The Buffalo Bills opened their voluntary veteran minicamp on Tuesday. The camp continues through Thursday.
Transcripts from media sessions with coach Rex Ryan, linebacker Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown, quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor and center Eric Wood, provided by the Buffalo Bills:
HC Rex Ryan
This is really, truly the next step in the learning phase, especially when you’re putting in a new offense, defense, all those types of things. We’ve had a couple of weeks of real good classroom work but there’s nothing like putting it on the field and everything’s new.
Even your drills are new this time so we had the defense running through a pursuit drill at the start of practice and at the end of it, I said, ‘Ok. We’re bringing the pursuit…we’re running into the boundary. We’re running the drill into the boundary.’ Forgot the point, had ten guys go this direction, had one guy go this direction, they’re running into each other--so that’s on me, but it was only two of the biggest guys we have run into each other. Other than that, they never killed each other so that was good.
Through this year, you really are trying to accomplish a couple things; it is the next step. It is a teaching phase so the tempo of it, it’s still not where you’re going to be obviously when training camp or when you get the pads on and things. You still go, but you also have to protect your teammates so learning how to practice, never put your teammate at risk--those are things that we try to teach.
The other things are: it’s the…how it worked was perfect. We gave them a week off so we had two weeks in the classroom, a week off and then, you throw it right back at them so it’s like, ‘Here you are. What you’ve taken the first two weeks, we’re putting on the field and you better have done something at home mentally,’ so we’ll see where it is. We did make some mistakes out there, but overall I was pretty pleased. We looked fairly sharp. Obviously you have some guys that can’t practice, but they’re doing what they can through individual. You’ll see Sammy Watkins running out there going through the mental part of it. He breaks the huddle even, then lines up and at his position so he’s doing what he can. I think it’s great. Other than that, it was good to get a look at these guys. Some things jump out.
We have a lot of speed both on offense and defense. Speed kills and I think that’s a great thing for us and that was evident today.
The quarterbacks have a pretty good grasp for two weeks of what we’re doing there. We put a couple of drills in. That’s probably different from the first day you normally have and then we invented some new defenses out there like, ‘Where did that one come from? We got eight guys lined up here,’ and my thought was, ‘We haven’t put that in yet,’ but we did that…blew a couple of patterns, but overall I was pretty happy and with that, I’ll open it up for questions.
Q: Can you give me a ball-park percentage of players that are here at least, here paying attention doing mental reps?
A: I wasn’t a very good math student. That’s going to be a common theme throughout these things: can’t spell, was horrible in English, Math. Not so good but French…I was an outstanding French student so I was poor in every subject so I don’t know what a percentage would be but we had a really high number in attendance. We did have a couple of guys that they called…we know their situations so you can say excused so really, this a voluntary camp, but I was really impressed with the numbers that we had.
Q: You and Coach Roman have talked about trying to get as many reps for all the quarterbacks you have. Does that process begin in even this setting as far as…you talked about two different fields; offense vs. defense, etc.?
A: Yeah, they all got reps. I think (Jeff) Tuel’s probably the only one. He kind of got short changed a little bit, but he did get a number of reps as well but I think the top three were getting the exact number of reps and I think, Jeff he got plenty of reps but it wasn’t maybe the exact number that those guys had, but yeah, we’re definitely trying to get everybody in there…all the reps, everybody treated similar. We want to see what everybody can do, not just one or two guys so that doesn’t--that’s not just for the quarterbacks, that’s every position.
Q: Can you use this part of it though for the evaluation of really determining who that guy is and how do you use these drills in that way?
A: I think you can. I definitely think it starts right now because you’re taking two weeks of preparation in the classroom putting it on the practice field. I will say this: there have been guys very impressive in the classroom--now when they get out here, can they take it to the field? That’s the most important thing so yeah, you start with it there. The thing I noticed about (Matt) Cassel; the ball comes out in rhythm. It’s here. It’s boom, boom, boom. Hitting it. EJ (Manuel) was impressive to me today. I’d still like to see it speeded up just a tad, but he was impressive and Tyrod (Taylor) made some huge plays today. So I think his--he throws the deep ball extremely well and you put him on the move, he’s a dangerous weapon out there so I think the top three…Tuel wasn’t as impressive today. (There are a) couple things that he’s probably got to get a little better at, but overall I was impressed with the group.
