What They Said: Bills players reflect on season, look to future on clean-out day - The Buffalo News

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What They Said: Bills players reflect on season, look to future on clean-out day

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander

Q: Are you trying to pick up where you left off next year?

A: I mean, that’s the plan for me. Obviously, the organization has to make a decision on whether or not they want to keep me and then once that happens, I have to earn my right back on this team. Until, obviously, March, the league year is not over so I’ll still be coming up here, getting treatment, working out to start preparing myself for the offseason.

Q: It sounds like retirement, then, is not really on your radar. Is that fair to say, regardless of what happens with the Bills?

A: Yeah, no. Retirement is not on my radar quite yet. I definitely want to get one more in. I really love this organization, love what we were able to build here and I definitely want to continue to be a part of helping this organization take that next step, and that’s winning a playoff game and getting to a championship and winning that. I feel good, my wife is all on board with me continuing to play and as long as I got a happy home [and] happy wife, I can come to work each and every day and play free. I look forward to it.

Q: Sean McDermott talks about getting the right players and you know the difference between the best players and the right players, but there will be more of the right players in here?

A: Well, that’s what he’s done so far so I don’t see why they would stray away from their plan. You look at guys like Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and just the draft class that they brought in last year. I think, when you think about high-character people, you think that you’re sacrificing talent but in those cases, I think that they got the best of both worlds. If you want to build a great team, a sustainable team and definitely a team that hasn’t won in a long time like we did this year, that’s the type of people you have to bring in here, that love the work, that overachieve, and inspire others to be great as well.

Q: I know that you were in a similar position last year with Kyle Williams, hoping that he would return and there were some lobbying efforts on your part and of several other guys. Are you guys in the same boat again this year to kind of lobby for him or do you leave him alone?

A: I don’t know. You know, Kyle is his own man. I mean, I mess with him and try to get him to come back because you just love having that type of presence and you want to be around it. Hopefully, he comes back. He’s a great presence. I think he really enjoyed himself this year, obviously getting a taste of the playoffs. It’s hard to kind of, ‘ooh, well, maybe we can get back there again next year.’ It’s hard to kind of walk away from that sometimes as well so him and his family have a lot to think about this offseason, obviously the organization too in their conversations. Everything will work out best for him and his family.

 

Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin

Q: Obviously, at the start of the year you probably didn’t think you were going to end up in Buffalo in this situation. How did it go for you in those few months that you were here?

A: I loved it man. It was a good – I mean, I don’t think I did a lot on the field because I got the injury. But it was an adjustment and I like it. I like it here in Buffalo. I got one more season here next year so I’m going to prepare in the offseason and get my body back right, come back and focus and get ready for OTA’s.

Q: You’ve been on good teams. Do you like the direction that this team is going in and how it’s being built?

A: Oh, definitely man. Definitely. You could just tell the urgency to get to the Super Bowl and that’s the number one goal. That’s supposed to be every team’s number one goal. That’s where they’re trying to go so I think next year will be a big year for us.

Q: Does everything that transpired over the last eight days keep you excited to be with this organization?

A: Definitely. The fan base is going crazy. They’re still going crazy even though we lost. We wanted to pull that one out for them but, it was a tough one. It was a tough one for me. That’s my second time in the playoffs and I definitely wanted to make that push. The first time I went, I made it to the second round. We played Seattle and lost. But it is what it is, you know? Bite the bullet. Like I said, just move on [and] go and get ready for OTA’s.

 

LB Preston Brown

Q: Your contract is up, just what are your thoughts on returning to Buffalo?
A: If it happens it happens. I always want to come back here. I love the city, I love the coaches, but it’s a business so you never know what will happen.

Q: Some guys literally stand up here and say, ‘I want the most money I can get’. Where is your thought on that?
A: That sounds cool, but I want to be in the best situation possible, which I believe to be here.

