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What They Said: Bills coach Sean McDermott, LB Lorenzo Alexander, T Cameron Jefferson, WR Jordan Matthews, C Wood

Head coach Sean McDermott

Opening Statement: Update injury-wise, the following players will not practice: Jeremy Butler still with the concussion; Colt Anderson still week-to-week with the foot; Rod Streater with the toe, injured in the game the other night – we’re still evaluating; Trae Elston with the hamstring, he’s day-to-day; Jordan Matthews (sternum), he continues to improve; Michael Ola with the toe, listed as day-to-day; Cordy Glenn is improving with the foot, and continues to be listed as week-to-week. The following two players will be listed as limited for today’s practice: Jordan Mills with an ankle contusion, and Tanner Vallejo with the knee. With that I’ll open up to your questions.

Q: What led to the change of direction when it comes to Dion Dawkins working on the left side? 

A: We’re just looking at things. Like I mentioned, to have a plan in place and to continue to look at things. We’re going to go, and move in that direction a little bit more today, just so we’re ready. Again, we’re cautiously optimistic about Cordy [Glenn]; Having said that, we want to make sure we’re moving in a direction that if we need to [put] Dion on the left side, we’re ready to do that as well.

Q: Did anything change with Cordy [Glenn] that made you want to do that, or is it just being cautious?

A: Yes, just being cautious and having a well thought out plan, with respect to the contingency part of it at this point.

Q: I believe I saw some officials in the parking lot when I pulled in today – I guess you’re going through with the plan with the officials?

A: Yes, right. It’s like seeing Santa Claus. Yes, they’re around somewhere, and they’ll be out in practice today, which we welcome their presence. Appreciate their help; they’re some local guys willing to help us out here, and that should be good for us.

Q: On some of those penalties – still just as frustrating or are you seeing what needs to be worked on? I know you said there was a bunch of buckets, have you narrowed it down to what you’re looking at this week in practice?

A: Absolutely, we’re doing a lot of good things. When you look at the fundamentals that are being worked on, the fundamentals and foundation we’re building as a football team, there’s a lot of progress we see on the tape. I don’t want to overlook all the progress, all the great moments in the game. To your point, the penalties, we have to take a good look at those and get those corrected. Like I said before, they just don’t all fall into one bucket; I went back and looked at both games and when you’re playing aggressive, you’re going to get some of those penalties. Some of those, you can handle – the large amount of them though, are unacceptable like I mentioned the other day. We’re going to make sure we play with the proper leverage, proper technique, getting in great football position, moving our feet, playing with inside hands; It’s all those techniques that we continue to refine. This is a journey, it’s going to take some time, and we’re going to continue to work on it.

Q: Were the two new additions strictly getting people available at certain positions where you’re a little nicked up – was that the main impetus here?

A: Absolutely, we’re a little nicked up at both of those positions. We need to get some guys out there that can help us, and we welcome those two.

Q: What would you say in regards to Rod Streater when you say you’re still evaluating him – is there a sense that he might require surgery?

A: Well we’re weighing our options at this point, and that’s just going to take some time.

Q: I know you watched some film – what did you see from Shareece Wright and Kevon Seymour in that game?

A: I thought they did some good things. The first defense came out and played extremely fast, and I thought played well most of the night; Shareece was a part of that, and Kevon was a part of that as well. There’s some plays they want back, like we all do, but it was good to get Kevon back in to live-action having been out some time with the foot injury there. They’re battling and competing, as well as E.J. [Gaines], and a couple of those other guys back there. There’s a lot yet to do, we’re still getting comfortable in the system. I love their effort, I love their attitude, they’re helping each other out back there to continue to improve in the system and as overall football players. That’s very healthy at this point.

Q: How encouraged are you in how the defense has responded and adjusted to your system, in the fact that you have a brand new secondary?

A: I’m very encouraged and proud of the progress that they’ve made. I think the coaches and the players have both been doing a phenomenal job. As I mentioned earlier, they’re playing fast and they’re playing confident, more and more confident with each day that passes; it’s the result of their hard work. The communication between the coaches and players is flowing in a healthy manner, that’s good. That being said, and we talked about this as a staff and as a defense the other day, as Coach [Leslie] Frazier addressed the defense that we can’t get comfortable; we have to continue to improve, continue to work to defend the best in front of us every day. There’s a pretty big challenge ahead, in terms of the offenses and the quarterbacks that we’re going to face on the schedule – we need to continue to work.