Q: When it comes to EJ, that’s been his little bugaboo; taking it from the classroom and putting it on the field and speeding it up. I know it’s early. I know it is a first impression, but what you said is what we’ve seen for the previous two years. Is that any sort of concern?
A: No and again, I think I prefaced it, it’s just a little like this but I was impressed with for instance, he saw a guy, he looked a feel here and made a great throw down the field where clearly to me, it shows that he can see the field. That was impressive to me and there was no question about it mentally. I think he was sharp so that part, I was impressed with EJ but as far as Cassel--it’s boom, boom. You see it. Even in drills, you know you’re running out routes, bam. The ball’s out there on time. It’s just one of those things where I think when EJ sees it, it’s like, ‘Ok. Let me deliver it right here.’ Before he hits that break, that’s when the ball needs to come out and I think I was impressed though especially with mentally part of it. I was impressed with all of them.
Q: It’s just the way you’re talking, it sounds like you’re kind of fired up about this quarterback competition like you’ve had in the past probably, but this one is really a three ring battle royal. You seem like you’re pumped about it?
A: Well, hey guys: I’d rather have, you know in a perfect world--this is our guy. You know what I mean? But I’m excited about the competition. I really am. All the guys and you can throw Tuel, but I’m being realistic. The three top guys, in my opinion. You don’t know how it’s going to shake out. There’s not anybody that knows how it’s going to shake out. We might predict this or predict that and if you polled everybody…you might get…there’s nobody probably going to line up exactly, so I think it’s going to be interesting. Let’s let it shake it out. The great thing is, we’re going to provide it. We’re going to give them a platform that’s going to showcase what they can all do and we’ll see what happens and I’m confident…I feel good about the three guys. Is it a perfect situation? No. I’m not saying it is but I feel good that we have three…we’ll see about the options as it goes forward, but I think by the time it ended there, it’ll be a clear guy who’ll be a number one guy but that’s in an ideal world but you have three guys in my opinion who can be NFL quarterbacks.
Q: Is there a danger right now to be so amped up for the season that you put in too much and you have to slow things down and make sure you’re giving them the right amount because it is a new offense and it is a new defense?
A: No, I think we have a veteran coaching staff and so we’ve been there and done it. From Greg Roman to Dennis Thurman…we’ve implemented defenses before and offenses before and you know the steps that it takes. I think what you’re seeing right now is the proper steps going into it where you’re not overloading it. Maybe as a first year coordinator or something like that, I could definitely see your point but not here and we are excited. There’s no question about it, but we also understand the process and I told that to the players today. I said, ‘Look; some guys right now…offensive line in particular: anytime you’re going, ‘Hey: it’s a fundamental part of it.’ ‘Hey: I’m stepping this way.’ ‘My cut-off step’s here.’ ‘Coach Kromer wants me to step flatter.’ Whatever it is, all that’s step here and we’re going to end up here. There’s a long, long way to go but I’m excited about where we are.
Q: On conditioning, Rex: I know they had conditioning earlier on this month but where are you with knowing and seeing the guys out there. Did they come back all better conditioned than you hoped or is there some work to do or about what you usually expect?
A: We’ll see how it is tomorrow when they come out. Do we have hamstrings? Do we have those types of things, backs--so we’ll probably have a better gauge of that tomorrow morning but I was pretty pumped. We had a couple of guys…maybe one guy at one position. He had to go thirty reps. I’d say that dudes in shape, but I’m not saying we’re anywhere close to where we’re going to be. Where we want to be before going into training camp. There’s a long way to go there however I think we’re off to a decent start. I think having those two weeks. That preparation before with our strength coaches has helped.
Q: Looking at the draft coming up. With no first rounder, you’ve got three picks in the first five rounds and then you’ve got three at the end. Is there a chance that and the way you build your roster through free agency, could this draft be one of the most least impactful drafts because of the numbers…you’ve only got six picks and three of those are late in the draft?
A: I get where the question’s coming from, but this is going to be…no draft is non-important. I think this is an important draft for us. No doubt about that. Impactful on how many starters we get out of a draft? I can see where that’s coming from. We have a deep roster already, so for a guy to have immediate impact as a starter, it might be difficult. Am I saying it’s impossible? No. It depends on how the draft falls. There might be one or two guys that come in and do have a major impact so we’ll see how it goes but I can tell you this: it’s an important draft for us and the numbers might not be a huge draft class or whatever, but each pick is important.