Q: You put a pretty good season on, I would say, you led the league in tackles. Talk about your season this year?
A: I think it was alright. I wanted to lead the league in sacks, interceptions, and all those other dreams you have. To do tackles, was fine for me; just helping this team any way I can, so hopefully I can continue to do that.

Q: What’s surprised you most, coming from the beginning of the year, and all the talks from the beginning of the year to where we are now, making the playoffs – what’s surprised you most about this team?
A: Just the resiliency each and every week. Our games have been up and down [and] our season was up and down. We had a stretch where we were getting blown out every week. But then we found a way to get in the playoffs and have a chance to win at the end. That’s all you can ask for, really.

 

Offensive Tackle Dion Dawkins

Q: I don’t know what your expectations were going into the year, but do you feel like you exceeded expectations?

A: I could say that for the people that believed in me and drafted me, they knew what type of player they were going to get. I just brought exactly what I did at Temple to Buffalo.

Q: Where is your offseason? At home? I don’t even know if you have the plan yet but are you going to be here a lot of the offseason?

A: No, I will not be here. I’m going to be in [New] Jersey and back and forth from Philly to Temple to Jersey. I’ll be training with Richie just to see what it really takes to be a pro in the offseason. I’m going to take after guys like Eric Wood and those guys to guide me through.

Q: You had a tweet about last night supporting Richie [Incognito]. Again, I realize what you said in your tweet but you didn’t hear anything? You were right next to him.

A: I was next to Richie the entire game and Richie did not say one thing, and if he did, [you] best believe I would’ve been one of the first people to basically check him on it because there’s races, there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on in this country and there’s boundaries. But if he did overstep, I would have said something. As far as I know, he did his thing.

 

CB Leonard Johnson

Q: Prior to the season, you called coach [Sean McDermott] and said ‘hey, I’m ready to come, and here I am.’ Now we’re at the end of the year, I know you probably want to be back, what is your anticipation – I know you have exit meetings today – what are your expectations?
A: I’m actually going through the process right now; wrapping up my exit meetings. I just met with my defensive back coach and we did some reflecting on the season. I would love to be in a position where I’m back here playing with guys that I love and guys that I’ve built great relationships with. I really don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I’m nervous, excited and kind of anxious to see how everything unravels this offseason.

Q: You and E.J. [Gaines] are the question marks in terms of contracts and stuff. With the group that bonded quickly on the back end there, you have to believe – I know there are things that have to get ironed out, it is a business at the end of the day – but the hope is to be back, right?
A: Yeah, you never really know. I would love to be back and play in this secondary. I think we did a great job this offseason on ironing out a lot of wrinkles, and we answered a lot of questions that a lot of people really didn’t know what was going to happen on the back end. I think, collectively, we did a great job. It is a performance-based business so I’m anxious to see how it’s going to play out. I got a lot of great feedback from my coaches. It’s just one of those things. You pray to God that everything works out in your favor. I want to make Buffalo home for the next two, three years.

Q: But you never know what a new situation is going to be like. You don’t know if it’s going to be comfortable. It seems like everybody got pretty comfortable with each other in the back there rather quickly?
A: Yeah, and that all plays a part in guys not having ego’s. A lot of guys in our position, in the secondary who have been other places established themselves and their reputation around the league. When they got to Buffalo, all that stuff went out. I think coach [Sean McDermott] did a great job with implementing his plan and his vision. He brought a lot of great guys in that wasn’t high on themselves or didn’t have a lot of ego behind their name and their play. They were just team guys. Any time you have guys like that, it definitely helps the culture and the secondary.

Q: Do you feel like the standard has been set here across the board?
A: It is, the standard is set. Since day one, I got here, we’ve been talking about playoff caliber and we made it to the playoffs. We’re in the playoffs, and we’re talking about championship caliber, and we fell short of that. Just to see, honestly, how far we made it when a lot of things were said when we made transactions; you let this person, that guy walk and all this crap. We, as a team, felt like we were better than what a lot of people gave us credit for.

