great atmosphere to be around.”
Marrone’s support has particularly been welcoming for Dareus.
“Coach Marrone is such a good guy. With the players and everybody, he’s always trying to put his best foot forward. He’s a players’ coach and we all know that,” Dareus said. “He supports me, just like I support what we’re trying to do here, and he’s just that type of guy. I can go to him if I have any questions or if I have anything going on. He’s just another outlet for me.”
While Dareus insists he’s in a good spot now, the summer didn’t get off to a great start for the 24-year-old Pro Bowler. Upon reporting to Fisher last month, he failed his conditioning test. He explained why Tuesday.
“With that whole issue, it wasn’t anything about the physical. It was just more mental for me. It was just a hurdle I had to get over,” he said. “I mean, getting in shape in two days? Finishing a conditioning test, it was just a mental thing for me … Moving forward, I’m just ready to put everything I have into what we’re trying to do here.”
Dareus has said in the past that he’s confident his off-the-field problems are a thing of the past. He echoed those sentiments Tuesday.
“I’m 100 percent sure everything is just fine. We’re going to just keep moving forward. I don’t have any worries,” he said.
At this point, however, it will be more about what Dareus does when the team steps out of its camp bubble and less about what he says in front of TV cameras and microphones. Moving forward was one theme of Dareus’ interview, which lasted a little more than 6 minutes. Another was his focus.
“A lot of issues and a lot of things come from other people and just kind of distracts you from what your main focus and your main goal is,” he said. “So I’ve just been kind of really keeping my eyes on the prize, doing the best I can. My weight is a lot better. I’m staying focused, doing what I can on the field. I’m feeling good. Mentally, I’m in a good state. I’m just happy to be back out here.”
Dareus has missed some practice time this summer with a hamstring injury, and the past couple of days has worn a wrap on his left elbow. He said the injuries are minor, however, calling them just training camp “bumps and bruises.”
Dareus said his teammates have been generally supportive but have avoided talking about the specifics of his troubles.
“We’ve all got each other’s backs,” he said. “There’s really nothing that’s been said – nothing to talk about. Of course I can rely on them. We’re all here together. We’re all here for one common goal, so of course we’re going to do the best we can.”
Dareus is slated to appear in Hamburg Town Court on Sept. 9 after turning down a plea bargain to resolve that case.
“I’m a grown man, I have my own responsibilities. I’m going to do the best I can to straighten my own things out because I am human,” he said. “I can only move forward and be positive about it from here on out.”