Q: That question comes from this team through its most recent history for sure, there’s been space for draft picks to make the roster. They’ll have seven or eight picks and most of those guys make it. This year, it doesn’t seem like, and Doug has even said that sixth and seventh round guys are going to have a hell of time making the roster so that’s where I’m coming from on that. Do you agree with that?
A: Yeah, and it is not just sixth or seventh. We’ll see what happens but yeah, it’s going to be tough to make this roster. It’s deep at several positions but there are opportunities at other positions where guys can come in and compete but to say you’re going to have every draft pick make the team? Boy, I don’t know and as I mentioned it’s a credit to Doug Whaley and his staff for the type of talent that they’ve collected here because there’s a lot of talent on this team.
Q: You mentioned that the quarterback is important. What do you hope do you take out of it? What do you hope to come away with this weekend?
A: We get Buffalo Bills. Guys that are passionate, love to play the game, and will fit right back in with what we already have here. I think that’s going to be the critical part of it and talent? Obviously, let’s see what happens. To target a specific position? We’re not doing that. We’ll see. I think we’ll do a great job. I really believe in the scouting department. I think our guys have lined it up. Taking impact from the coaches as well, included the coaches so I don’t think we’ll be surprised. I think I know where the board’s lining up for us but we’ll be ready. Whatever presents itself, I think Doug Whaley and our crew will be ready for whatever shows.
Q: How much film do you watch of these kids that are ready to be drafted?
A: I try to watch every kid that’s up there on our top 200 and some kids or whatever, but I’m certainly not going to be an expert over the guys (compared to) Doug Whaley whose done it all year, over a scouting department and even the position coaches. Where I may watch one or two or three games, some of these guys…number one; the scouting department will watch every single game. The coaches will watch at least three to four games, but I’ll have an opinion about it. There’s no question about it and I will be more of an expert involved in certain players.
Q: You, Greg Roman and Doug Whaley have been pretty consistent with saying that the best five guys will play along the offensive line. How has that been formulated today since the first day you’ve actually been able to get out there and practice?
A: Well I think today, you have a plan, ‘Hey: here’s how we’re going to line up.’ Tomorrow: we may line up differently and I think that’s going to keep from kind of, ‘Oh…we’re teaching you the system. Not just the position,’ and I think that’s good to watch and so they may not know it but tomorrow it may look different.
Q: Who lined up where today?
A: Well, if you’re talking about Glenn, Cordy--he was playing left tackle today and (Seantrel) Henderson was at right tackle. So will that change tomorrow? I don’t know.
Q: Back to the draft: Second round picks…you don’t have to look too far to see guys that have made an impact with this team: Aaron Williams, Cordy Glenn. LeSean was traded for in exchange for Kiko who obviously was a second round pick too, so I know you don’t know what you’re getting but with that pick are you hopeful that you can get a guy that can just come right in and make an impact like some of these guys have in that slot?
A: Yeah, I think that’s going to depend on maybe the position of that player. There might be a bigger opportunity at a certain position over others. If you’re drafting a corner with that pick, it’s going to be pretty tough for that guy to have a major impact meaning as a starter or something like if we draft him on this football team. Same thing about a defensive tackle perhaps, but if there’s another position maybe the young man can come in and be a starter but for us, I will say this: part of the reason those players that you talk about, they were probably the best player and we took them and I think that’s going to be the important thing here. We’re not just going to reach on what a perceived need is over the best player…the best Buffalo Bill player.
Q: How do you feel about what you have opposite Aaron Williams after losing Da’Norris Searcy?
A: Well, Searcy was an outstanding player. There’s no doubt about that but I think people are…we feel pretty good about Duke (Williams) and really some other guys. The (Jonathan) Meeks kid was coming on. He got hurt, so we’ll see. There’s going to be some opportunities for other guys and clearly that’s going to be a spot that when you lose a starter, next man steps up, but I think with Duke Williams in particular--we’re excited to see what he can do.
Q: What’s your draft room demeanor been like in the past and I know you said you’re going to defer a lot to Doug and those scouts but you’re going to have opinions. How do you impart those opinions on them just they way you conducted yourself say over the last six years with the Jets?
