Head coach Sean McDermott
Opening Statement: We’ll get started here. Just, a good first day. Great energy in the room. Guys are fired up. I thought it was interesting to see the guys and the look on their faces. They’re anxious, chomping at the bit to get started, and that’s good. Really, today, we just laid a foundation, started talking about our process, our fundamentals, and really earning the right to win.
A couple moves off the field, of late, starting with the Director of Player Engagement and Alumni: Marlon Kerner; Team Chaplain: Len Vanden Bos; Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach: Will Greenberg; and then Assistant Athletic Trainer: Denny Kellington. As you guys already know, LeSean McCoy was not here today. But again, I feel good about our first day. Guys are finishing up as we speak and looking to get this thing going. With that, I’ll open it up for questions.
Q: Sean, when you say moves, they were –
A: They were added to our staff.
Q: Marlon was already here. What’s he doing now?
A: Marlon’s going to be our Director of Player Engagement and tie that job in with the alumni part of the job.
Q: As a football coach, is it hard for you to be here and not be able to get your hands in there and get dirty a little bit?
A: Yeah, it is. Look, these are the rules that are governed by the league and so, it is. You want to jump all in and I told the guys at my first meeting, there’s a ton that I want to convey to them – a ton that I’ve been waiting to communicate. But as a teacher, we have to work in a progression. That’s what I saw. I moved from one position group to another position group in the different meetings and I saw the coaches doing a phenomenal job of teaching and laying the foundation with the guys in a progression order, so that was good to see.
Q: There’s only one opportunity that you get to make a first impression. Today, being with most of the guys here, this was your opportunity. You’re smiling. How did you approach addressing your players for the first time in what’s essentially the same room for the first time.
A: There’s a first time for everything, and this was my first time in front of the players. Like I said, it starts with their mindset, and they have the right mindset. They’re here to work and to earn the right to win. For me, it really went into what’s important to us. What’s important to me as a head coach and we went through that progression. Listen, I can’t convey everything in one meeting and so you have to really skinny it down. A wise coach once said to me years ago, ‘when you say a lot, you risk saying nothing.’ The other side of it is say a little, you say a lot. We took that approach today.
Q: It is voluntary, but are you a little disappointed not to see LeSean [McCoy] here for the workout?
A: You know, you hit the word on the head. It’s voluntary. I am encouraged by my conversations with LeSean throughout the whole offseason since I got the job. It is voluntary though, and so that is what it is. I’m encouraged by the guys that are here, and that’s really where my focus is at this time.
Q: What sense did you get from him on when he might be here and how much participation he may have?
A: Yeah, we haven’t talked along those lines. We really haven’t.
Q: Was LeSean the only player that wasn’t here today?
Q: Coach, knowing it’s still very early in terms of any kind of on-field work and evaluating players that way, can you just maybe lay out how you kind of observe the players working with each other, maybe more in a conditioning capacity, and how those personalities interact? Give us a feel for the people that you have on your roster.
A: Well, chemistry – you’ve heard me mention before – is important for any team, and particularly the good teams. It’s no different for us. We’re trying to build our chemistry and that means the right people in the right places doing the right things and the right times. That’s a big part of building a good football team and I can only do so much because of the limitations. I’m not really out there to watch the conditioning and the lifting that goes on, but what we have in the meetings I can evaluate and that’s the teacher-pupil part of the equation here and that’s been fun to watch. Guys really letting their personalities show, and that’s important too – that they have enough space to be themselves because they’re here for a reason and their personalities are a part of it.
Q: How far along is Sammy Watkins in his return from the foot surgery and is there any timetable on getting him up to full speed?
A: Yeah, Sammy looks good. He’s right on schedule. There [have] been no setbacks. I know he’s chomping at the bit to get back on the field and we’re anxious to have him back on the field, in all honesty. We just expect him right now to keep attacking that rehab process for us like he has been to this point.
Q: Sean, a lot of the players were wearing shirts that said “Playoff Caliber.” Is that kind of your mentality, your mantra?
