HEAD COACH SEAN McDERMOTT
Q: How did you guys come out of the game injury wise, Coach?
A: Still going through the evaluations at this point. At this point, we feel pretty good about the game and the injuries as far as that goes. We’re pretty fortunate at this point.
Q: Sean, this morning Jim Kelly said that he lost a lot of respect for LeSean McCoy for what his actions were during the national anthem. What is your reaction to hearing one of the faces of the franchise say that about another current face of the franchise?
A: Well, I believe this - I believe we put out a team statement for a reason. I stand by that statement of equality, of love, of unity and I think that’s the important part right here, right now. Really, anything in addition to that for us is, we’ve got to get our focus on our team and the Atlanta Falcons at this point.
Q: Along those lines, Jim was on the sidelines with you guys. Is that something that you think will continue for the anthem if that’s how he feels? Because that doesn’t seem to match up with that message of unity and equality.
A: Again, we’re focused on the Atlanta Falcons and what’s going to happen next week will happen next week. Right now, I’m just focused on the Atlanta Falcons.
Q: Do folks watching football games on Sunday expect players to continue to demonstrate as the President continues to chime in on his opinion on those demonstrations?
A: That’s really a question for them. At this point, again, we’re focused on the Atlanta Falcons and what’s going to happen this weekend is what’s going to happen. I don’t have a crystal ball, unfortunately. With all due respect to your question, we’ve got to make sure we’re focused on the task at hand and that’s a football game and putting our best foot forward as a football team in Atlanta.
Q: Coach, I have a seven-year old son, you have young kids. Do they ask you about this? Have you been asked about this by them? Because I have. What do you tell them, how do you explain this to them?
A: That’s a great question. My kids at home have not, not to get personal, but they haven’t. I understand where you’re coming from, and there’s certainly teachable moments in life and I would say that communication is important. In terms of our family and football team, communication is important. We had a great meeting Saturday night with Terry and Kim [Pegula], and that’s exactly what unfolded was great communication. I think that that’s really the first step, that we can share openly and communicate with one another.
Q: You said after the game in your speech to the team, “they tried to pull us apart, but we got closer together.” Who did you mean by they?
A: Well, that happens, just generally speaking. That happens every year around the NFL, professional sports. You get pulled in different directions. You get pulled in different directions by injuries, you get pulled in different directions, just schematically, you get pulled in different directions. The opponent tries to pull you in different directions, so as you’ve heard me say before, it’s a test, I believe the NFL is, of how long a group of men and women can hang together, and come together, and grow stronger through a season. That just generally speaking is what I was referring to.
Q: That really wasn’t to go with what President Trump said at all?
A: No, none of it.
Q: Sean, years from now, you’re focused on Atlanta, I’m including that respectfully as I ask this question, years from now, we may look back on these moment as a very special time or a moment, cause, what have you, with what’s going on in the country. You do have to try and win football games, keep everybody together. Have you ever been through anything like this, or where you have all these things going on where you still have to worry about 13 more games. What is your general philosophy on how you’re going to move forward with that?
A: Our general philosophy is, certainly there are things that are bigger than the game football, so I recognize that. That said, as you mentioned, we have 13 more games. What’s important for us is that we focus on the process involved in getting ourselves ready for those 13 games and that we continue to grow every day and come together as a football team. That’s where our emphasis lies at this point in time.
Q: Did you speak to Jim Kelly about his comments today?
Q: Do you plan to?
A: Not at this time.
Q: Will he be welcomed on the sideline in future home games?
A: Jim Kelly’s on the hallmarks of this organization and he’s an alum of this organization, this football team. At this point, I don’t see that changing.
Q: I don’t know if you saw LeSean, he was on the far end, it sort of looked like he was making it a bit about him. Guys knelt and it was fine, they did too on the other side. LeSean kind of turned it into a show. Did that at all disappoint you that he was doing exercises and maybe took it too far? I think a lot of people thought that way. What was your thought on that?
A: Right now, I’m focused on the Atlanta Falcons, I really am. We don’t spend too much time looking in our rearview mirror, we really don’t. We’ve got to get ourselves ready for the NFC defending champion, and that’s really where our focus is right now.
Q: Sean, has any player talked to you about wanting to take this cause into the community? Kneeling is one thing, but has anyone talked to you about wanting to do something besides just that demonstration take it further into the community?
