Transcript of media sessions on Wednesday, May 6 with Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, cornerback Corey Graham, tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and safety Aaron Williams. Provided by the Buffalo Bills.
Q: We didn’t talk to you over the weekend, so what did you think of the draft?
A: The draft was good. Obviously I think at this time everybody is excited about their draft. You add new players to your team, but for us we have a deep roster to begin with, a very talented roster. What was important for us was to add some quality depth for what we already have. There could be some spots where guys are coming in immediately and competing for playing time. So we’ll see that. In a case like John Miller, he’s a young man that we really targeted. He’s a guy that we’ll put him right in the mix and see what he does. We were really impressed with him, he came in for a visit in particular and he kind of blew us away when we got him on the board and our coaches were talking to him. Mentally it’s a big thing and a big challenge in this when you come from college to the NFL, especially as an offensive lineman. I think this young man seems to have the aptitude for it and that’s going to allow his physical talents to where he can showcase, so we’re excited about that. I think when you look at (Ronald) Darby, he’s a guy that obviously has the traits that we look for in a man cover corner. I love the fact that he was criticize for not being thrown at. I thought that was pretty interesting to me. Generally, this just in but you usually don’t throw to a guy that is covered. I like that about him. Can he improve? Yeah, I think he will. When you have the secondary coaches that we have with Dennis Thurman and Tim McDonald and Donnie Henderson, that’s a pretty darn good group. There are some things he can get better at and I’m confident he will get better at those. The thing you can’t coach is he has world class speed. I think he can stay up with anybody. He does have man cover skills and he’s a tackler so we’re excited about him. When you look at some of the other picks we had, you look at Karlos Williams, you look at Tony Steward. Tony Steward is an outstanding special teams player and is a two time captain. Karlos Williams is the same way. An outstanding special teams guy and also gives you versatility. Obviously as a running back coming in, a big strong powerful running back. He was also a starting safety at Florida State, so obviously he is a very talented young man. When you have Tony Steward, that’s a guy who is an outstanding, worse comes to worse we know he’s an excellent car driver, so that’s a bonus. When you look at (Nick) O’Leary he won the Mackey Award once and he was the runner up twice. I think he’s a guy that gets knocked on a 40 time, but if they actually don’t put the 40 yard dash out there I think he’s an outstanding player. I think he fits what we do and then we have this young receiver from Central Arkansas that is a big talented guy. So overall I think we had an excellent draft. It’s not as flashy as maybe some other teams, we didn’t have a first round pick or a fourth round pick. Overall I thought it was a really good draft for us.
Q: Only two defenders in that group. What’s going on with you bringing in all these offensive guys?
A: Well we talked about Karlos Williams as a potential defensive player. (Laughs) It is what it is. I remember my first draft, I think we only had three picks and they were all offensive players. I think the next five years, all first round picks were all defense so it made up for it.
Q: How much work did you do on both Karlos and Ronald Darby and their off field issues?
A: I’m sure we’re not different than other teams, but we absolutely feel good about our process. The key thing we always talk about is due diligence. Really what that is is that we’re very thorough in our evaluation of all players. Not just those two individuals, but all players that we bring in here. I’ve mentioned it before, if we don’t think that these young men will be successful on the field and in our community, we wouldn’t take them. They wouldn’t be here. So we feel good about all of the guys who we’ve taken.
Q: Do you think on some level to compete in this league a certain amount of social responsibility has to be compromised?
A: I think number one we do our work. I just say that everybody in the league I think that obviously it is important. I know it’s important to us and as I mentioned, if we don’t think we have some people that will be successful in our community as well as on the field, they wouldn’t be here. I’m very comfortable with the young men that we’re bringing in here.
Q: Ronald Darby said that he didn’t meet you until Saturday when he first got here. Did you meet with Karlos at all before the draft?
A: Yeah, we had him in. He was one of our visits that we had in. Sometimes you do it even by strategy or if there is something with certain visits that you’ll bring in people or you don’t. Sometimes we may go visit a school thinking there is a little smokescreen here. I went to visit a certain player that we didn’t really think fit us. There is some little jockeying that takes place, but he was a guy that we wanted to leave under the radar and I thought he was. Well he was a second round pick, but he was higher than that on our board. We were excited to have this young man here. If they don’t meet me there is plenty of guys with Donnie Henderson, with Dennis Thurman, with a lot of guys going down to their pro days. We felt very good about him.
