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Sean McDermott: 'Sabres and Bills are a way of life here in Western New York'

Head Coach Sean McDermott

Friday, December 29, 2017

Opening Statement: Alright, good morning. We’ll go ahead and get started and open it up to questions.

Q: What is the status of Deonte Thompson?

A: Yeah, he’s going to be a game-time decision.

Q: So, will he be questionable?

A: Right. He will be questionable.

Q: Will he practice today?

A: We’ll see.

Q: You talked about this being a step if you make the playoffs. You also referenced Carolina and what can happen one year to the next. I was looking through teams and it’s often that the next step isn’t another step forward. Do you reconcile to that; that you don’t want people to think that every step is going to be up in the next year? You know what I’m getting at?

A: No. I don’t know what you’re getting at.

Q: Teams almost always regress after making the playoffs.

A: Is that right?

Q: Yes.

A: Yeah, it’s probably true of a lot of businesses, if you will, where sustaining success is hard from one year to the next. Why that is? I’ve got my own reasons. You probably have your own reasons, right? I think that’s a challenge, and to try and sustain success, part of it is human nature where you taste it a little bit and sometimes the relaxation syndrome sets in. I think that’s a challenge for our young players, also, in this league where at times, ‘I know what this league is all about.’ No, you don’t. That edge is important and it starts at the top. It starts at the top with leadership and that’s myself and the other leaders in our organization – that we set the right tone and create the right mindset that’s an all the time thing. Winning is not a, we take that approach of winning, we talk about it as a team. It’s not a sometime thing, the habits. That’s a conversation for the offseason.

Q: In your first press conference, [you said] ‘you have to earn the right to win.’

A: That’s right.

Q: Regardless of what happens this weekend, is this team still going to be learning and earning the right to win?

A: That’s right. Absolutely. We take an active approach and that’s not going to change. Whatever happens this weekend, we’re going to stay on the hunt, stay humble and hungry, and we’re not going to rest until we get to where we’re trying to go; that takes time. We’re going to continue to build and grow and learn and, from an acquisition standpoint, bring in people that have that type of DNA or at least have that somewhere down in there that they can be developed in some way, shape or form, and that’s the exciting part about it.

Q: Not to say that you guys haven’t played in big games this year, but this is on a different level. What do you expect to learn about your group with so much at stake in this game?

A: To your point, we have played in big games, the word you used there. We really look at every game as a big opportunity, more than anything, to continue to grow. This one really, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of the game as it relates to playoff implications, from a performance standpoint it’s important that we put it in its context so that our guys can play at a high level and play at a level that is the best level that they’ve played at up to this point in the season. For us, it’s a great opportunity to do that, and then the growth that comes from that will benefit us in the future.

Q: Do you feel like that’s sort of the next step for some of these guys, is they’ve played a lot of this season with that underdog mentality and there’s nothing to lose? Now there’s a lot to lose and you kind of, these guys get to learn how to play in a real pressure-cooker environment.

A: Well, I think that’s a certain type of mindset. The other type of mindset is more of a positive mindset, and one that I think that elite performers embrace. It’s not so much what you can lose, it’s what can be gained from this type of opportunity. There’s a lot that can be gained. Certainly, the result but also the process within the game; the process of this week, so much valuable experience for our young team that they can use going forward and that’s the great part of it.

Q: You grew up in Pennsylvania so hockey is not foreign to you, but have you come to appreciate how hockey is a big thing here in western New York?

A: I have. Yeah, I grew up, like you said, in Pennsylvania, not too far from here so I know this part of the country to some extent. I know that the Sabres and the Bills are a way of life here in western New York, which I think is phenomenal. The passion of the fan base, like I’ve mentioned numerous times before, the work ethic, the blue-collar approach I think goes hand-in-hand with those two sports in particular, as you mentioned, hockey in this case.

Q: In that sense, have you ever thought of maybe lacing up the skates and heading out to the field?

A: I don’t think you’d want to see me out there, really. I’ve laced up skates before, just not in my recent past. I’ll let all the professionals do that today and let Jason [Botterill] and Phil [Housley] and those guys handle that over there at the Sabres [facility].

Q: How’s it looking for Kelvin Benjamin on Sunday?

A: Yeah, it’s looking good, looking good. He’s on track, much like he was last week.