A: Well, we had conversations Saturday night before the game. There were a lot of different thoughts and ideas, respectfully so. Really those conversations remain private for the most part at this time. It’s important that we handle things the right way, and that’s really the takeaway that came from those meetings was with ‘do the right thing’. That’s why we we’re having those conversations, everyone wants to do the right thing. I think that’s healthy, I think there’s respect in that and wanting to do the right thing. It shows that it matters, and that’s what I came away with from that.
Q: I know how detail oriented you are and how much the process truly does matter and all the little things. Did you ever get the feeling, or worry at all that this would distract or take away from your team who are trying to win a football game? Did that go through your head? Did you worry about that at all?
A: Well, I worry about a lot of things, that’s why I don’t have any hair anymore (joking). We’ve got a resilient group of guys, and I think you saw that on the field yesterday. It was hot, there were certain things going on, obviously. The focus, I could tell, pretty early in the process yesterday with pregame warmup is that they were focused on the game and you saw that in the outcome. I was extremely proud of the way the guys played. I was very appreciative, we are very appreciative of the fan support throughout the game. Denver had a couple false start penalties on offense, and I give the credit to our fans, it was great. To stay there through four quarters in the heat, the abnormal heat in this area, was phenomenal and very much appreciated on our part.
Q: I have a Falcons question for you: obviously, you went to down Carolina a couple weeks ago, the talk was that you had faced that defense every day. A little bit different now, but still, almost like a division opponent for you coach, you’ve went against Matt Ryan. Some of the numbers, you’ve sacked Matt Ryan, your defense has, plenty of times. How much more does that help in preparation this week for you? It’s like a division opponent.
A: Awareness always helps, like it did last week with Coach [Rick] Dennison and the Denver Broncos, their personnel. It’ll help. Again, I don’t think it’s going to win or lose the game but it’ll help just going into it. They do have a different offensive coordinator at this point in time than they did last year, so that’ll be a little but different. It’ll just add value hopefully as we prepare, from a game-time standpoint.
Q: When you arrived here, this was a defense was an underachieving defense. Did you expect this defense to be playing so soundly given all the moving parts in the back end that has occurred?
A: I give a lot of credit to our defensive staff and the players, they do a great job. They play, as I mentioned yesterday after the game, they play as a team. When you look to have a good defense, that’s really the cornerstone that you build on is that every guy does his job. We call it, as you’ve heard me say before, being one eleventh of the defense and when you do that, when you buy in to that approach of doing your job and playing team defense, gang-tackling, swarming, those type of adjectives that you hear, those are the things that you look for. Even when you’re this tall, playing youth sports, football, whatever it is, and you play hard and play together, typically good things happen. Our players, our coaches have done a phenomenal job led by Leslie Frazier and I’m really just in the background just offering support when, if needed.
Q: It’s one thing to give them the message, but for a group that came together, for example, E.J. Gaines coming here a month ago, what does it say about them buying in so quickly?
A: Well it says that they’re resilient, that they care, and they care about the results that we’re getting. But more importantly, they care about the process and earning the right to win. They spend an incredible amount of time in here, in the building working on film, spending time together, and communicating. There were some plays yesterday that we want to have back, it wasn’t all exactly the way it needed to look. So, we have a lot of room for growth. That’s the encouraging part, we’ve done this, yes, and we’re excited about that. For us to continue to trend in this type of direction, we have to have that type of growth mindset, hold each other accountable, continue to do that, and celebrate the good and correct the bad.
Q: Prior to the game yesterday, there was a report you said you needed to see more urgency from Marcell [Dareus]. He didn’t play yesterday, but in what ways do you need to see more urgency from Marcell moving forward?
A: Just generally speaking, like our entire football team. There’s thing that we’re doing well, like I mentioned with the defense, there are things that we can improve on. I would say the same thing again, with respect to Marcell, same thing with myself. There’s things that I feel like I did well yesterday, there’s some things I could improve on. If you take the right approach, take the right mindset, you continue to get better every day, every week and every game, that’s the goal, short and long-term. That’s how you sustain success and that’s what we’re looking to do.
Q: In referring to the game on Sunday, I know you said you wanted to move some pieces around offensively, but it seemed like you also took advantage of what the assumed identity of your offense is, which is that run-first philosophy, and you had some personnel groupings where everything is saying run, but Coach [Rick] Dennison is calling a pass. Was that you two playing off your identity to almost catch Denver off guard?