Q: Did you get a scouting report on Steward from your son?
A: He never had to give me a scouting report, I watch every one of those Clemson games. He’s a young man, his story is he was the number one kid in the country coming out of high school. Unfortunately for him, he tears an ACL and then he comes back and he tears the other ACL. So he had two years where he had a devastating injury and a lot of times that’s it for people. But this young man all he did was battle his way back in to becoming the player he was. He was voted by his team as a two time captain on special teams and was also a major contributor for the number one defense in the country, by the way. So he’s a good player. Was he slowed a little bit by the injuries? He ran a 4.6 and change, which is obviously with his size, speed and all that is very impressive. Was he faster coming out? He might have been, but I know one thing; he can still run. We’re happy with him.
Q: Can you address your interest in La’el Collins?
A: Yeah, I did have dinner with him and that’s really the extent of it.
Q: Is there interest?
A: Well I had dinner with him.
Q: Are you concerned about his off field issues?
A: When you look at it from my perspective, I had the opportunity to have dinner with him and that’s what I did. I’ll just leave it at that.
Q: In regards to Karlos Williams and the accusations against him, the fact that he wasn’t charged, does that factor in to your off field evaluation of him?
A: There’s a lot of things that factor in anytime you make a decision on any young man that you bring in, but as we’ve mentioned before about doing background checks and doing our own research and doing one on one interviews and such, we felt good about bringing him here. If not and there was any hesitation we wouldn’t have brought him here.
Q: Would you have any hesitation in bringing in La’el Collins based on your conversation with him?
A: I’m going to leave my conversation with him that I had, I had dinner with the young man and I’m going to leave it that way. You can ask it a different way if you want, but the same answer you’re going to get.
Q: It’s not often at the NFL level that you’ve been a recruiter.
A: I wouldn’t say that.
Q: Well this is almost like a recruiting visit.
A: Look at it whatever way you want, but as Ozzie Newsome told me before, he used to say this and he goes if he needed someone to recruit to get him in to heaven, than I would be the guy that he would choose. He has someone else that he would stay there with, but recruiting is a part of it. I’ve done it in the past. Sometimes you get locked in with an undrafted free agent and you’re going head to head with somebody, so I still think you do that even if there is free agents that you get on your own roster that there is still a little bit of that recruiting that goes on.
Q: Does it bother you at all that Matt Cassel is hanging out with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski at the Kentucky Derby?
A: No. Look, Gronk does a great job in this community too. Locally, I was out with him, Fred Jackson did some things when Garth Brooks was here. Absolutely not, off the field there is a little fraternity in football players and things like that. They’re your enemy when you play them, but that certainly isn’t the case out anywhere else. I’ve had my picture with Wes Welker at the Derby a couple years ago. I think there is respect throughout this league for guys you play against and all that, but it doesn’t mean you don’t want to beat them because you certainly do.
Q: Were you surprised that nobody took a late round flyer on La’el Collins?
A: I’m not going to get in to any of that stuff. Just say I had dinner with him.
Q: We heard you had the lobster appetizer, at least that was the report.
A: That’s a false report. I did have gumbo.
Q: With Darby here would there be more consideration to moving Corey Graham to safety?
A: That’s an interesting thing. Corey is a guy that is a rare talent. A guy that obviously as a veteran player, he’s seen a lot of huddles broken in his day. He’s very valuable to us as a corner and at nickel. Could he play safety? I believe he could. It’s something that we will definitely consider. You try to get your best 11 players on the field and I think Corey is a tremendous player. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has the talent to do that as well.
Q: Where do you see Alex Carrington fitting in?
A: He’s a young man that obviously has been here before. I think he fits right in with these guys that we have. He’s a good player, I’ve gone against him for a long time. The thing that jumps out to you obviously is he had a rare knack for blocking kicks, an unusual knack for doing it. That’s something that jumps out at you. It tells you about his physical talent and his skillset, so I’m excited to get him here and get him in with Karl Dunbar, who I think is the best d-line coach in the league and put him right in the mix.
Q: On Cyrus Kouandjio, we didn’t see much of him last year. Do you sense that he is a motivated kid because of his lack of production last year?
A: I can’t tell you what happened last year, but what I can tell you is I see the work ethic and enthusiasm that he hits the practice field with and that has been impressive. In the weight room, we have this kettle bell walk or whatever where you take the weights and you go for distance and he outperformed everybody on this team. So to say have I been impressed by him? I absolutely have been impressed by him.
