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What They Said: Sean McDermott, Brandon Beane, Ryan Fitzpatrick & Lorenzo Alexander on Eric Wood

Head Coach Sean McDermott

Monday, January 29, 2018

Q: Football aside, Eric Wood is a phenomenal person. How does this affect you just person-to-person, not necessarily player-to-coach?

A: Yeah, it was unfortunate obviously. We had some good momentum as we finished the season there and this goes well beyond the game. First of all, I was taken aback by it a little bit just because of the situation, but the good in all of this is that Eric can go on and spend a lot of time with his new family [and] enjoy the rest of his life the way he should be able to.

Q: He spent his whole career here in Buffalo and is finally able to reach the playoffs for the first time in what ended up being his last season. That has to make you feel a little good.

A: Oh it does. It makes me feel job for Eric, his family, and the rest of his teammates. It really does. I’ll never forget the look on Eric’s face. You have still memories that stay with you for a long time and that’s one of them that I remember distinctly, when Eric came off the field from the coin-toss and the look in his eyes that he was in a situation he hadn’t been in before and he was excited for the opportunity.

Q: What’s your understanding of the kind of settlement talks that are going on right now with him staying on the roster and how that’s all evolving right now because clearly, it still is?

A: Today is Eric’s day. I’m not going to get into all of that. Today is Eric’s day. It’s a day to celebrate Eric and his career and what he’s brought to this football team and our community.

Q: From your standpoint, obviously, you feel his career is over. Have you got a sense from him whether he thinks it’s over or not?

A: Well, that’s the impression that I’ve gotten. That’s why we’re having this ceremony today in Eric’s honor and to celebrate a great career.

Q: Going forward, you’ll start to look to replace Eric on the roster. Is it – I mean, [Ryan] Groy seems to be the guy that you would immediately appoint to, but is that something you’ll address in the Draft [or] free agency? Have you started to look at that?

A: [That’s] for another time. Again, I just want to really focus on Eric and celebrating his career today.

Q: Can you quantify, Coach, just the respect and leadership value that Eric Wood brought to this roster?

A: Eric’s a young man that I knew, of him, before I arrived in Buffalo. He’s well respected around the league and my impression of Eric did not change over the last twelve months, if you will, give or take here. His leadership on the field and in the community is just tremendous.

Q: How challenging of a void will that be to fill going forward [in regards to] the leadership, respect value, all of that?

A: Yeah, that’s certainly something we have to keep our eye on, collectively Brandon [Beane], myself [and] our staffs, to make sure we’ve got enough leadership on this football team. That is something, as you build a team, as you build a roster year to year that you want to make sure you’ve got enough of the player-driven leadership.

Q: Sean, you mentioned [that] today’s Eric’s day. Did you sort of maybe envision that it – or how unfortunate is it, I guess, that it had to be just a statement? I imagine that you thought it might’ve been a little bit bigger than just two minutes like that?

A: Well, you know that’s what it was and I’m just – like I said, this is Eric’s day. It’s Eric’s decision and I’m going to support him any way that I can. That’s what I do with my players and I’m, again, happy for him, happy for his family and what a great career that he was able to have. The best part of it for me was [that] it was all in one spot. Not a lot of players are able to say that at the end of a career and Eric, in this case, is able to say that.

Q: Sean, he mentioned that he would like to have a role with this team moving forward. Have there been any discussions on what that could look like?

A: Yeah, I don’t really get involved in those discussions very often. Those are conversations for another time.

Q: Sean, was he limited at all with this injury during the season?

A: No.

Q: I know the news was leaked on Friday. Did the other players find out the same time that we did or did they have some prior knowledge?

A: To my knowledge, it was all about the same time. Things happen somewhat fast coming down after the season and Eric did his due diligence to make sure he had enough of the opinions and what not to make his decisions the way he did.

Q: When did you find out, Sean?

A: I think it was, obviously, after the season and the following days and weeks as Eric went through his process and along with the docs.

General Manager Brandon Beane

Q: Is there an issue on [Eric Wood’s] status with the team?

A: We’re really focused on – I’m not getting into all that. We’re totally focused on this day for Eric and his family and his friends. [There were a] lot of ex-players here. It was neat support for him and that’s really all this day should be about.

Q: He mentioned that there would be a lot of questions. After this statement, I feel like a lot of people are going to have those. Is there any sort of clarity you can provide to this situation?

A: No, it’s tough. There’s all sorts of things when you’re doing roster management and all that so he’ll stay on the roster for now and we’ll figure out what’s the best tactic for the Buffalo Bills as we move forward but, really, we’re a long way away from figuring out where we’re going.

Q: Does there remain any chance he could still play?

A: You know, to be honest with you, I don’t believe so but that’s – again, we’re just really trying to, with the news, it happened fast for him and for us too. We’re all still soaking it in and trying to make the best decisions.