Q: Jordan Poyer made a couple nice plays early in the game the other night – His camp has seemed to fly under the radar a little bit, we haven’t spoken too much about him, I guess that could be a good thing because he’s not standing out in a bad way – What have you thought about him, in camp and in the games?

A: You hit the nail on the head; He’s been flying under the radar, his role on this defense is vital. He communicates well back there for us, he’s one the quarterbacks along with Micah [Hyde], the defense and the secondary. Preston [Brown] with the linebackers, in the middle linebacker position specifically. Love the way he plays, love his brand of football; Works extremely hard, and really personifies what we’re about – With the hard work, with the toughness, he puts the team first. All those characteristics are what we’re about.

Q: Coach, it seemed like Lorenzo was all over the field when he was out there, building up a stat line. This is a guy last year who came in and had all these sacks. Now, he’s in a bit of a different role because he won’t be rushing the passer all the time, but can you speak about a guy at that level, at that age, with what you’re trying to build here and how he goes about things, still performing?

A: Well, it’s a great example to all the players and a great example to the younger players, in particular. Here’s a player that’s been in the league for ‘x’ amount of years and he comes to work every day. He brings his lunch pail whether it’s defense, special teams, heck if we wanted him to play offense, he’d probably do that with the same passion and intensity that we see every day around here and that was on display in Philadelphia a couple nights ago. When you play that hard every play, good things happen and that’s what I want all of our team to understand. When you play hard, down in and down out, good things tend to happen.

Q: Sean, how did you feel about Cameron Jefferson raising his fist during the national anthem on Thursday night?

A: Cam and I spoke about it. We spoke about it yesterday and then we talked about it as a team today. What I want all of our players to understand is that we are going to support them, number one. Everyone obviously has their view on things and I think the key word here is respect. We respect Cam’s opinion. We respect and acknowledge what’s going on, and it’s important that we can communicate and a big part of communication is listening and I did a lot of listening yesterday. That was very healthy. We had a good conversation this morning as a team about it, and I thought it was a healthy meeting and conversation. I think that, again, the key word in all of this is respect. Respect this situation, respect the communication end of things moving forward, and then respect the process of what’s going on in this country and this world.

Q: Who initiated that conversation?

A: I did.

Q: Why?

A: You always want to know, with your players, what’s going on in their lives. I want to know, just like you guys have detailed in great length how we share in our morning meetings and the stories behind the individuals on this football team. As we continue to build this football team, you’ve heard me say before that we’re building this thing around the love for one another. This, to me, is a great example of that. I want to know what’s going on in our players’ lives and let them know that we support them and we care about them as people off the field and then as players on the field.

Q: Going forward, how do you feel about players protesting the anthem and do you expect more players to follow suit with what Cam did?

A: Well like I said, it all, to me, comes down to respect. When a player, or anyone in this case, takes an initiative to make a stand for something if it’s ethical, I want them to know that I’m going to support them and we’re going to support them. Again, it gets down to the respect word and we respect what’s going on, we respect, in this case, Cam’s decision, and then the process that’s going on around all of us. We acknowledge it. I think that’s healthy when you do that. That’s part of real life.

Q: Sean, we were thrown off the other day when we went in the locker room and a lot of guys are in new places. I talked to some of them and they said that was one of your team-building ideas to move guys around and get them away from just being position by position so that they’re getting to know their teammates. What went into that decision and have you liked the results? Have you had enough time with it to see the results of that?

A: I have liked the results. It was, and still is, a team-building concept. I want to make sure that we spend so much time in a lot of little campfires. You’ve got a campfire with the linebacking corps, you’ve got a campfire with the offense, a campfire over here with the defense, with the special teams, that as we continue to build this team and bring things together to one cohesive campfire, if you will in this case, that players get to know one another. As we build this team, going back to that love that I said before, how do you really care about someone if you don’t really know them? It’s important that we get to know one another off the field and that love that we’re building off the field, the goal in this case is that it transitions to on the field and how we play.