Q: The previous coaching staff couldn’t find a way to utilize him. There has to be something to work with, right?
A: I can’t speak for what has happened previously to where we’re at, I can just tell you what I see with my own eyes. I see a guy that seems extremely motivated, excited and our coaches are excited that we have him.
Q: Rex, you’ve not been afraid to speak your mind. What about players? There is an ongoing resentment between LeSean McCoy and Chip Kelly. What do you make of your players making headlines with what they say?
A: I just think that anything that is brought up that way with a guy or a player with his past with a different team or something like that is better addressed with him and not me. I can’t make assumptions or anything else, it makes no sense for me to do so. I think it’s everybody’s situations whether you go sometimes, guys leave and they feel great about it, some guys leave and they’re happy to leave. Some guys are disappointed to leave. Again, I can’t even begin to tell you what happened there. I think you talk to LeSean and leave it at that.
Q: Do you have any stance as a coach on players creating headlines in the press?
A: I am not going to put a muzzle on any of our players. Even here—we are not saying, ‘Here is the stance of our football team.’ We are not always going to be lined up. You are going to have ‘Hey, oh, this guy said this and this guy said that.’ We are not going to be lined up, but I think it is better for our fans just like you guys reporting here—this goes to our fans and I would rather be honest. We are not going to be 100-percent lined up. Why? Because we do not feel like we have to come out and, ‘Here is a blank statement.’ Somebody reads it and then he is going to follow it up. I would rather just be ourselves. I think the players are more comfortable doing that. I know I am more comfortable doing that. I think that is the way it is. I think you will get a real feel for who we are. It does not have to be, ‘Well this guy said this and this guy said this.’ OK, maybe there are some differences of opinions and things. By no means will I put a muzzle on anybody.
Q: Nick O’Leary went through a horrific accident and lived to play football. Is he a Rex kind of guy?
A: The first thing I said to him was, ‘Dude you’re not going to go out on that motorcycle are you?’ And he said, ‘No, I am done with that.’ That was good. (Laughs) He is an outstanding football player. There is no hiding that fact. Most touchdowns, most receiving yards, most receptions (in Florida State history)—all of that stuff, he has all of it. The thing I like about him, I think he is and maybe people have not really talked about this, this guy is a willing and a good blocker. I see that. He was not really asked to do that as much the last two years. When he was younger, I always used to see him competing as a blocker and I was always impressed with him that way. We will see. He will get to step up. I am sure he was surprised where he was taken, as low as he was taken. Sometimes that is a really good thing. You get a guy that is motivated to show people, ‘You know what? I am a better player than teams though.’
Q: Will you get to meet his grandfather?
A: I have no idea (laughs). I am just excited to meet the grandson.
Q: With the off the field issues, are you putting pressure to juggle all those personalities?
A: Well I had the benefit of meeting most of these players and I feel great. I think there is a common…no player we have in that locker room is perfect. Everybody has had something in their lives that they are probably not proud of. I know certainly I have had more than my share. It does not mean they are a bad person or whatever. These guys I know for a fact will respect the guys in the locker room and that is all I ask. We all respect each other and play your butt off. That is what they are going to do. As far as outside in the community, I expect them to be respectful of the people in the community and to be good characters. I believe we will have that.
Q: Where does this team in terms of personalities compare to the ones you have had in the past?
A: I do not think it is fair to say yet because we are just getting to know each other. I have spent very little time with the offense. I watch them on the practice field and things like that, but until you get through training camp and all of that type of stuff—we will see. One thing I do feel really good about is I see a lot of smiles on their faces. They are excited to be here and they work. You watch these guys work in the weight room and all that. We had some guys that came in a little heavy, man we have one guy in particular, a skill position player and he is down 11 pounds. He is working hard. All of these guys work hard. They also do it with a smile on their face and I think they enjoy being around their teammates and that is a big thing for me.
Q: From an on-field perspective, what do you see from La’el Collins?
A: I am not going to get into that. I am really not.
Q: Are there any indiscretions that would be a deal breaker for you?
A: We have several players that were off our board that may have been drafted by somebody else. With us, doing our due diligence that we felt that some players we would not draft or would want on our football team.
Q: What indiscretions would those be?