A: I thought Rick and the offensive staff put together a great game plan, together. Then, the offense executed, that way key. We had some down the field throws that we executed well on, we moved the pocket a little bit at times, sometimes successfully, sometimes not successfully. That was good identity football right there, and I thought that we did some good things there. Red zone offense was phenomenal, we did some good things in the red zone. Obviously, the last drive we were trying to take more time off the clock, we knew that was important rather than trying to throw the ball into the end zone. But to take time off the clock, and then take points to make a two score game.
Q: What are you seeing on the tape? LeSean [McCoy] has 26 carries for 30 yards over the last two games combined, which is pretty abnormal, what are you seeing that’s happening that’s not allowing him to get the space he needs?
A: They’re crowding the box, quite a bit, and that’s a healthy respect for LeSean. You saw that pretty much after the Jets game, Carolina did that, and then we saw that yesterday from Denver, and that’s where we have to spread the ball around. I thought we did a nice job of that. Tyrod [Taylor] did a good job of that, and using Charles Clay, getting the different receivers involved with Jordan Matthews and Kaelin Clay yesterday as well. That was good to see.
Q: They really went after Tre’Davious [White] early with some mixed results there, he battled through and got the interception at the end, how valuable of an experience is that for him in his development coming this early in his rookie year?
A: That was good. I’m not so sure that they were necessarily make it a point to go after him, maybe they did, but they have two good receivers that balance out their offense, on both sides of the ball. Whether they were throwing it on one side or the other, they were going at someone. Like I mentioned earlier, with the resiliency of our defense, and the team as a whole, he didn’t back down. He competed like crazy. I thought our entire team competed throughout the game. The game we were behind, we were tied, we were ahead, it took on a lot of different forms, in terms of the complexion of the game throughout all four quarters. Tre’Davious, like the rest of the team, I thought came out in the second half and finished strong, with a winning mindset.
Q: Walk us through the preparation throughout the week, and then right before the snap of the fake punt that they ran. They were calling for it, I know it was situational, what kind of tipped them off, and then also the play of Deon [Lacey] in particular?
A: Danny Crossman does a great job for us, schematically, game plan wise, he leads the special teams for us and the units there. I give a lot of credit to Colt Anderson. Colt was the first one out there that noticed it. They had a look that Colt was very aware of, and then Deon obviously made the big play. I thought that was a big momentum shift in the game, on the heels of some other things that had gone our way, then all of a sudden, we don’t get the points we wanted, but that was a big momentum shift. Obviously, changing field position was huge.
Q: What kind of weapon is Stephen Hauschka when he can go out and kick 50-plus yard field goals?
A: That was great to see. I feel like he’s in a good rhythm. Really, the operation between Reid [Ferguson], with his snaps, with Colton [Schmidt], and with Stephen, the relationship that they’ve been able to form over, again, a short amount of time, has been really fun to watch. They feed off of one another, they help each other out throughout the week. To be able to get the points in a two-minute drive before half was key. Again, the momentum shift to get to that point in the game, for him to knock that through was awesome. He kicked the ball strong yesterday, and he’s in a good position, in a groove.
Q: When it comes to Marcell Dareus and wanting more urgency from him, are you worried that he might be tuning the team out?
A: You see my hair, I worry about a lot of things, right (joking). I worry about all of our players, I do, and that we continue to grow, continue to get better. That’s my job as head coach of this football team, is to lead, and continue to try and put our best foot forward. There’s a lot of work that goes into working with all of our players and I enjoy it. Marcell is a big-time, [big] part of this football team, and we look forward to getting Marcell back on the field as soon as possible.
Q: Do you know if it’s possible for either him or Cordy [Glenn] for this week?
A: Not sure, again, still early at this point. We’ll know more in the next 24, 48 hours.
Q: Given what happened Thursday night, and I know you acknowledged it, it was talked about. Bills fans are anxious, we lost our guys, we want those guys, they were our guys [Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Robey Coleman], and then in that context you come out a few days later and win a game with your guys, what does that mean to be able to get that win on Sunday, knowing that there was a lot of unease around here regarding where this team is?
A: I have a lot of confidence in our guys, I have a lot of confidence in this football team, like I said the other day, I really do. I said it the other day, and I stand by it, I have a lot of confidence in the guys in this locker room. Our wide receivers, as you specifically addressed, the wide receiver group, I have a lot of confidence in our wide receivers. We’re building a team, as you’ve heard me say for a long time now, we’re building a team. That’s not a team on paper, it’s a team of human beings that love to compete, and they support one another. They work on becoming better every day, and this is not to say those other guys don’t or didn’t. I wish them the best, but I know what we have in that locker room. There’s no other locker room I’d rather be in than with those guys.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR RICK DENNISON
Q: The passing game looked better this past Sunday than the week before, but the run game still being stymied, what do you do to get that back on track, and how important is that?