Q: Obviously, a lengthy delay. It was my understanding there was a lot of discussion going on as to precisely how to handle this [between] wording, just a statement and no questions; that sort of thing. Can you give us the best explanation you can on where things stand on that front?

A: Well, I think they were just a little bit late getting in here, to be honest with you. I know he had a phone call to make with his agent and I don’t know what was discussed.

Q: How much contact did you have with Eric between the time he found out about the neck and today, or was this the first time you’ve had this discussion?

A: No, we’ve talked a few times. Yeah, it’s tough. I talked to him about his family; he just had a kid. It’s a big blow for everybody and we’re all just soaking it in. This was fast news and as Eric said, unfortunately, it got leaked on Friday, I believe, so that kind of threw a wrench in everything.

Q: Brandon, as GM, obviously you’ve always got to look ahead. How do you fill this leadership void that he creates?

A: It’s a big void. You guys know what leadership he brought. There’s a reason we re-signed him in August and had hoped – you know, we extended him two years and you always hope to get all the years. It doesn’t always happen and unfortunately, here, it didn’t. No, it’s a big void on the field and in the locker room and we’ll do our best to try and do that.

Q: So, the fact that he’s still on the roster, is that an indication that there is some unresolved contractual stuff?

A: Well, we don’t have any cap room right now. You roll it over. He’ll be on our roster for a while, until we figure things out.

Q: Not to get specific, I know you can’t do that, but is there a certain way you kind of have to approach this as far as the CBA is concerned with all different kinds of designations? Is that what you’re working through right now?

A: Yeah. That’s all what it is. We’ll get it worked out. He’ll do stuff on his end and we’ll do it with the help of the league office and the management council and we’ll figure it out from there.

Q: Is it disappointing in the sense that the day that you hope to send Eric off just became something to this effect? Just a statement?

A: Well, that’s why you just want to try and celebrate and hopefully he can celebrate again. I think it’s neat that he was able to get a lot of ex-players and friends and a lot of guys that are in this locker room here and staff, and that shows what Eric meant to the team and the community. I’d really rather just leave it at that. I think that’s the fair thing for him and for us right now.

Q: Do you know why he didn’t elaborate anymore? No questions or anything?

A: I’m not sure. Yeah, I’m not sure.

Q: Is it your understanding that his intention is to be done playing football?

A: I believe that’s what he’s been told now. Again, we’re still working through it. We’re not going to do any designations until we get a finality from both sides.

Q: He mentioned Dr. Cappuccino in his statement. How aware are you of a second opinion he might have gotten on that?

A: You know, I don’t want to get into it. I know he did, but I don’t know how many.

Q: Taking the football aspect out of it completely, you obviously know these guys. You work with them, you see them on a day-to-day basis. How tough is it for you as a General Manager to hear something like this?

A: Eric’s a good guy and he brought a good personality to the locker room. Like you said, he was one of the guys I know everybody media-wise went to in certain situations good or bad for this team. Even as I was coming on board, I was looking at some of the guys that generally are in front of the microphone and so he brought a leadership, Captain, all those things. I think somebody asked earlier, that’s hard to fill on the field and off the field but we’ll do our best to get that done.

Q: Brandon, so as I understand it, you’re still trying to figure things out from both sides in terms of some type of settlement CBA-related, how this goes, and I didn’t hear you say definitively that Eric Wood feels he’s done playing football.

A: I don’t want to get into that, whether he’s definitive or not. I think we’re still – this is all fresh. It’s all new. There’s never a perfect timetable for somebody to come up and talk about a situation like this. This is, again, I just hope we all as we report on this and write about it, we can support Eric and write about his day and try to make it about him and not about us going forward.

Q: What was the purpose of this, though? You have all these people here for that? For a minute and 42 seconds and then he walked out?

A: This is Eric’s day, so if he wanted to talk for twenty minutes, he could talk for twenty. That’s not something I can really answer.

Q: Did the team set this up or did Eric ask for it or how did it come about?

A: I think it was mutual.

Q: There seems to be some disagreement on his side somewhere. Did you know this was coming or did this day go different than you envisioned it waking up this morning?

A: I didn’t really have a vision for what it would be like. I’ve been to many different ones. They all have their own flavor.

Q: When did you find out that Eric was told he couldn’t play football anymore?

A: A couple of weeks ago [was] the first time. It happened pretty quick after the Jacksonville game but I don’t remember the exact date but it was within a week of that game.

Q: I might of missed this, but he is getting a second opinion to your knowledge?

A: I believe he’s had more than one opinion, yes.

Q: Already.

A: Yeah. He has.

Q: And both opinions lined up?

A: I think that’s where it’s at. I can’t say he’s not going to get any more.

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander

Q: It seems like this decision was almost made for him. In a way, do you think that makes it a little easier [to walk away]?