A: Oh I am not going to say that. I can tell you this. When we went through the process there were some players we never felt good as far as them being Buffalo Bills. Clearly the people we took, we feel good about. We will stand by that. I will certainly stand by that.
Q: Was focusing on the offense in the draft a conscious effort?
A: I think there were priorities throughout this team. When you look at our draft, clearly special teams we put a major priority into that. Getting better on special teams even though we had an outstanding unit. We just want to be a better football team. You look at some of the players, particularly the skill position players that we added offensively—I think will help that. We bring in Richie Incognitio who we feel really good about. We draft this young man that we feel good about. We will see how it comes together. It is really both sides of the ball that I am excited about. We are trying to get improvement throughout this team—offense, defense and special teams. If we can do that, I think we have a pretty darn good chance to be successful.
Q: Was there a reason for focusing most of your attention on the offense in practice?
A: I am saying I was actually more in the classroom on defense. When I am on the field I will spend more of my time on offense even through the individual drills—I will go around and watch our offense more so than our defense. That is just something I want to be around our guys that I am the head coach. I am not just the defensive coach. Am I fortunate to have the guys in place like Greg Roman in charge of the offense? Yeah, absolutely. Still this is our team. This is my offense and these are my coaches. I want to be around it. I want to know what we are doing. Certainly excited about it.
WR Marquise Goodwin
Q: Rex has talked about how you have been making plays here. How do you feel that your minicamp has been coming along?
A: It is just minicamp. It is early. Everybody is making plays. We have not even put the pads on yet, so it is air—so I would hope I would be making some plays.
Q: Mike Wallace said he is the fastest man in the NFL. He said he ran a 4.21. Is he?
A: He has not beat me, so you are not faster than me until you beat me.
Q: What do you make of the additions they have made to your position group and the competition that creates to fight for a spot on this team?
A: Man it was a great deal of competition as is and then we added Percy (Harvin). That is great. I think it is great for our room, it is great for the camaraderie in the room and it is great for the team.
Q: Is a new coaching staff the best thing that could have happened for your career?
A: I do enjoy the coaching staff that we have here. I am very confident in everything. The changes that the organization has made, I think they will benefit me a lot. Definitely a fresh start. I am looking forward to this season.
CB Corey Graham
Q: With a safety spot open. Do you think you might be in line to see time there?
A: I do not know. So far I am playing corner. That is what I have been at so far. I am able to play safety. I am able to play whatever they want. I am pretty sure we are going to be able to be creative to get guys on the field. If they ask me to do it, I will do it.
Q: As a veteran on the team, is it a concern to you when the team drafts players whose character has been questioned?
A: Not much. As a leader you have the help the guys any way you possible can. There are always going to be guys that had things in the past that did not go the way they expected. As a veteran you just have to help bring guys in. Help out as much as you can. Show guys how to prevent the negative things and do things the right way—the way we do it.
Q: The coaching staff has not talked to you about safety?
A: A little bit here and there. Not much. Obviously I played it a little bit last year so it is nothing new to me. It is not like they have to really say, ‘Hey we are going to want you to play safety…’ I know what my role is. I know what I have to do. If it came down to it, I know I have to know what is going on at safety just like I have to know at corner.
T Cyrus Kouandjio
Q: How has year two of your career started for you? Do you feel like this is a new beginning for you here?
A: Yeah. Having a good time. A new beginning. A new year.
Q: Did you feel like you got a fair shot last year?
A: I think (how last year) benefited me was it taught me how to be versatile. Taught me how to do pretty much anything on O-line. That is what I trained on this offseason. When it came up this year, I am getting tackle reps. I am more focused on that.
S Aaron Williams
Q: How much has this defense changed for you? Similar to Mike Pettine’s?
A: Yeah, not a lot. I feel like a lot of stuff that Pettine did came a lot from Rex. He learned a lot from Rex. There is not really much different besides terminology. Everything we did two years ago is pretty much what we did.
Q: Did you pay a lot of attention to the Bills’ draft?
A: I saw who we got. I did not see the whole draft. I saw the players that we drafted. I have never seen them play, but from their highlights they looked like playmakers.
Q: Do you like having another DB come in and join the competition?
A: As long as they are ready to work and ready to win, does everything that we ask him to do and he is serious about what he does—I do not care who we draft as long as he has the same mindset and same goals we have. I am excited for him to be here.