Wherever you looked Tuesday were players sick and tired of playing second fiddle to the New England Patriots.
On the fieldhouse practice field was Marcell Dareus: “Don’t nobody like the Patriots. Let’s just be honest about it now. Put it out there.”
In the locker room was safety Aaron Williams: “I don’t like New England so, yeah, it’s definitely personal for me. Me saying that may run a lot of stories. But that’s just the way I feel.”
And behind him, cornerback Ron Brooks: “Everybody anointed them the best in our division. I mean, not to take anything away from them, but it’s time for somebody else to step up.”
Emotions are already running high at One Bills Drive.
This is a new team with new coaches and so many new players, but everyone in Buffalo seems to understand the history, and they’re fed up with it. While the Bills haven’t been to the postseason since 1999 – and haven’t won a postseason game since the 1995 season – quarterback Tom Brady has led his team to 21 playoff wins and six Super Bowl appearances.
So for all of the excitement over knocking off the Indianapolis Colts in the season opener, players here still know they have to overtake New England to return to relevancy. Attention turned quickly to their next opponent, a storied, yet hated rival.
Dareus did call Brady a “good guy” and Williams was quick to credit the Patriots’ four Super Bowl wins. But while noting the Patriots weapons, Aaron Williams quickly added that the Bills also have players “who can take care of that.”
And asked why he’s taking this one so personal, the team’s starting safety said he doesn’t like the way the Patriots “carry themselves.”
“All the stuff that has happened to me in the past with some of the players has definitely gone through the roof for me,” he said. “That’s a reason it’s personal for me and they’re our rival. So it’s not just personal. It’s about the Buffalo Bills’ history.”
The last time the Bills beat New England at home was Sept. 25, 2011. Even then, a 5-2 start crashed and burned with a 1-8 finish.
It’s always personal for Rex Ryan, too, the coach known for making bold proclamations before facing Bill Belichick’s Patriots in New York.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham – who’s been around for three years of losing to the Patriots – assured it’s “personal” for all the players, too.
“They’ve been winning the division for who knows how long,” Bradham said. “Obviously a long time. But we have to change that. We have to get the job done.”
Bradham notes that Ryan, having faced Belichick and Brady for six seasons as the Jets’ head coach, knows what both are thinking in certain situations.
“He’s a defensive guru,” Bradham said. “He knows how to attack him.”
To him, what happened in the past doesn’t matter anymore.
Now, it’s about changing the perception that the Bills are nothing but the Patriots’ doormat, a stepping stone to something greater.
“We’re going to put it on tape, man,” Bradham said. “It’s going to be on tape. One thing I will say is that it’s going to be on tape. People will know, people will know.”
Two days after he was a game-day inactive, Bryce Brown was cut by the Bills.
General Manager Doug Whaley originally traded a fourth-round pick to Philadelphia for Brown before the 2014 season. He never panned out. Brown’s fumbling problems persisted into training camp, as rookie Karlos Williams impressed.
Williams had 55 yards on six carries with a touchdown against Indianapolis behind starter LeSean McCoy, as Boobie Dixon also scored a touchdown. In his lone season with the Bills, Brown had 36 carries for 126 yards and crucial fumble in a loss to Kansas City.
Buffalo welcomes back its highest-paid player this week: Dareus. After serving his one-game suspension, he returns to work with a new contract in hand.
Last week, the Bills signed Dareus to an extension that pays him $60 million in guarantees.
“I’m happy I turned my life around,” Dareus said, “and really just kind of put the best foot forward. I know I’m young and stuff happens, but at the same time, I’m just happy to know I’m making the right decisions.”
Dareus wasn’t happy when negotiations broke down in late August, saying “I feel like they don’t really want me here.” Getting the deal done, he added Tuesday, took a weight off his shoulders.
He called signing the deal “emotional.”
“I’ve been a man of my words since I’ve been here,” Dareus added. “I’m going to try my best and whatever’s going to happen, however we’re going to do it, I’m still going to try my best.”
The reinstated Dareus now takes Brown’s place on the 53-man roster.
The Buffalo Bills’ offensive game plan was not to stretch the field vertically against Indianapolis. Rex Ryan said that the team wanted to play “keepaway” from Andrew Luck, so Tyrod Taylor didn’t force the ball downfield to his No. 1 receiver, Sammy Watkins.
And when Watkins was open, Ryan added, the pass protection didn’t hold up.
On Tuesday, Watkins spoke for the first time this week and repeated that he has no problem at all being a decoy if it means the Bills are winning.
“We played great and we won the game,” Watkins said. “I had zero catches. And that’s the great thing about it, I didn’t contribute to the game and we still won. It might be the same way next week. You know never what the outcome will be.”
Still, Watkins wasn’t even targeted until the 10:44 mark of the fourth quarter. Cornerback Vontae Davis shadowed him all game with safety help, so Percy Harvin benefited.
The team’s No. 1 receiver, one who lit up training camp, believes teams will see this on film and see such a plan can backfire.
“If you double me all game,” Watkins said, “we’re going to win the game most definitely because we can pick on the other guys on the other side of the field.”