A: Yeah, I mean, it can because it’s always hard to figure out ‘when is it time to leave the game?’ especially when you’re playing at a level that is still pretty high, pretty competitive. Guys, even though you are capable of doing more than playing football, it is always hard [saying], ‘okay, what will I do with my time? How will I transition? Where can I fill that other time?’ So in that sense, it is easier because you can’t do it anymore so now you’re kind of forced or have to walk away and it’s hard for a lot of guys just because you’re used to [this]. You’ve been doing it since you’ve been a little boy and been doing it very well and at a high level and it is hard to walk away and I’m kind of at this stage in my own career, right? When is that time for my family and myself to move on, and it is a hard decision to make.

Q: Can you speak to the respect and leadership value that he represents?

A: I think if you’ve ever been around Eric [Wood], and many of you guys have, he’s a guy that myself, Kyle Williams, LeSean McCoy, and other veterans on this team that are seen as leaders are willing to follow. I think that’s the ultimate testament, [is] when you have people in your peer group and who have accomplished the same things that you have that are willing to follow you. He’s true to who he is; Christian man, husband, great athlete, accountability, gives back, serves, all those things and it’s genuine and it’s real. It’s not what he shows on TV or in front of the camera. He’s that same guy when he’s at home with his family and dealing with us away from the building. It’s just been great for me to be around a man like him of his caliber. He’s been inspiring me in my life and holds me accountable and wants me to achieve more as well for myself.

Q: Lorenzo, I’m too far ahead, but how do you fill that void now? That’s a void, right?

A: Yeah, it is a void. Based on that press conference, hopefully he’s still with the organization in some type of capacity. Obviously, he won’t be able to play on Sundays, but just being in that locker room, whether it’s being an assistant coach in some fashion and just being able to speak to young guys and still mentor and tutor them and just being around for me too. To be able to bounce ideas off of because we used to drive to games together and be able to talk about more than just Sundays was always helpful to me.

Former Bills Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Q: When you think of your time with Eric [Wood] on the field, what is something that stands out?

A: My favorite memory with Eric, probably, is we were in Cincinnati. It was a Stevie [Johnson] ‘Why So Serious’ game and that was like 2011, I believe.

Q: It was a good win.

A:  It was a great comeback win, but it was the first time Eric was going home to play against Cincinnati, [his] hometown. He leads the team out of the tunnel, he’s all excited and I’m standing behind him. They introduced the Bills, we’re running out, and he runs to the wrong sideline. He just runs straight out to Cincinnati’s sideline and there’s nothing I can do at this point. We’re getting booed and he can’t hear me and we’re supposed to cut across the field diagonal. Eric’s, I don’t know, 30 yards in running and then I think he started looking and saw some of the stripes on the helmets and things. He had to make an awkward left and run across the field. I made sure to let him know that I saw what he did. That was maybe because he was a hometown guy and got a little confused. When I was thinking about some of the stuff we had been through, that was one of the funnier things I could remember playing with him.

Q: When he gets the news right before his son is born, he mentions that, so the idea of your career ending to being a family guy and thinking about your whole life past that, it’s sort of interesting, isn’t it, that that all was coming together at the same time for a guy?

A: Yeah, the timing of it was crazy, but I think – let’s not think about Eric for a second, let’s think about his wife. Let’s think about Leslie having the baby with all the emotions that are going on and having Eric’s career and balancing him not being able to play anymore and all the things that they had to go through as a family was pretty remarkable. I know that she is a really strong woman and they’ve got a great relationship. He’s a great example of a great husband, a great father, and so just the strength in the last few weeks that she has shown has been pretty remarkable. It’s nice to see a guy like that that’s going to be able to walk away with two beautiful kids. He’s had a great career and did a great job while he was here.

Q: You know Eric. He’s been known as a huge community advocate in this area. As somebody who’s been at the head of a football team many times, how important is it to be involved in the community?

A: Well, I think it’s important, but he’s not a guy that is just doing it to make sure people pat him on the back. He’s a guy that truly cares about the community and the things that he’s doing. That’s always been the most impressive thing with Eric, is he’s just a genuine person. I think Buffalo in general, the city of Buffalo, the fans, they see how genuine he is. You’re not going to be able to fake it in front of these fans. They’ve really embraced him, who he is as a player and as a human being because it all comes from the heart and it’s very genuine with him.

Q: You haven’t been teammates with him in quite some time. Still wanting to come here and make the effort. Does that kind of talk about the bond and how much he’s meant to you?

A: I was really excited when he reached out to me and told me about the press conference. Just to come out here and support him, because we had a great run here for four years and it didn’t end there. We’re going to be lifelong friends just with the bond we established here. I had my hands under center plenty with him, and you tend to form a unique bond when you’re that close with somebody. Eric has been a phenomenal example and representative of the city of Buffalo, just the way that he pays the game, the way he approaches life. I was happy for him to extend an invitation and it’s something I wouldn’t miss for the world.

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