A: That’s really the day-to-day vision for what we’re trying to get done. You’ve got to earn the right. Every team, this time of year or two weeks from now – whenever they start – talk about winning the Super Bowl. We want to do that as well, don’t get me wrong, but what’s the plan between now and then? That’s our vision on a day-to-day basis, and that standard is to be a playoff-caliber football team, and that means every day. That’s what it gets back to in terms of earning the right to win. How we meet, how we talk, how we workout, how we practice when we do practice, how we play – that’s the standard we’re trying to get to every day.
Q: In the three months you’ve been here, how far along and how far on schedule are you in your plan for placing your stamp on this franchise? There have been some front office changes, as you also announced today. How far along and how comfortable are you today as opposed to where you were in mid-July?
A: Yeah. I know how to get from where I live, now, to here so that’s a step – and a couple other places in between. I know where Wegmans is and all those types of things. No, but it’s a fair question. We’re making progress. We’re further along than where we were months ago when we first came here on January 11th – I believe it was. We’re starting to go in the right direction. This part is another chapter for us in moving forward as an organization – getting the players back in here this morning was big for us. I was chomping at the bit to get in front of them and again, like I said earlier, kind of just share with them everything I know and then I had to hold back a little bit. We’re moving forward in the right direction but we’ve got to continue. There’s a lot of work to be done yet.
Q: Sean, is this the first time that you’ve talked to or seen Marcell Dareus? How did that conversation go and where do you think he is after he had an up-and-down year with injuries and suspensions?
A: Marcell, he’s a good football player and I had the chance to evaluate Marcell when I was in Carolina. Marcell and Cam Newton, I believe, came out [of college] the same year and so I’ve been through that process with Marcell. I’ve known his background, I know his game on the field, I know what he’s capable of, and he’s a very good football player. We need him to play at a high level for us and this time of year is important for us.
Q: Coach, in the classroom, you have to get players up to speed so they’re ready for the veterans’ minicamp. How do you strike the balance, though, making sure they know enough to be ready to rep stuff there while also not overwhelming them here?
A: Yeah, that’s where it gets back to what’s digestible for the players so that we can evaluate. And really, we’re going to take that approach with that first minicamp where, look. This is an added bonus for us where we can evaluate our roster from top to bottom, from left to right, and really see, in shorts, what you can evaluate. There are some limitations with that, as well. That’ll be an important three days for us as well. This is the start. We want to get them going on our schemes and how we do things, most importantly. That can be scheme, but it can also be day-to-day habits. What are the things that are important to us, moving forward, so that we win football games. That process continues, and it’ll continue all the way through that first minicamp and until we get everything down here. That minicamp will be light from a volume standpoint so that we can evaluate the athletes as football players.
Q: Sean, when any new boss comes in, most employees talk amongst each other and get a chance to meet him. Do you get a lot of questions from players? Are they getting a chance to meet you? Any of that kind of stuff going on?
A: That’s probably a question for them. I was just anxious to meet each and every one of them. I’m still working on names and everything, but that’s the neat part of this. That’s part of the culture that we’re trying to build here at One Bills Drive, and I’m a part of that, right? I’m like them. There’s some, ‘hey, what is this about?’ and they’re giving me some of that back. At the end of the day, that’s the neat part about building relationships with the players. They need to know that we care about them off the field and I’m a big believer in doing things right off the field because, to me, that equates to winning on the field.
Q: This is your first time going through this as a head coach – the owner’s meetings, the scouting combine, how to get to the stadium. Has it felt like a whirlwind to you and are you glad that you’ve gotten to this point where you can start maybe thinking about football and the team and not really any of the ancillary stuff that goes on?
A: It’s moved fast, there’s no doubt. I think anyone that would tell you otherwise in a position like this may not be being truthful. Having said that, this is what I’ve prepared for. I feel very confident in the pace of everything and the decision-making process that – and the responsibilities, the scope of the responsibilities. I wake up every morning fired up about coming to work and I hope our players and the people in this building do as well. This is a great place. It’s a great city to live in and I’m fired up about being here. That started day one and it hasn’t changed [through] day whatever-this-is – three months in.