 

LB Matt Milano

Q: Take us through your own mind, from the draft to coming in as a backup to eventually starting – just your path on the season?
A: It has definitely been a long process. It was a good run, not where we wanted to end up at, but I think we definitely took a step forward with this whole program. [I’m] excited for next year to see what that’s going to bring us.

Q: It seems like they trust you to be the starter. Are you planning on being a starting linebacker on this team moving forward?
A: Definitely, I hope so. [I’ll] try and have a great offseason; do a lot of work, a lot of things that have got to get worked on.

Q: When you look at this roster, and you’re new to it, there’s a lot of good, young players here – that it’s going in the right direction. You can build on something like that.
A: Definitely, I think there’s a lot of guys in my draft class, especially, that have produced this season. We’re looking forward to getting ready for next season.

Q: How far away do you think you are? I know you’ve been in the league one year, but you’ve had a taste of what’s needed. How far away do you think you are from getting to this sustained area that Sean [McDermott] talks about all the time?
A: I’m not sure. I’m just coming to work every day ready to get to work.

 

RB Mike Tolbert

Q: Your contract is up, have you had any thoughts on what’s next for yourself this offseason?
A: Yeah, I definitely have. I have a lot of good football left in me so we’ll see what happens. Obviously, I was on a one-year deal here. [My] contract is up. This is a place that my family has come to love and enjoy. I love the people, the players, the organization, so we’ll see what happens.

Q: You knew Coach [Sean McDermott] coming into the door, so that probably helped an awful lot – a couple of your former Carolina teammates here. Just safe to say it’s nice when you a have a comfort level with the people that you’re working with?
A: Absolutely. Obviously, I knew a lot of Carolina guys from here already, but it was nice to already know some people on the team. I already played with Kyle [Williams] in the Pro Bowl; I already knew Shady, played with Shady in the Pro Bowl, I partied with Shady a couple times [laughs]. I’ve already had a comfort level with some of the guys on the team. Knowing Lorenzo [Alexander] from just playing against him for years and the type of man and the type of player he is, it was an easy decision to come here.

Q: You talked about the standard being set, so you’ve seen teams build and become successful, perennial playoff contenders. Where can it go from where it’s left off here?
A: I think, obviously, the next level is to again reach the playoffs next year and try to win the Super Bowl. I think that’s the ultimate goal for every team, is to win that championship. It was a good start this year. Shout out to my guy Taiwan Jones, had to show him some love, you know what I mean? It was a good start, but now it’s time to go back to the drawing board, and try to get more W’s next year.

Q: What do you think the fans will remember the most about this season?
A: The way we fought. Obviously, making the playoffs after breaking a 17-year streak, but just the way we fought day in and day out, every game. There was never a game that was a blowout for us. We were always fighting hard in every game.

 

Defensive Tackle Kyle Williams

Q: Now that it’s over, how much can you appreciate what went on this season and what this team accomplished?

A: I’m grateful but I’m probably going to need a little more time. I’m still disappointed from yesterday and I wish it could’ve gone a different way. It felt like it was right there so to come up short is still tough. Like I said yesterday, I’m grateful for the guys in this locker room and the year that we had and the opportunity to work with them and play with them.

Q: How long, or what type of timeframe do you have on deciding on your future and what is your mindset right now?

A: I don’t have one. We’ll meet with the people that need to be met with and discuss it and we’ll see where we go.

Q: How much gas do you feel like you have left in the tank?

A: I think I got enough to get there.

Q: Kyle, have you taken the time at all to think about some of these young guys that are coming in now? They just have no idea what’s ahead. It seems like this team is going in the right direction. Do you see the same things that I’m seeing and what can you tell them about how it’s not easy?