A: Well of course it’s important, you have to be able to do both, run and pass. We just keep working on our techniques and fundamentals, make sure we get them in the right spot. Having a bunch of guys down there helped our passing game, so they work together. We’ll keep working on it, we have a lot of faith and confidence in our guys up front and our ball carriers.
Q: Sean [McDermott] says that they’re really stacking the box, which is what we saw in Carolina and [against] Denver, how do you counter that and bring that up and find some lanes?
A: Well that’s what helps the play-action and the boots. If they’re down in there, then they’re not deep. We counteract it by throwing it over their heads, which we made some explosive plays yesterday, hopefully we keep doing that, get a chance to get a hat on a hat in the blocks, and let our runners run also.
Q: What did it do for you to see the game where the running game did get shut down, but you were able to move the ball and score points?
A: It’s not like it has happened before, I’ve had that before. I’m comfortable with our wide outs, obviously, I have a lot of confidence in our quarterback, and our running game. I think we’ll be fine, persistence is our biggest thing, we’ll just keep working at it. Our guys are resilient, nobody blinked on the sideline, they just kept grinding, knowing that somebody will make a play here or there. I feel confident, we’ll just keep going back to work, work on our techniques in the run game, and get some schemes going. Juan [Castillo] and I will get together, we’ll get the guys in the right spot.
Q: Sean talked about lack of finish after the Jets game, yet you won, what concerns do you have about lack of finish after these past two games, and yesterday when you came away with six points by starting inside of the 35-yard line a few times?
A: Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that we have to make sure that we’re not satisfied with 3, we want 7’s. That’s on me too, I have to make sure I get them in the right spot. That’s one of the things, as an offensive staff, we’re going to make sure we have in those spots. Those areas, the strike zone is what we call it, that we’re thinking explosive plays, not just making sure we get 3’s. That’s finishing drives with 7 points, that’s what you’re talking about.
Q: As an offensive coordinator, when you’re facing such a good defense with Denver, knowing that you have Stephen Hauschka in your back pocket, if you will, knowing that you can get inside the 50, you’re going to give him a chance to get you at least three, how does that go into your game plan as you’re putting together a drive, especially late, before halftime?
A: The two-minute drive was big. With 40 seconds and two timeouts, that’s a significant amount of time with two timeouts, especially with the length that Stephen can kick it. With the ability to check it down, get it to a back underneath and move it, the guys still had to operate it. We weren’t just trying to get in field goal [range], if we made an explosive play, we’re going to go for it. Later in the game, we were still thinking seven. It wasn’t until the last drive, three points is big, we all learned from the Super Bowl, that hey, you get a chance to get two full scores up, let’s do it. That would really be the only situation where we were counting on Stephen. Other than that, we’re thinking about seven because they’re a dangerous offense. I’ve been around those guys, the wide outs are very good, they can move, and certainly, every team in the NFL has the ability to score from any spot.
Q: Where do you think Zay [Jones] is at with his development, just a couple targets yesterday, no catches?
A: I think he’s moved along fine. They have some good corners, and the opportunities just didn’t quite make it. He’ll have plenty of opportunities and hopefully he’ll keep grinding, I know he will, I know the kid is really trying hard. As I said before, we’re progression-oriented. If the ball is supposed to go to him, it’ll go to him. It’s not like we’re not going to target him, we’re going to try and get the ball to whoever is open. I think he’s done a good job, if you look at a couple of routes, even though he didn’t get it, he won the routes, it just wasn’t supposed to go that side based on coverage.
Q: Tyrod [Taylor] seemed very comfortable when he was on the move, rolling out and seeing the play, is that something you’re going to look to put in the game plan a little bit more?
A: It’s been in the game plan every week. It’s just making sure we get a little bit of everything going. We’re trying to keep them guessing and keep us comfortable all at the same time, just knowing what we have. Each situation is a little bit different, so just as you said, the running game, they stacked the box so there’s fewer guys outside, we let him get out there, and obviously, he can use his talents to that. But I think he did a good job in most of the situations on third down. The first conversion we had, we had a crossing route with Jordan [Matthews], he did a great job in the pocket, it was a crowded pocket, [he] did a nice job, nice and calm, gave him a good ball and an explosive play.