Q: How have you seen Jonathan [Williams] progress in the backfield? We were talking about it in OTA’s that he was picking up pretty well behind LeSean [McCoy]. What have you liked about him in game action in his first two preseason games?

A: I thought you saw it in the Minnesota game. He played fast, he was decisive with his reads, he hit the holes downhill and I thought he did a good job with that. The part I like about it is how he is improving as a young player. He’s taken it upon himself and Coach [Kelly] Skipper does a really good job with the whole running back crew in particular, Jonathan, in this case in terms of the total game. Not just running the ball, [but] what happens when you’re in protection. What do you do when the ball’s not in your hands and the effort you’re playing with? I think he’s off to a good start and I look forward to watching him continue to improve.

Q: What have you learned about Jordan Matthews since you’ve had him in the building?

A: Well, I don’t know if it’s learning as much as it’s verifying what we thought. Going against Jordan over the years, I knew what type of player he was and what type of threat he was in certain situations and what a matchup problem he can be. You do your research when you get into a situation like we were a few weeks ago and all the research we had done up to that point was all positive. Basically, I can just confirm all of that with [he’s a] tremendous young man with great character, great smile, and we talk a lot in here about culture and a lot about positive energy and he brings both of those in spades to the Buffalo Bills organization and he’s been a great addition.

Jordan Matthews takes individual drills at the start of Sunday's Bills practice

WR Jordan Matthews


Q: What kind of timetable are they giving you?
A: As far as this type of injury, it’s kind of up in the air because with most broken bones, you already know the timetable. You can google that stuff and find it. But with a chest injury like this, it’s more up in the air; They have to gauge it, there’s more pain management than anything. When they feel like I’m at a good place to actually go out there and perform, but also not put myself at risk to hurt anything else or have the same injury then they’ll feel comfortable putting me back out there.

Q: What chance, if any, is there you play in the preseason?
A: Playing in the preseason, that’s going to be a little bit of a harder guestimate because they’re going to want to feel comfortable and confident, that I’m going to be able to out there and not only perform, but also come out healthy. It’s a game that doesn’t count, essentially. It still matters, it just doesn’t count. So, if a game doesn’t count towards your record, obviously, the coaches, the training staff and me included, we all have to be smart about it.

Q: What was your level of frustration getting here, and all of a sudden, this happens?
A: It’s extremely frustrating because I’ve been consistent in my career – with being at practice, being there for my team, not missing games and everything. For that to happen, not only the first practice, but really the first play that the ball came to me, I was in disbelief. That’s why I finished the whole practice because I was like ‘there’s no way I just hurt myself my first day as a Bill, just not possible.’ When I got done with practice I realized my chest and arms started to stiffening up a little bit. At that point I kind of knew. The thing that gave me confidence about it moving forward was that I was able to finish practice. If it was an injury, where I immediately had to stop, and they would have just had to take me off and I was done, I would have been way more worried. But because of the nature of the injury and what happened afterwards, I felt confident that I’d be able to make a good recovery.

Q: It was on that throw, up the left sideline – Where you and Shareece [Wright] went up?
A: Exactly. Like I said, I knew it was something because right when I hit the ground, my body kind of stiffened up and I was like – this can’t be good, there’s no way I could get hurt, my first two minutes as a Buffalo Bill. I was in denial, but after practice I knew something was up.

Q: Have you ever hurt anything like that? That’s kind of a unique one.
A: It’s extremely different. One of the doctors said the only other time he’s seen an injury [like this], was with a hockey player. He said he actually got hit by a stick, right to that spot. It’s definitely a unique injury. I’m a person that believes that all these types of things happen for a reason, so it must have been because I needed more time to get acclimated to the playbook, get to know the guys. Even though it was unfortunate, it gave me a chance to get in my playbook and learn the Buffalo environment a little bit, without having the add-on of having to practice, and physically go out there and perform. Obviously, I’m a competitor, I want to get back out there; I was excited to get back out there a little bit and run around – I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and playing.