Q: Every coach has an opinion on weight and fitness, as far as players go – defensive linemen, offensive linemen. What is your philosophy? Smaller or thinner? Or how does that work?
A: For my own weight, you mean? [laughs]
Q: No, not your own weight. But for players – especially the bigger guys.
A: Well, yeah. I mean, everybody really has a sweet spot. I believe this. Everyone’s got a sweet spot to where they best perform at their highest level. There are different factors. Weight’s a part of it. I run a lot faster at this weight than I do at that weight. There’s a window and that sweet spot is somewhere that we’ve got to find for all of these guys.
Q: Sean, will you have a leadership council amongst the players?
A: Yes. I’m a big believer in leadership, and player-driven leadership. The players having a part of this, and the ownership part of this is big, and empowering those guys – and that leadership council will help me with that.
Q: Have you started looking at particular guys to fill that role?
A: Yeah, we’re going through that process right now.
Q: What do you look for, characteristics-wise, from guys to fill that role?
A: I think you look for a range of characteristics. Age is one of them. Experience – but that doesn’t just limit it to the older crowd, so to speak. You want representation from, really, the cross-section of the team and really guys that represent the whole team, not just certain parts of the team. I’ve been around it at the two different spots that I’ve been at – both Philadelphia and Carolina – I’ve seen it work well.
Q: It looks like Lorenzo [Alexander], Kyle [Williams] and Micah [Hyde] were up front leading the stretching. Without knowing all of the guys, are those guys that you’ve kind of already identified as guys you can lean on to be leaders right away?
A: Those would be three of them, but anybody [can step up]. Leadership is a big part of this football team and having the right type of chemistry on the team. Every ship needs a rudder and so obviously I’m one of the leaders, and the player-driven leadership component of it is big. There needs to be leadership in that locker room and on the field, whether it’s practice or during the games. Those are three guys, but you can’t just limit it to those three. Young or old, it’s time to step up and lead.
Q: To that point, is that a bit of a bummer that LeSean wasn’t here as one of the top veterans and leaders on this team?
A: Again, this is where the voluntary part comes into this. The guys that are here is what we’re focused on and I love the fact that Sal [Capaccio] just mentioned three guys that – some of whom were pickups for us this offseason – and there’s a big evaluation that goes into it. You guys have heard me talk about it before: the process, going through the evaluation process. The off the field part, the character part, the leadership part is all part of that process, that evaluation process. When I hear that, my ears perk up because that was part of why we brought some of those players in.
Q: How much did Tyrod show you in regards to that leadership, especially when he was here when he didn’t have to be here?
A: Right – a tremendous amount. I mean, again, you hit the nail on the head with when he didn’t have to be here, he was here. The way he attacked his rehab process and really the way he made himself available to me from the day I took the job until now. For the quarterback position, specifically, leadership is a trait we look for in that position.
LB Lorenzo Alexander
Q: What is it like to be back with a brand new contract and being rewarded for all that hard work?
A: Well I will first say I am always blessed to be able to play in this league whether it is making the minimum or having a decent deal that is beyond the minimum. I just love being able to play this game, I am very passionate about it, love it. I think you have to go beyond the money if you want to play this long in the league and we have guys on our team that exemplify that, from Tyrod (Taylor) to Kyle Williams. So with that said I am very thankful to the Pegula’s and Doug Whaley for bringing me back and awarding me for the efforts and leadership I brought to the team last year.
Q: How much more input do you think you can give as a leader now that you have established that here?
A: I think will exert myself a little bit more vocally. I think I have kind of said that throughout the media with the interviews that I have had and be more than just a lead by example guy. Last year I did talk to guys and take them to the side, but I think I will kind of step to the forefront. Kind of like what Kyle Williams does before games, or even in meetings and just holding guys accountable when I see something go down versus kind of waiting and maybe get them after a meeting. Making sure that it is out front, everyone knows about it and if I correct one guy, or help one guy everybody else sees it and maybe will learn from that and that same correction.