Q: Do you think your personnel group did a good job of convincing them of one thing, when you did another? I think on the [Nick] O’Leary play, with 13 personnel on the field, a couple of guys in the backfield, two tight ends on goal line, you throw it to [Mike] Tolbert, it looked like you were trying to throw them off?
A: We try to do that all the time, run when they think you pass, and pass when you think they run. In each week, we try and put packages together based on the personnel, that we can throw it and run it. That was part of the deal, try to make sure that we keep the defense on us, they have to cover all 11 on the entire field.
Q: How has your relationship with Tyrod developed in terms of the give and take, the back and forth of him telling you what he sees and what he likes, you telling him what you see and what you feel works best, and molding that together for the game?
A: It’s been great [through] three games. In each of the games, he’s come up with suggestions that we’ve used. I ask him as it’s going and he’s done a great job with that. His knowledge of the game has been great, and I’ve always expected that. We do a lot of talk during the week, this is what I’m seeing, that’s why I’m calling this, this is what I’m seeing, and that’s why we have this design. He’s done a good job with that, and I see it to keep going, it’ll continue.
Q: Do you think you’ve given future defenses enough to think about besides LeSean [McCoy], where teams can’t go in anymore and say if we stop LeSean, we win the game?
A: I don’t know, you’d have to ask them, I’m hoping we are and I’m hoping we’ll keep developing, keep getting better and keep improving. Like I said, you have to be able to run it and throw it in this league, you can’t do one or the other because there are good defenses, good personnel, just like yesterday. It was a very good defense, good personnel and it was a grind. To our guys’ credit, they kept working at it.
Q: Have you sensed any frustration in LeSean, he’s a guy that’s not putting up numbers the way he has the last couple of weeks?
A: If it is, it’s for a good reason. He’s hard on himself, I keep telling him you’re making plays. He had three great conversions on third down, catching the ball and run after catch. I know he wants to do really, really good and that’s important, and he’ll work at it. I haven’t talked to him about the frustration, I just know that he’s asking and wants to make plays for the team.
Q: What have you noticed about your offense when you go into more of a hurry-up [scheme] and play with a bit more pace?
A: I think guys like it, but to do that you have to make sure you’re on the field and keep grinding. I think they like it, I think they’re a very well-conditioned team. We did a couple snaps early and we’ll just see how that works out. Not going to say we’ll do it more or less, each game is so different, based on how we’re doing and how the rhythm goes. I think they like it though.
C ERIC WOOD
Q: Can you talk about what happened yesterday around the league? After seeing everything [after] the dust has settled now a little bit, can you share your thoughts and your feelings emotionally on where everything’s at right now?
A: It’s a wild time in America right now and we have a polarizing President it appears and he made some remarks that a lot of the guys in the NFL took offense to. I know from our team, the guys who knelt meant no disrespect to the military whatsoever. I think what’s got a lot of the fans and the people that support the NFL upset is they think it’s a shot at the military. I think I speak for everyone that says it is absolutely not a disrespect to the military. I stood, some guys knelt. A football team is like the rest of America, everyone has different opinions, but I think we had a healthy discussion Saturday night. Some of us locked arms, some of us knelt, guys did whatever, but this team is close. I have nothing but love and respect for everyone on this team, and that was our message that kind of came out of our discussion Saturday night, a very healthy discussion, a very mature discussion to have based upon ownership and everybody that was in that room. It’s unfortunate it came to that yesterday. We’re getting ready for a football game and then we have to have an hour long meeting. It’s unfortunate that that kind of stuff happened, but I know a lot of guys were deeply hurt by it, and guys who wouldn’t normally take a knee did it because there was a line drawn in the sand. A lot of guys just wanted to support other guys throughout the league that had maybe taken a stand in the past.
Q: A line by the President?
Q: Do you anticipate this demonstration, this type of demonstration will continue?
A: I’m not sure. I think some teams that’ll have their first home game, maybe. Or maybe as the dust settles for a week, maybe teams will have more time to construct something. My hope would be that we kind of keep ourselves away from it and kind of ignore it, but I don’t know that that’s realistic. Guys feel really passionate about this, so hopefully a lot of good can come out of it. I know a lot of people are deeply upset, especially strong supporters of this country, the military, and it’s a really tough situation for me to even talk about. I don’t want to take a strong stance either way, but I wasn’t affected by the issues that have come about like some of the other guys have.
Q: Then President responded again this morning, if Sunday was a response to the line drawn in the sand by the President, and the President’s continuing to go there, do you expect your teammates to continue to do what they’ve been doing?