Q: What are some of the types of things that you do that makes it hurt the most?
A: It’s your whole center, your whole equilibrium’s off. It doesn’t just take somebody coming up and hitting me in my chest for it to flare up. It’s any type of movements where I really have to use my upper body. Right now, we’re just trying to get back into running, using regular arm motions, and just getting functional movement down. Once I can get that down, and get that blood flow and the healing, and when the pain is more centrally located to just the sternum, then I think I’ll know: Okay, it’s time to move on, we just have to put something on to protect it, let’s go play football.

Q: Are you confident you’ll be ready for week one?
A: Yes, I’m extremely confident. I had an injury last preseason, unfortunately, it kept me out some time when I was with the Eagles, but I was able to come back week one and have a very productive game. I know how to take mental reps, I know how to stay in shape, and I know how to make sure that I’m on top of the playbook. Obviously, it’s a different scenario; I was with the Eagles for a long time, this scenario is different. I’ve only been with the Bills for a little while, but I want to go out there and prove myself to my teammates, I want them to know that I’m tough, and I want them to know that I’m not the type of guy that wants to miss practice, and just be here for games. I want to be there before that, but I’m extremely confident that I will be ready to play for week one.

Q: It seems like it’s an only encompassing upper body thing in terms of the pain. Would you equate it to a rib injury, where sneezing is annoying, it hurts – That kind of thing?
A: Yes, something like that. There was a funny movie that came out and I didn’t go see it because I was like ‘I don’t want to laugh right now,’ I knew it was going to hurt. It’s something that you have to monitor in that aspect. Breathing has gotten better; the hardest part is sneezing and coughing while no one is coming. For the most part, the regular things in life is getting a little bit easier, and that’s why I’m extremely excited about it.

Q: Where are you with the playbook?
A: I’m on top of the playbook. It’s very similar to the offense I ran – West Coast, it’s just different verbiage. We’ll use different terms to say the same play, but I can kind of crossover. Also, having Tyrod [Taylor] here is huge, he knows the whole offense; He’s extremely intelligent, so on plays we’re running fast ball or we’re just getting up the line and going two-minute, sometimes he looks at me and gives me a signal if I don’t know the whole play – He’d say ‘hey, you got this,’ now I can play fast. Having the help of a good quarterback too, also is going to aid me along this process. For the most part, I’m picking up the playbook pretty well.

Q: Leaving Philly, the guys took you out for dinner that night. Have the emotions of that worn off?
A: I don’t think some of those emotions ever wear off, and you kind of don’t want them to because it means that it was something real. Those are real friends that I had, I don’t think the frustration or the sense of being upset didn’t come from knowing I got traded. It’s a business, you know that when you come in, but when you have real relationships with guys, you make real friendships, that’s going to be hard to leave. I get used to seeing Trey Burton every day, I get used to seeing Carson Wentz every day, hanging out and talking about everything but football. Not only does football get taken away with them, but also getting to have that comradery is hard. We were really good friends. It’s something that I had to get over and move on from. At the same time, I call those guys all the time, I’m still in their GroupMe, still texting them and wishing them luck on the season.

Q: From what they’re told you, what’s the risk of reinjuring? Specifically for catching a pass in your chest at some point.
A: It’s like a broken bone, if anything it’s more a setback than an injury. Bones are going to heal back stronger; but if you injure a bone and try to play on it, your risk of injuring something else because you’re playing on it, might increase too. It’s more pain management, it’s about getting the pain down, let’s get all functional movement back. Then, when it’s that one spot that’s hurting, now let’s protect that spot and let’s go play football.

Q: Is it coincidental that your locker is right next to Tyrod’s [Taylor]?
A: I don’t know, I think I might have been luck of the draw; that’s a good person to have as a locker-mate for sure.

Q: Do you guys get a chance to talk a bit more because you’re right next door to him?
A: Definitely, it’s been big so far. More so just watching how he goes about his business. When I come into a new environment, I try not to talk too much. I don’t care whether you’re a rookie, whether you’re going to your fourth year, whether you have production or whether you don’t; You’re in a new place, people do things different so you don’t want to impose your personality. Plus, I already know how much Sammy [Watkins] meant to this team. I don’t want to just come in here and act like there’s no sensitivity to him not being here anymore. Just taking my time, getting to know everybody. It’s also being able to have Tyrod as a locker-mate, get us out and talk about something we both understand, and that’s football. And then, give him his space, let him do what he does, when I get back healthy, we can continue to build that friendship, and hopefully it turns into something good.