A: No, and I think they realize it’s not easy. Even the young guys, whether you’re talking about rookies or second-year guys that are here this year that have an opportunity to accomplish that and get to the playoffs, you see how the season can ebb and flow. We go through a hot start, we hit the bottom, we work our way out of it – that’s what the NFL season looks like. Now, obviously, you want to minimize your bottom. Maybe that’s only one game in there, maybe two at the worst, but I think guys got a pretty good view of what this league is about and what having success in this league takes.

 

Cornerback Tre’Davious White

Q: You probably haven’t had a whole lot of time to think about this, but just reflecting on year one and how everything went and maybe the biggest takeaways you took from your first year in the NFL…

A: Obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted but we had a great run. We set a great standard for years to come, just for us having young guys on this team and a first-year coach – he set that standard. I feel like the first year, I had a great year. Obviously, some things I still need to work on but it’s a great start and I feel like for years to come, this team is going to be hell for the rest of the league.

Q: You came up short yesterday, even holding [the Jaguars] to ten points, but what is your overall feeling coming out of a Wild Card loss like that?

A: You know, anytime you lose in the league, it’s a bad feeling and to know that as a team, we fought so hard and played a great game but we came out not on the winning end so that’s a disappointing thing. I feel like this team, we had a special group and we did a great job of overcoming adversity the whole year. I can go to war these guys every Sunday, like I said.

Q: It’s still fresh, but does this season with making the playoffs and snapping the drought, obviously you guys didn’t get to where you wanted to be with the ultimate goal, but does it still feel like a success or is it still too early to judge?

A: I don’t know, man. I’m a competitor. I want to win each and every game and I wanted to be in the last one. Anytime you come out and do that, it’s a disappointment just being the competitor that I am. I would say snapping that 17-year drought, it was a big step and now we laid the foundation and we know what to expect for years to come.

Q: Tre, what was it like being in this city with these fans? There were so many memorable moments this year beyond just breaking the drought. What was it like just being a part of this community for all of this?

A: Aw, man. It was fun. I’ve learned to embrace it. I love it here. Hopefully I’m here for the long-term because coming from a rich college town where they take football seriously and coming here, I don’t see any difference. The people here and the fans that we have here are probably the best in the NFL. I haven’t seen [any] spirit like this since I’ve been in college so it’s definitely a plus to land in a spot like here, like Buffalo, where the people are behind you no matter what so it’s a good feeling.

 

Center Eric Wood

Q: You have to be able to appreciate what this team accomplished this year?
A: Yeah, for sure. To end the drought is special. That was one of our goals heading into the year. Once we got in the dance, it’s obviously disappointing we didn’t make anything of it in a game that was very winnable yesterday. That hurts, but looking back and reflecting, ending the drought feels great. I’m just so glad I won’t have to answer ‘so what’s different this year? How are we going to end the drought this year?’ Now, it’s [about how] we have a foundation to build on. Let’s keep improving and let’s go try and win a Super Bowl.

Q: When it comes to improving on offense, obviously, there’s been a lack of finish for much of the season, what needs to happen there to take that next step forward on offense, do you think?
A: I’m honestly not sure. I’ll let the coaches and staff handle that. I think we have a lot of great pieces on offense, so I do have confidence moving forward.

Q: There are questions about Tyrod Taylor’s future yet again, this seems to be an ongoing thing, something that doesn’t change. What are your thoughts about Tyrod going forward and the uncertainty about his status?
A: I don’t know enough about it; what everyone’s thinking. I know I love competing with that guy. He lays it on the line for us. His preparation and work ethic is second to none. I’m a huge Tyrod fan and I think I’ve made that known over the years.

Q: You talk about now you don’t have to answer the questions about the drought, but last year when you cleaned out the lockers, it seems like it’s a complete 180 [degrees] – there was no direction, there were a lot of question marks. How much different is it going into this offseason?
A: Way different. It always feels good not going into a coaching search and having some stability there. We finished the season with some momentum. Obviously, yesterday didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but there’s a lot to build on and I’m excited for 2018.

 

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