A: Potentially. You know I would hope that it doesn’t come to each side taking shots at each other. I don’t think it’s good for the game, I don’t think it’s good for our country. Realistically, more protests, more issues could come about from it.
Q: Eric, kneeling seems to be controversial, obviously. As one of the leaders, do you think that maybe you guys could find something else to do as a whole that isn’t kneeling in front of the flag, but at the same time, maybe something different? Did you think about getting together and talking about those things?
A: Yeah, we talked about it a lot Saturday night. We wanted to come to a conclusion where we would all do something, but an hour was a long discussion, but on such a heavy topic, ultimately it wasn’t enough. The conclusion we came to was let’s put out a statement so guys, you know Coach McDermott didn’t want guys to just get peppered constantly by questions. Derek (Boyko) nominated me to come out here today and face you guys. I think the point was, we released a statement as a team so we could always kind of refer back to that. If guys got tongue-tied and didn’t want to say something controversial or didn’t want to face any scrutiny, they could say ‘just refer to the team statement’ which [says] we believe in love and equality. Everybody on our team respects one another, but during that hour, we didn’t come to a conclusion of ‘everybody’s going to stand and hold arms’, or whatever the different things that could’ve been presented to relay our message. Ultimately, we decided ‘hey, if you want to kneel, you can kneel, if you want to stand, you can stand, but put your arm on somebody, just show that we all support each other’ and we felt like that was the best thing to do in the short amount of time to create the least amount of distraction for our team, but still allow guys to take their stand.
Q: It’s been a very contentious couple of days. How difficult is it for you to hear what the President said on Friday night, calling people S.O.B.s, and then the following morning, to have LeSean McCoy come out and tweet what he did, calling the President that word?
A: Yeah, it’s kind of fighting fire with fire. The President is polarizing, he used that language at a rally, I don’t know if it was calculated or not. He said it, and guys took strong offense to it. As a player that’s not as affected by the issues and had never thought about taking a knee and I wouldn’t, it made me even feel a certain type of way. He’s attacking the NFL community, and there’s a lot of backlash [of] ‘stick to football, stick to football, stick to football’. I get that, but then on Tuesdays, when you have tons of players out in the community, so many of us have foundations that try and do so much outside of football, I’d be weary to say, “hey guys, only stick to football”, because there’s a ton of good that comes about the work we do in the community. I get it, guys don’t want to hear what we say on a political basis, I get it. We also have a lot of intelligent men on our team, that if they weren’t in a football uniform, they’d probably be speaking their mind in highly successful [positions] and anything they’re doing anyway, and their voice would be heard. Like I said, it’s just a really controversial, polarizing time for us.
Q: Eric, is this something that, ironically how dividing the issue can be, it really can bring you guys together, maybe it did bring you guys even closer together than, what I think, seems like an already tight group?
A: I got to hear why guys wanted to take a knee, others guys said, you know, “I’m not going to take a knee, we’re not all going to take a knee together”. I almost feel like, for some people, taking a knee would’ve almost been offensive to the people who had felt social inequality in their life. I hope that helps.
Q: Being in the locker-room today, what has been the reaction of players about what Jim Kelly said this morning, specifically about Shady [LeSean McCoy]? He said he lost respect for Shady; he also said that if you don’t like this country, you can leave.
A: Honestly, there hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about it, we’ve been working kind of since we’ve been in here. I’d imagine those discussions will kind of come about. Not a whole lot’s been said about it at this point. I have a lot of respect for Jim, and Shady’s very intelligent. I think, if it needed to happen, they could probably have a conversation and see more eye-to-eye on the subject.
Q: Do you think that that does need to happen? You’ve got Jim Kelly, sort of a legend of this organization, and still an employee of it and a face of the team, openly going against this message of unity, and love and equality by saying that he lost respect for, perhaps, your most important player.
A: Yeah, potentially. If this is going to continue to be an issue, then maybe those discussions would need to happen for sure.
Q: What was the symbolism of walking out onto the field? You guys made it a point to do that. Did you decide that ‘okay, this is what we’re going to do’? What were the levels of the message you were trying to get out?