A: Well I think that changed during my six years there…it seemed like. But no, I’m going to be there for them. There’s no question about it. I think I have the talent for judging talent so I think we’ll utilize it. We’re going to utilize the fact that we have some guys that in my opinion do a tremendous job. I mentioned for a long time, Doug Whaley and I look at…we’re kind of brought up the same way albeit he was in a different spot but we almost see football players the same way and how you win. Jim Monos, I think is tremendous. Just going through it was interesting. Sitting back, they’d ask my opinion. I’d certainly give it.
Q: What’d you see from Bryce Petty on tape?
A: Oh he’s terrible. (Laughs) That way, we’re not going to say anything. I’d rather not talk about anybody specifically. Just saying that there’s a lot of talent in this draft…in this draft class but obviously, he’s a young man that we’re looking at.
Q: How do you feel about the guys behind Charles Clay at tight end given Greg Roman’s propensity to go with multiple guys there?
A: Well, today it’s hard to evaluate anything like that. You don’t really have the pads on. We threw the ball more today than we’re probably going to in two games or so…three games because you don’t have the pads on so, but it was…it’s interesting guys look pretty good to me running around in shorts, but I think the true indication’s going to be when we put those pads on.
Q: You’re a hockey fan and spent time in New York City. Is it going to be strange to see the Islanders in Brooklyn?
A: Yeah, I think so. I think that’ll be a little strange but it’s been what they’ve been wanting. They want a new arena and everything else so we’ll see how that works for them but obviously they had a great…on Long Island in particular. I know those fans are loyal.
Q: You’ve lost some time in the off-season because of the coaching change but your experience with your job, your coordinators are experienced with their job, your team is veteran laden but how much of an advantage is it that this period isn’t so much about catch-up as it might be on a team with a rookie head coach or a team that’s closer to square one?
A: I’m way further along than I was the first year as a head coach because of that experience and you mentioned the coordinators; they’ve all been there and done it. You have an assistant…offensive assistant, Chris Palmer who is a big help, so I feel like its we’re right where we want to be recognizing we have a long way to but I know we’ll get there. I’m confident we’ll get there based on past experiences.
Q: At your time as a head coach and going back to an assistant, how much has it changed evaluating guys with some off-field concerns and character issues going into a draft because of all the suspensions that have come down, the social media that’s out there and things like that. When you look at a guy, there’s been a couple lately that have had there incidents that have been talked about a lot. How much has it changed when you evaluate them now compared to when you came into the league or even maybe just a few years ago?
A: I’m not so sure that it’s changed a whole lot. Everybody would do their homework in those areas, so I don’t think that’s really changed. I think the fact it’s out there more readily I think is maybe something that…injuries for instance. The public might not have known something about a player where now the public knows more about that but internally, you always did the same thing. I don’t think it’s changed a whole lot that way internally.
Q: If you’re watching film and some college players stick out to you, do you go to Doug and say, ‘Hey: what about these guys?’ How does that detailed discussion work? If there are players that stand out to you.
A: Oh yeah. When you’re watching tape, sometimes you’ll figure out, ‘Hey: who the heck is this guy?’ I’m watching this other player, but this guy’s popping out on you. A lot of times, those guys are the ones you really want, but has that really happened as much this year? No, I haven’t seen that as much this year, but obviously you’re looking. Sometimes you’ll recognize that player and it’s a year before he comes out. Some of those guys just pop off the tape to you and you remember them the next year ‘Oh yeah. I remember this kid.’
Q: Jets in prime time: How do you like that?
A: As long as we win, it doesn’t matter when we play them.
LB Nigel Bradham
Q: First day with the new coaches on the field. How did they do things differently?
A: It was great. I felt like we had a good tempo, it went pretty fast and everything was up tempo. Guys were communicating well. We pretty much just got to get the techniques and the terminology down as far as the adjustments from last year. Just transitioning to all the new terminology.
Q: What did you make of the Kiko Alonso trade?
A: It’s a tough business. Obviously a close friend of mine. We still talk. Just wish the best for him. He’s going to excel and we all know that. He’s a great player and I just keep wishing the best for him.
Q: Were you as surprised as the rest of us?