Q: Oh, I didn’t mean the Sabres. I just meant to sneak out on the New Era Field and take a round on the rink there?

A: I hear it looks phenomenal over there. I haven’t been over there, I’ve obviously been focused on what we have going on here. But, I hear it looks phenomenal over there and it’s an exciting atmosphere. [It’s] pretty neat to pull up and see the lights on in the morning and on at night when you leave, and the steam coming off of the building and everything. It’s a pretty neat atmosphere.

Q: Are you going to give yourself five minutes to walk over today and check it out?

A: Yeah, I have it on my list. We’ll see. I’d like to be able to at least put on eyes on it for a little bit. [It’s] a pretty neat opportunity for a lot of people in this part of the country. Any time you see competition overall, that level of competition, it’s fun to watch.

Q: You made a big deal about Kyle Williams, Lorenzo Alexander is actually a little older, he’s never won a playoff game. Have you noticed anything with him lately, that he’s really geared up for this chance?

A: Yeah, these guys are so focused on the process, [and] these guys are getting into such a nice routine. They are in that routine, and I’ve noticed that; these guys are in a good routine. A lot of these veterans, in particular, have their specific individual routine that they go through every week. To watch them go through it, Lorenzo, Kyle, and some of our other players, is neat to watch. When you watch highly skilled professionals do their job at a high level; they stay late; they’re in early; taking care of their body – not only in their preparation physically and mentally, but also taking care of their body in the training room. I was round another player years ago named Takeo Spikes, who played here for a number of years; to name another guy that spent a considerable amount of time here. [He] shared with me that he had never been to the position that we’re trying to get to this weekend. I can appreciate the approach.

Q: You’ve always said do your job, your 1/11 of the team, and that even applies to your quarterbacks – whether it’s Nathan [Peterman] starting or Tyrod [Taylor]. Has Tyrod done enough in doing his job? Last week, 281 yards passing, but a loss. Do you feel that Tyrod has done enough in doing his job?

A: I think he’s done enough, but all of us can do more, myself included. That’s the great part about what we do; sometimes it’s not where you start, it’s where you’re going and where you finish. I think collectively as a team, if you pulled our team, everyone in that locker room, I’m sure to man would say ‘I’ve done my job but it hasn’t been enough at times’. Again, that starts with me, and goes on right down though the channel.

Q: Have you noticed an elevation in the energy, execution, and focus this week as opposed to the rest of the season?

A: Well our team, and you guys know our team, they’re a focused group of individuals that take their job seriously. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve noticed a focus, similar though to the ones I’ve seen throughout the year, really. This is a team that not a lot of people have given a chance starting – from where we came from earlier in the year; training camp to where we are now. I think these guys take ownership of that and that drives them, motivates them. This week is no different. We have top continue to pursue our vision on a daily basis. That doesn’t change because of where we are. The intensity, yeah, I expect the intensity to go up. That’s what happens in playoff football; the intensity, the speed all goes to another level. That in and of itself is another jump for us in the learning experience that we’re going through right now as we prepare. I expect to see that, more lessons learned as we go through the situation this weekend. But, I’m confident in our guys. I think they’ve had a good week. They’ve prepared like professionals prepare, and we have a couple more days to get some work in.

Q: Are they preparing celebrations? I know that sounds crazy. But do you know what’s going to happen if you were to make the playoffs at whatever time, 7:30, is there going to be some guys jumping around? Do you know what’s going to happen?

A: I don’t. I’m more focused on the first series of the game at this point.

Q: Do you want them celebrating?

A: Yeah, of course, absolutely. That’s what we do this for, right? I’d love to sit back, and I’ve said this before, be up in my office and just watch out the window. That’s what I visualize, that type of vision, that type of mindset of snow coming down, the palm trees outside on this sidewalk out here [laughs], and the fans of the Buffalo Bills, and the players enjoying the moment. That’s what we work for.

Q: Have you visualized then, arriving at the airport and seeing a fan base waiting for you?

A: It’d be great. Let’s take it one step at a time, though. Let’s pull back, if we could collectively, and just take it one step at a time. We have to worry about right now, the first play of the game, and the work that we have to prepare between now and then.

Q: Did you say palm trees?

A: Yeah, palm trees. They’re out there, you guys don’t see them?

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