A: We walked out on the field the first game too and kind of got together in the end zone. That stems back to, we wanted this year especially, we wanted to come together. There was a lot of talk of us tanking and what not and we wanted to show like, we’re going to fight together, this is the closet team I’ve been on. Coaches made measures, made calculated steps to get it to this point, where guys talk about their families in front of the room, be very vulnerable with each other, we’ve become closer. We didn’t want to do the individual introductions, and then we didn’t do it for one of the preseason games at home. We all kind of ran out and it was kind of sporadic and Coach showed us a video of a Super Bowl where the AFC representative team kind of came out together, walking out, and they were all together, and it was awesome. We were like, ‘that’s what we want to do’, and it has kind of evolved into us kind of jumping in the end zone and [Mike] Tolbert gets down and comes out.
Q: But then in the anthem, you guys all walked out together. Most teams stayed, you generally stay on the sideline. You guys made a point to walk out onto the field, what was the reason for that?
A: I think it was to get everybody together, I’m not 100% sure to answer your question honestly. Right before the national anthem was going to be played, messages were getting relayed down the sideline, ‘everybody take a few steps forward onto the field’.
DE JERRY HUGHES
Q: Jerry, what was your reaction, I don’t know if you heard or read the comments from Jim Kelly this morning on the radio, he said that he had lost a lot of respect for LeSean McCoy based on the way he decided to protest during the national anthem yesterday. What was your reaction to that?
A: I was very disappointed in him. I was very disappointed in how he approached the whole situation. Our team came together and we united as a front, as an organization, on how we were going to approach the national anthem. If Jim was going to do what he did, then he should’ve come to the team and let us know his feelings. He should’ve let us know how he was going to do the national anthem, because we didn’t know he was going to be there, from a team’s perspective. For him to carry on in this matter, I’m really confused and I’m really upset. If this is something how he felt, if this is truly what he felt was on his heart, he should’ve come to the team. He should’ve approached us instead of making this a public matter and doing that on his social page. It was not cool, very unacceptable, and if he has things to say about us as a team, come talk to us.
Q: The fact that he didn’t do that, and Jim is a face of this organization, everybody knows who he is. So the fact that he didn’t do that, does that not sit well with players in the room?
A: That doesn’t sit well with me. I won’t speak for everybody in our locker room. That doesn’t sit well with me at all, because we came together as a team and we discussed exactly how we were going to approach the national anthem. For him to walk on the sideline and do exactly what he did was unacceptable, because if he felt a certain way about a player on this team, come to the team and let’s address it.
Q: How do you feel about Jim remaining on the sideline before games going forward?
A: Half the time, I don’t even realize he’s there until it was pointed out yesterday after the display of actions that he did, it was pointed out and brought to my attention. I’m not sure I understand it. We are the 2017 Buffalo Bills, we’re focused on the future, we’re focused on winning games. If he wants to offer anything of encouragement to our team, to our quarterbacks, to our offense, please provide all of that. We could use all the encouragement we need to figure out how they won games back in those days and be successful as they were. We’re trying to bring a team together, we’re trying to bring the community together, we’re trying to bring a nation together. By dividing us, by dividing the team, that doesn’t work.
Q: The demonstrations yesterday here and around the league were in direct response to the President. The President again is adding on twitter today; does that mean the demonstrations continue?
A: That’s just what 45 [President Donald Trump] is going to do, and 45 is going to continue to focus on the NFL, he’s going to continue to distract the nation from what really should be a focal point, and what really should be upfront. Our nation has gone through two natural disasters that the NFL, not only players, but the PA [player’s association] as well, has responded to. We’re doing our efforts, as much as we can, to give back to the community. For him to sit here and pick apart at a business, at an organization who is trying to make the country better, people who have lost family members, who have lost their homes, their jobs. We’re trying to improve our country, and we certainly don’t need him pointing fingers at us, being a bully, calling us S.O.B.s, things of that nature. It’s just not uncanny of someone who’s going to be the president.
Q: Jerry, speaking of the community, what more can NFL players do to bring about change and bring about what you guys would like to see, besides just kneeling during the national anthem?
A: Just to continue and go out in the community and let everyone know that we are here, we are there to support them. I turned on NBC and saw Tony Dungy’s speech and how the Miami players are working with law enforcers, bringing those guys out into the community, and how it’s certainly touching and impacting some of the youth. I know I took from that interview is one girl said that she’s never seen the police on this side, you know, joking, laughing, almost being human. I think if we can actually introduce that to our community, to our youth, to let them know that the police are human, there’s no reason to be afraid of them. If you abide by the rules, abide by the laws that our country has provided, you’ll be fine. I think what I saw last night, what those players are doing, I think that is very tremendous.
Q: Hearing you guys talk about possibly doing some of those things, any kind of action in the community, as a team or as players, did you guys talk about that at all?