Q: And that comes from experience and being older?
A: Yeah it definitely does, you know I had 12 years in last year and I probably had the clout to do it last year just because of my longevity in the league but I am a guy about building relationships and making sure what I come from is genuine and that I represent what I am saying and I am not just saying it because it sounds good. And I think I was able to develop that relationship and that status last year. Obviously from working hard and then going out there and producing on the field which backed it up. Hopefully I just want to come back in this offseason and kind reinforce that and grow from what we did last year. And obviously we want to have a lot more team success and get to the playoffs and really have some great games this year.
Q: What did you get from Sean McDermott’s first message today, was it anything different that normal?
A: No I think that the game of football of very simple. You want to be smart, fast, and physical. The biggest thing is having that vision and be able clearly communicate that to your team and I think that ranges from Head Coach to Head Coach. I think Coach Sean (McDermott) did a great job with that today. Didn’t say a lot word wise, but said a lot as far as what he demands of us, and what he expects and I think everybody is on the same page as far as were we need to go. Now it is about leadership coming from myself, coaching staff, other guys to continue that. Day one is easy right you come in here you are excited, you got a new head coach, we can all put on our good boy faces but who are you day nine, day 90. Who do you become as the season goes on? Do you fall into old habits or do you change so we can change the culture around here, start winning games and get to the playoffs and give the city what it deserves.
Q: Where do you see your role fitting in being a culture maker for this new head coach?
A: I am just going to do the same thing I have always done. I am not going to change anything. I am who I am and I think no matter what team I have been on, or what coaching staff I have been around, or what players they all see I am a hard worker, blue collar guy and I am going to get after it. I think the big thing this year is just being more boisterous and reiterating his message constantly to guys. Whether that is in the team meeting setting, going out to dinner with guys, at our locker room whatever that is. Trying to reinforce that and make guys accountable and set goals up for ourselves and it is ultimately winning a championship, getting to the playoffs and then all the little things that fall in line so you can accomplish those goals and being one of his voices.
S Micah Hyde
Q: Coach McDermott has already identified you as an early leader, how does that feel?
A: Obviously it is an honor but at the same time it is day one. I have a lot of work to put in, we have a lot of work to put in. So if it still is that way coming into the season that is how I am looking forward for it to be.
Q: How is it to convince players to follow your lead when you haven’t been around them before?
A: You know it is kind of easier to come in and lead by example. It is kind of like the first day of school everybody is in the first day of school you go in and you meet people and you see where your assignments are and all that. From there you just work, and I am not a person to be overly vocal in the first place. So just lead by example and hope that one day by doing it, guys will catch on to what kind of leadership you have.
Q: Coach addressed the team for the first time today, what did you take from that?
A: Same thing I took a month ago when I was here. Positive person, go getter, wants us to be ready and set our goals high and from there we are going to work. We are going to play fundamentally sound football and I am excited. Today was fun, running out there and doing all that stuff. I am excited for what the future holds.
Q: What makes Coach McDermott’s message unique to stay fresh so it doesn’t sound like the same old clichés?
A: Well I think just his whole demeanor and the way he presents it. You know he is a serious guys but at the same time he does throw his jokes in and gets you laughing a little bit. Those are types of people I want to be around. I have had some coaches in the past that are all serious you can’t smile, you can’t do any of that. But I have been around some coaches that kind of joke too much, talk a little bit too much. From there it is like every time they are talking you aren’t really listening because they do it so much. So I think Sean (McDermott) does a great job of putting the message out there and letting it stick.
Q: Does the fact that he is closer in age and relatively young, 42, have something to do with it?
A: I didn’t know he is 42 he looks like 35. So maybe that is the case. He has been around football I am sure his whole life. So he knows the ins and outs especially of coaching a defense and coaching a team. So like I said I am just excited for him to have this opportunity. I am excited for myself, I am excited for this team. We are going to come together as a team and see what we can do.
QB Tyrod Taylor
Q: I know you’ve had frequent interaction with Coach McDermott. How do you think he handled meeting the team for the first time today?