 

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LB Lorenzo Alexander

Q: Sean [McDermott]] said the team spoke about Cam [Jefferson] and what he did with the national anthem and how it was a healthy conversation. Just kind of give us some insight on where the team stands with that.
A: Sean kind of just broke it in. I think obviously he is representing the organization as well. They’re going to respect each individual’s opinion and the way they want to approach this. If they decide they want to do it or not, all he asks was that we kind of inform him and I think that’s key. Obviously let the team know because the media’s going to want to approach it and ask questions. As far as my personal opinion about it, I respect every guy that decides they want to see it and as long as they can give a reason why. I don’t want it to be a thing where it just becomes a cool thing to do because you see guys around the league doing it and so I’m just going to sit down too. Have some reasoning behind it, and then also, number two is, take it a step further and engage your community, whether it’s with kids or political figures in your community to create some real change past just starting a conversation. I think it’s going to take all of those things if we really want to see some real change in totality throughout our culture and our country today.

Q: How did those conversations bring a team together?
A: At the end of the day, it’s just talking about things. Not letting things fester because obviously we have guys that come from various backgrounds, from wealthy to poor, black, white, biracial, blended families. So a locker room is very unique because now you’re placed in situations where you’re dealing with people that you normally wouldn’t associate with otherwise. It’s just great because a guy like Richie [Incognito] for example, we have great respect for him. I do. I love him like a brother and when he has an opinion, whether I agree with it or don’t, it comes from a place of love and respect because I know who he is. I think that’s what people really need to get to. I think often fear drives all this rage and anger and hatred because you don’t really know what the other person is all about. Nobody’s going to have the same thought process. Some things are unacceptable, obviously. We’re going to have different opinions but the more you know people, the better relationships you have, the easier it is to accept somebody’s different opinion about going a way about doing some certain things.

Q: Now that Sean has had this conversation with you, do you anticipate maybe more guys participating?
A: Maybe. I know at the end of the day, this is our job and livelihood and especially if you’re a young guy or a guy that’s job is not secure, you’re not quite sure how ownership feels about it. You’re definitely going to be hesitant because at the end of the day you have to worry about your family first and feeding them and you may want to step out on a limb but at the same time, it’s a real touchy-go subject, so maybe. But just from talking to the locker room I haven’t heard a huge uprising about it. I know Cam did it last week. I know he’s very passionate about it. So maybe we’ll get one or two more guys, but I don’t think it’s going to become an issue because we spoke about it. Guys that do decide to do it I know are going to have a reason to do it and be upfront and not be like this ‘I’m going to do it and surprise everybody.’

Q: Is it something that you, personally, have spent any time thinking about maybe doing yourself?
A: Yeah, I mean I’ve kind of gone back and forth. You kind of weigh the pros and the cons. Think about how people are going to react to you, whether it’s social media or out in the public if you have kids and stuff. At the same time, I respect what this country is supposed to stand for and the intent of everything and I know we’re not where we need to be as a society in so many ways, so I stand for the people in the military that serve our country. That’s really why I’m standing up for the national anthem, and then I try to affect change, like I said earlier, in my community whether I’m in Oakland, D.C. [or] Buffalo. It’s by engaging local youth, trying to inspire them, help them, empower them so that they can change their community through civic engagement and also engaging our political figures. I live in D.C. so I’ve been to Capitol Hill several times talking about representatives from different areas, trying to see how I can use the platform of being in the NFL and being an inner-city kid who’s made it and how I can maybe help change some of the hardships or the racial issues, the disparity issues that this country is going through right now.

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T Cameron Jefferson

Q: How important was it, personally, to make the statement silently as you did on Thursday night?
A: It was important to me because I feel like in my spirit and my heart, I had to take a stand for myself. I can’t judge another man for not doing it. I can’t judge another person for how he does it. I did what’s best for me and how I wanted to protest. I did it peacefully and I did it quietly. I didn’t want to be a distraction to the team.