A: We haven’t got that into detail about it. Just got back from it yesterday, our focus has really been on getting ready for the Atlanta Falcons. We understand that we’re going on the road, and we certainly want to get our road victory this week.
Q: What’s the challenge of in this locker room, you guys are brothers, but everybody in there has an idea of how to publically display feelings, but you want to be united, by everybody is different. So what’s the challenge as a team going forward, because I imagine Trump is going to continue saying things, so what’s the response I guess?
A: For us not to point fingers at each other, for us to say that I haven’t or will lose respect for someone who chooses to exercise their first amendment right. I think for us, and that’s really what came out of our meeting together, as a team, is everyone has different beliefs. Everyone is going to have their own opinion about the flag, about the national anthem, but to not lose sight of: we are still Americans, we still want to love one another, we still want to be united, we still want to come together as a country. For us in our locker room, we understand that the guy to my left, the guy to my right, he may have different views, but I’m not going to point fingers and say that his view is wrong. I’m going to understand him, I’m going to love him, and we’re going to come to work and try our best to win football games.
Q: When it comes to Jim Kelly, when he says he lost respect for LeSean, you seem to be fired up. Do you believe that he didn’t belong on that sideline if he was going to come and expose that kind of view?
A: Correct. Correct, that’s how I feel personally. I felt like if he needed to say something, he could’ve come to the team.
DT KYLE WILLIAMS
Q: I’m not sure if you heard some of it or all of it, but Jerry [Hughes] was highly critical of Jim Kelly and what he had to say about LeSean McCoy this morning on the radio, saying he lost respect for him from the way that he approached the National Anthem yesterday. You’ve been around here for a long time, I know you know Jim well, your reaction to hearing that from Jerry and also what you heard from Jim this morning?
A: I think the main thing is, having just saw Shady, I think him and Jim have actually spoken since then. That’s obviously an issue, what was said between them. The great thing about Jim is he loves this team and he’s a part of this team. I think he’d be the first one to tell you that anything related to players, or any comments, I think he would bring to the team that need to stay here with this team.
Q: Do you expect that he now understands that?
A: I don’t think Jim needs to understand, I think he knows that, and I think that’s why he spoke to Shady. What’s his comments or what’s Shady, his protest or what is, I think them talking about it is the best thing for both of them and for this team.
Q: When Jerry Hughes finds that to be unacceptable, and he takes offense to what Jim did, evidently, there is some raw emotion here. Do you think it was fair for Jim to go public with his concerns before speaking with LeSean?
A: I think obviously, if you look around the landscape of not just in football, but our country, there’s a lot of opinions that are getting thrown around in a lot of different directions. I think the great thing about a team is a lot of times we’re able to have a dialogue and talk about those things ourselves, behind closed doors in our locker room. Obviously, this is one you think would be better off held in a private environment, but it wasn’t. It happened, what do they do? They connect, they get together and they work past it that way.
Q: Do you anticipate that anthem demonstrations are going to continue going forward?
A: I don’t know, I guess we’ll see. I think we’ll see how it grows or progresses, I’m not sure how to answer that. I can’t tell you what’s in the mind for the future of every Sunday.
Q: Leslie Frazier was up here an hour ago, and he said he was talking to a defensive coach on the Broncos, who was extremely impressed at how quick this [defensive] unit has come together, given all the moving parts. What are your views? I don’t want to say you guys make it look easy, but you make it look easy.
A: Well it’s never easy, I can promise you that. I think it’s a credit to Coach Frazier, to Coach [Sean] McDermott, to Brandon Beane in bringing guys in here that they thought and felt fit in well with what we we’re trying to do. It’s a credit to those guys they brought in, the Jordan Poyers, the Micah Hydes and those guys coming in, and playing really well. E.J. Gaines coming in, in a trade, Tre’Davious [White] playing really well for a rookie. There’s a lot of credit to go around, so far, but there’s a lot of work and a lot more Sundays left. We’ve got quite a challenge in front of us coming this Sunday.
Q: As a guy who’s been around and seen a lot in this league, what was the 24 hours like starting Saturday night with that team meeting and continuing through the game, and just trying to compartmentalize everything?
A: I think it was easy, we had an easy open dialogue about it, what was going on. Then guys focused totally in on the game. It was an hour long deal maybe, and the opportunity to go out and play the game on Sunday, whether it’s anthem protests, family troubles, or whatever troubles life may bring at you, sometimes it’s the best distraction that there is.