A: I think he did a great job and I also think that the team has definitely responded well to his talk this morning and his message for the team. It’s up to us to hold each other accountable throughout this offseason program and moving forward into the season and he made that very clear. Ultimately I think he did a great job and looking forward to seeing how this team progresses over the next couple of months into the season.
Q: It looked to us that you were doing all the stretches out there. How do you feel physically?
A: Great. That was my first time actually sprinting and going out there and doing full-movement things. But I feel great since the surgery. The doctors here and the training staff here have done a great job of getting me back to 100 percent, so I feel real good. I feel very explosive.
Q: You had some interactions with Sean before we got to this point. Did you hear about him from other players?
A: Yes. I talked to a number of guys throughout the offseason, just checking up on guys as well as they knew that I was in town rehabbing, just trying to get a feel for the coaching staff. I hadn’t had a chance to meet with everybody on our coaching staff. Definitely have greeted them all but as far as getting a chance to talk to them all – Coach McDermott, Juan (Castillo), Rico (Rick Dennison) as well as Coach (David) Culley – are the coaches that I’ve been able to spend time with. All I can do is get my insight on those coaches but I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Coach McDermott, his approach and what his vision is for this team.
Q: Any limitations that you put on yourself to kind of protect you from yourself today?
A: No. I think actually today, if anything – I’ve been training and I feel like I’m in great shape – was to go out and test to see where I’m at. Of course you have to listen to your body, that’s something I’ve learned over the years of being in this league, but go out there and try to run, I actually ran with the skill guys today just to try to push myself. Those guys normally run faster than the other groups, so just try to push it to see where I was and like I said, I felt good. Still on the contingent of keeping treatment, but nothing is bothering me. I don’t have any limitations.
Q: You have a lot of turnover the at wide receiver position. What can you get accomplished in terms of getting to know these guys?
A: Just getting to know those guys personally. I’ve watched a number of those guys’ highlights and I’ve had a chance to get to know them over the last couple of weeks but just continuing to keep building a relationship with them. For us as a group, learning a scheme that’s new to some and in some phases is new to me as well, so getting the scheme down. Once we get on the field, just let our natural talent take over. But of course we have to have it down to the details before we get on the field and go out there and play freely. That’s what this process is for. We’re back early and it’s definitely a good time for us to learn each other as well as learn a new scheme.
Q: How did Sean strike you in his first team meeting?
A: Confident, as well as I knew he would be in my conversations with him throughout the spring and throughout the winter – probably still feels like winter. Just a confident individual, very detailed, very straight-forward. And he expects us to be the same way.
Q: Do you get as much time with the other positions groups at this point in the season?
A: As far as classroom time, this time of year, phase one, classroom time is a little limited. It’s mostly for the position coaches to spend time with them as well as us meeting as an offense. As far as us talking, the players, having a conversation, that time is unlimited. We’re here so we might as well go in and get to know each other. We’re going to be around each other for a while now so you want to start the process now while everybody’s back and I think everybody’s looking forward to doing that. There’s a lot of smiles on everyone’s faces and everyone’s eager to take that step in the right direction.
Q: Sean mentioned a leadership counsel. How important is that to you?
A: Very important. I’ve been on teams where we’ve had that in the past and seeing how players responded to that, it’s a way to get the message from the coach to the players’ locker room. I think that’s definitely something that’s beneficial and I think that it can be very important to our team in terms of getting the message over from the coaches.
Q: Looking at the playbook, are you excited about some of the things Rick Dennison does to get you in space?
A: Yes, I’m definitely excited. Going through the playbook when I received it, some of the things are starting to come back from when I was in Baltimore, in that scheme. But definitely excited. It’s a player-friendly playbook and I know I’m excited about it but I also believe all the playmakers on our offense are definitely going to be excited about the opportunities that they’ll have to make plays.
Q: What does player-friendly mean?