A: Most definitely. It shocked the whole league. It’s all about making our team better and that is one of the things we’ve just got to deal with. The organization felt like it was a good move and we just had to deal with that.
Q: What does it say about the faith they have in you and Preston (Brown)?
A: It says a lot. It definitely says a lot. Obviously that was probably one of the main reasons they did it. Me and Preston, we just have to keep stepping it up and keep getting better every day.
LB Preston Brown
Q: This is your first year as an NFL player going through the offseason conditioning program, how has that changed for you?
A: It’s a lot better for me because coming from the combine and the draft and all that working out, you really don’t get a break. To actually get that break and get my mind right to get back, I feel excited to be back.
Q: How much did you have to hit the reset button in your mind because of all the changes that happened with the coaching staff?
A: Just kind of have to erase everything you had to learn. It’s not that hard because I just got in to it. It’s just learning everything again. It’s fun though.
Q: What did you think of the faith that this team showed in the linebacker group to be able to trade Kiko Alonso away?
A: It shows they have a lot of confidence in us and that is what we want. With me and Nigel (Bradham), we think we have a lot of talent coming back. Just get some depth behind us and be ready to go out there every week.
QB EJ Manuel
Q: Day one and finally on the field. Was it good to get back out there?
A: Yeah, it felt great. It was good to actually get back out here. We’ve been going over plays for a while now, so it was good to get the receivers going against the defense and getting guys to cover and all that kind of stuff. It was an actual good luck.
Q: Do you feel like the competition has begun?
A: Oh yeah, no doubt. I thought it started when we all got back two weeks ago or three weeks ago. Even in the film room and trying to grasp the offense because it’s like a race to see who knows it the best. Obviously you want to know it just like Coach Roman does.
Q: Is it tough that one of the quarterbacks in that room is going in to his 11th season? Isn’t he going to know more and know it faster than everyone else?
A: I don’t think that makes it tougher. I think you still have to go out and play football and just make good decisions when you’re out on the field.
QB Tyrod Taylor
Q: How did things progress today being on the field for the first time?
A: It felt good. We got a chance to go out there and split reps, but it was a chance to go out there and put some of the stuff that we learned in the last couple weeks in the classroom on to the field and actually see guys move around with the football flying around. I think it was a good day. A good start to a great season.
Q: You’re not foreign to not getting a ton of work in a practice setting. Is this something that really wasn’t an adjustment for you in splitting the reps?
A: Yeah, regardless of the reps we did it differently in Baltimore. It’s been 60-40 at times and there have been practices where I didn’t get reps. I think the main key regardless of how many reps you get is that you take the ones you get seriously and you make the best of them. That is what I tried to do today. Walking in to practice I knew it was kind of going to be an even split, but you never know if practice can change things. Just try to make the best of the reps you can get.
Q: When you’re on the side watching the other guys, what was the feedback you were getting from Coach Lee today?
A: Of course, listening to him correct you on the reps that you had. But also trying to learn from the other reps. When you’re not in, you have to be learning. That is something I learned throughout my years in Baltimore. You have to learn through visuals. Everything has to be visual because you can’t get everything repped out. You have to be able see things and learn from those reps as well.
C Eric Wood
Q: Adjusting to the quarterbacks as they rotate in and out, what is the process there?
A: Snap count and cadence, that is the hardest adjustment there. They’re all going to kind of adjust to us where they put their hands, taking the snap and whatever. Just getting used to the snap counts will be something, but we’re all learning. They’re learning new snap counts, so at this point we’re all learning. It’s not necessarily one quarterback is behind or one center is off.
Q: What is the short term goal for you and your fellow linemates?
A: We’re just trying to work every day to get better. That’s cliché, but this time of year and without pads on that is all you can do. Work on your feet and work on your hands, learn the assignments. Get going in the right direction. Little stuff like that. Work on playing lower and then ounce training camp starts, then you get to start playing real football and we’ll be able to evaluate everyone better.
Q: How intrigued are you by the notion that there could be a lot of shuffling along the offensive line this offseason?
A: Yeah, I’m excited to give everybody a shot. See how everyone reacts, being with the ones and being with the twos. See how it all shakes out. We have a lot of talent, but we’re not playing great yet. I think we’ll definitely get there, but it will be interesting to see how all these really talented players step up when given the opportunity.