Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula gave a rare interview Wednesday at Bills training camp in Pittsford. The video and complete transcript are below:
Q: What distinction can you make having seen Sean McDermott’s camp as opposed to previous years, the previous two years?
A: I don’t like to make comparisons. All I can tell you is that Sean is very detailed and very thorough, and a terrific planner.
Q: Are you learning yourself as you watch camp – watch the coaches and everything. Are you kind of taking notes and learning yourself as you watch them in action?
A: When we interviewed Sean, I had the impression that he was a very thorough and detailed person and it shows out in everything he does at the camp.
Q: How does your communication kind of take place? I’m sure there’s daily meeting here and have you mapped out how things will go communication-wise during the regular season, knowing you’ve also got a hockey team to keep tabs on?
A: It’s very causal. I like things low-key. So, I may walk into his office unannounced and we talk for an hour or he may come into my office or Brandon [Beane] or whoever. So, that’s the way I like to do things, rather than be official and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a meeting next Tuesday at three o’clock,’ because I may not be there if something else happens.
Q: When you’re out there watching, what do you watch for at practice? What do you notice so far? What kind of catches your eye?
A: I like to focus in on one-on-one battles between two players. Maybe a tight end blocking, a corner-wide receiver battle. That’s what I like to look at. You know, then I watch film afterwards with the guys and learn something from them too.
Q: The outside expectation is that this team has made too many changes for this team to gel quickly enough. What are your expectations when it comes to this season, especially early on?
A: My expectation is that we earn some respect on the field. I believe that’s important then wherever it falls, it falls. I really believe that.
Q: Has it been difficult to remain patient – really, from the Sabres perspective too – to not get these teams over that hump? I know you’re a patient man, I think, has it been difficult to remain patient as you go through this process?
A: No, not for me. We just keep trying and working. If you’re talking about the Sabres, we built on draft picks, we tore the existing team apart and built through the draft. With the Bills, you can see what we do – Obviously we do our draft work, but we’re trying to bring in quality free agents, leaders, the kind of guys Sean and Brandon [Beane] want on a football team that can help them in the locker room.
Q: Patience, not withstanding, you did fire the last coach after two years – is there a thought process that with Sean, are you taking a different mindset in understanding that you have to give a guy more time?
A: When we talk to Sean, he’s such a diligent planner and he’s so thorough that he commands that. He’s got a plan, and part of his plan is bringing in players who think the way he thinks, and I think that’s a good way to start.
Q: Is there any update on the talks with Blue Cross Arena, and Russ [Brandon] and the city of Rochester about moving the Amerks downtown?
A: We’re continuing to talk to the mayor about improvements in the arena – I don’t want to talk about that for the media, but we’re continuing to talk.
Q: Kim said in an interview last week that talks would be forth-coming as far as a new stadium – When will those talks place and with who?
A: I don’t know when she said that but, we just got through with a remodeling and a major contribution from the state of New York on the stadium. I feel that, in light of that, we’re not in any planning session at all right now for a new stadium. We’re still enjoying what’s been done to New Era Field.
Q: When you look at your goals for the Bills, where does making the playoffs fall?
A: I think if you put the pieces of the puzzle together, the respect, earn it, work hard, diligence, be thorough, I think that’s how you get in the playoffs. Hopefully we can do that this year.
Q: It’s no secret that the league has been urging or wanting a new stadium built but what is your attitude towards it? Just in terms of time, in your mind, how long can you see this team staying at New Era Field?
A: Well, we have a lease through 2023, so that’s a contractual obligation. That’s my stance on it. This is 2017, so we’ve got a long ways to go before we start worrying about anything besides where we’re at now.
Q: There is an out-clause though in 2018. Would you ever consider using that?
A: Where are we going to go?
Q: For any new stadium?
Q: You keep talking about respect and it being earned, was that something you just sense that the team didn’t have or had people around the league told you that this team was not respected on the field?
A: No, I think that’s a part of any winner. People respect organizations and teams that win. That’s where we have to get. We have to earn the respect of the rest of the league – the Buffalo Bills have to.
Q: There was a report that the NFL might be working with the NFLPA on marijuana as it pertains to helping players get back on the field. What do you know of that matter and what are your thoughts on that?
A: I don’t have any comment on that issue. I really don’t.
Q: Concussions remain to be an issue. There’s a report that came out recently. What concerns do you as an owner have in regards to the effects that concussions have on players in this game?
A: Again, I don’t like to talk about concussions publicly, but concussions happen in all parts of our society. It happens in every sport. You can be driving your car down the road and get a concussion in an accident. I don’t want to discuss the relevance of it in the football world.
Q: What would make this year a successful year for the Buffalo Bills?
A: Earning respect and working hard and that will translate into wins.
Q: Do you feel the Bills have been disrespected? Do you personally feel that?
A: No, but that’s what you need to win. You need to have respect. When teams come in to Buffalo to play, they need to be talking about it on the way up saying ‘oh gosh, we’ve got to go to Buffalo. Let’s hope we can get one out of here.’
Q: Is that something you learned from back in your Orchard Park days, or watching this team play?
A: No, I think you learn that in life. Any business you do – if you work hard and you love what you’re doing and you treat people right, you earn their respect and the rest of it takes care of itself.
Q: Terry, you guys obviously declined the fifth-year option for Sammy Watkins. How do you view him in the future on this team and how do you see that situation playing out?
A: Again, I don’t like to talk about a player’s contract publicly, but it’ll play out this season. Sammy looks pretty good right now and we’ll see what happens.
Q: Terry, if the goal is earning respect, how will you know? What’s the barometer for measuring that at the end of the year?
A: I think you’ll see it in the results of our games.
Q: Knowing how vital a great quarterback – a franchise quarterback – is, where do you stand in assessing what you know this team has right now at the quarterback position?
A: Well, we have three quarterbacks on the roster right now that are battling for playing time and we’ll see how it plays out. Tyrod [Taylor] can be a weapon, [Nate] Peterman is young – seems to be intelligent – and T.J. [Yates] is a guy that’s been around before, won a playoff game, so we’ll see what happens. It’s what we have on our roster and we’re going to go with it.
Q: [Sabres General Manager] Jason Botterill has expressed optimism about discussions with Jack [Eichel]. Is there any concern in your mind that a long-term deal doesn’t get done before the season?
A: I don’t want to discuss any negotiations with Jack publicly. But, I can tell you this: we want Jack and Jack wants to be in Buffalo. That’s all I can say about that.
Q: Have you talked to Jack, personally?
A: I have not in a while.
Q: Terry, I know Marcell [Dareus] is sort of a favorite of yours. What have you noticed about his approach to camp this year?
A: Yesterday, he was dominant. I didn’t see the film today, but he can take a game over when he’s on. When he’s healthy, he’s a heck of a player.
Q: For all the fans in the stadium and the fans at home, any comforting words that they can stay locked-in with for the upcoming season?
A: We hope everybody supports the team. We’re going to do the best we can to put some W’s on the board.
Transcript courtesy of the Buffalo Bills