A: As far as being able to take advantage of each player’s strength and being able to have those opportunities to go out there and make plays. I think that this offense does a good job as well as other offenses, but the playmakers that we have on this team, getting the shots to Sammy (Watkins), being able to get Shady (LeSean McCoy) out in space and create space in the passing game as well as for him, too.
Q: Sean said the number two receiver is currently on this roster. How would you react if the team added a weapon in the first round of the draft?
A: Adding playmakers is never a bad thing, regardless of who we have. This team is built around competing, so we’re going to definitely have to compete to get to the number two spot and it’s going to be a competition all across the board, not just the wide receiver position but in all positions. I think that drives the best out of players. I know it drives the best out of me. In the wide receiver room right now we have guys that are very capable to make plays on a consistent basis but adding another talent wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
DT Kyle Williams
Q: Who is you Masters pick?
A: I will say this I don’t want to be like everybody else and pick Dustin Johnson but if I were to bet money on it he would probably be my pick. But I do like (Jon) Rahm.
Q: Would you call in from your living room for a penalty on a player?
A: I know what happened, I saw it. Well I don’t live in my mom’s basement and make a point of calling in penalties on people on the Golf Channel. So I probably wouldn’t have caught that to be honest with you.
Q: What did you learn this morning from Sean McDermott?
A: Really a lot of the same things we talked about after they had hired him. His vision for our team, for the organization, for me as a player individually, how I could help and really just made me feel comfortable and to be quite honest inspired and kind of breathed a little life into me about it. About what his view was. When guys can do that, somebody like myself who have been around, that has been through this a lot that gets you excited and ready to go.
Q: How does he refresh your enthusiasm?
A: I think passion, energy, the way he presents his message or his view in the that realm. It is not just talking about yeah we want to win, that is what we are going to do, but he is presenting it, he is talking about my role, his talking about our team, he is talking about individual players in passionate way with a lot of energy and ready to go. Hit the ground running and being accountable, discipline, doing the things the right way, the way you want to do them. That speaks to my heart. It is easy for me to get excited.
Q: Where do you see yourself in assisting with creating the new culture here that coach is trying to instill?
A: In anyway that I am asked. Obviously there are pillars to careers, players-wise and pillars to careers coaching-wise. I think a lot of my philosophy and his philosophy is pretty similar. Hard work, discipline, doing your best everyday, trying to inspire your teammates, make them better. So I do everything that I have always done and more if I am asked. I will do it in a different way if I am asked.
Q: Lorenzo had talked about pulling guys to the side to talk to him and know he feels more comfortable calling them out, how coach gotten into anything like that yet and what he wants from his veteran?
A: Are you talking about me individually or you guys?
Q: I am talking about you and the perceived leaders of the team?
A: Well I think you can ask my teammates who I have been around and the guys we have signed and the young guys we will bring in. I am not afraid to say anything at anytime or to make a point of bringing something up. Because at the end of the day, this will be 12 years playing for me, who knows how long you can play, you never know and there is no time to waste with the little things and not getting it right. And I am not going to let feelings, or anything like that get in the way what I see could be a hurdle for us to be a winning football team, really never have. So I think collectively we could have more guys that kind of get in like Lorenzo (Alexander), he is more comfortable and Richie (Incognito), Eric (Wood), and Tyrod (Taylor), and a lot of different guys kind of pulling the rope in the same direction we are going to be that much better for it.
Q: How much did you need that fresh voice to get you back in for another coaching change?
A: Well I wouldn’t say I needed to be lured or massaged or anything like that because I have never grow tired of playing. I love to play and I love to compete. My main thing was what is our plan, and what is our view. Just his hey we have some really good pieces in place we feel like we can win. We want win now, we want to go for it now, we want to keep pushing and keeping working to be the best organization we can be. That has been the only thing I have ever wanted here. So I would say it didn’t take much. We talked for a couple minutes and I was like hey I am, lets do it. I wasn’t a hard sell or anything like that because I think you guys know how passionate I am about playing the game, my teammates, this organization, and this community. To have a guy that speaks to a lot of the things that I like, it was really kind of an easy sell.
Provided by the Buffalo Bills.