Q: Once you saw Chris Long hug [Malcolm] Jenkins, that’s kind of what prompted it and gave you the courage?
A: Yeah, it gave me some courage. Seeing that togetherness on their team between different races, different backgrounds, different people, I feel like that’s all I wanted. I wanted togetherness and to build awareness for that. I feel like there shouldn’t be any separation or division in our country. I feel like because we’re all Americans that we should all be under, basically, one nation.

Q: Sean [McDermott] said you had a conversation with him yesterday. What can you share from that?
A: It was supportive on his part. He understood and he just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a distraction to the team. Make sure that he was on board, make sure he knows what I’m doing and what I’m about and not really trying to be distraction to anybody [and] not be a distraction to him because as a head coach, he’s the head coach over everybody, not just one individual, not just one person. Everybody, he’s accountable for.

Q: Did you worry at all about the ramifications of the action, meaning the backlash you might’ve faced?
A: Yeah. I definitely thought about it. I was definitely conscious of it, but in my life, I have a relationship with God and I feel like God’s going to take care of me no matter what. All I can do is control what I can control and whatever happens is going to happen and I feel like God’s going to take care of me in the long run.

Q: Sean said that he did a lot of listening in the conversation that you had with him. How much does that mean to you to have that open dialogue with your head coach?
A: It’s a good feeling, especially [as] a guy they signed in April. I’m not a starter, I’m not a top draft pick, but for him to really hear me out and listen to me and sit down with me, man to man [and] eye to eye, it was a great feeling to have that from a head coach.

Q: I know there’s been some negative reaction on social media. I know there’s been some positive reaction. Your mom retweeted your story. So how have you taken to people and the reaction?
A: You have to take it with a grain of salt with the bad because there’s good and evil in this world. We all know that. There’s good and bad. Some people are going to be supportive, some people are going to be against it, but I can’t worry about that. All I can worry about is what I’m doing and what I’m doing right now in this moment. And it’s good to see people that are supportive, but at the same time we are raising awareness for people who are on the neutral side of things and for people that are on the negative side of things.

Q: Sean said there was an open dialogue this morning with the team. He addressed it before practice. What was that conversation like, if you can share some of that?
A: He was very open, very supportive. He didn’t single me out or anything. He just said someone on this team made a stand and made a quiet protest and he just keep it at that and we just moved on from it.

Q: Why is it so important to do something like this?
A: I feel like it’s important to me because not only being a black man in America, but being from the Omega Psi Phi fraternity incorporated. Our beginning, we had to struggle from 1911 through the Civil Rights Movement and even until now, we’re still struggling just to raise awareness for the black community and the community as a whole around the nation and internationally.

Q: And so the purpose of your message was –
A: Togetherness. Awareness. Bringing awareness. Everyone needs to come together. Everyone’s in this for the long run you know what I mean? Seeing Chris Long’s arm around Malcolm Jenkins, that’s what sparked it for me.

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C Eric Wood

Q: Coach brings officials in. Obviously, penalties were an issue the first couple preseason games. Is that something that helps, having officials at practice?
A: Yeah, it can. You’re constantly being reminded. You’re being yelled at by the coaches and then you also see that yellow flag on the ground, so it can help. Ultimately, as players, we’ve got to get affixed and just be smart in certain situations.

Q: Coach talked about respect and having an open dialogue. Lorenzo [Alexander] said that you guys talk all the time all over the place and even if it’s something that not everybody agrees, with you guys talk about it and have an understanding. How important is that to know why Cam [Jefferson] was raising his first?
A: It’s important. I think it’s pretty obvious now when guys raise their fist or take a knee, why they’re doing it. They’re standing up for social injustices. I know why they’re doing it. I support guys using their platform for the betterment of society or whatever it may be. My only thing is, and I thought Cam did a good job of it, when you do that, you’re going to get a camera in your face. Just be prepared to give an intelligent, well-backed up statement and I thought he did.

Q: How do conversations like that, which aren’t always easy, help bring a team together?
A: You know, it’s funny because a football team is so different than society. We’re all working together for a common goal. We hang out a lot as an O-Line and it’s diverse. We have guys from all over. Juan [Castillo] is Hispanic and it doesn’t really register until something crazy happens and then we start talking about it. Football teams are probably some of the healthiest environments and a lot could probably be learned from them.

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