Tyrod Taylor wore his “ALL IN” hoodie, just as many of his Buffalo Bills teammates did during Monday’s start to the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program.
The quarterback called it a constant reminder of “what we’re here for, everyone being accountable, and everyone coming in and working and putting their best foot forward and (having a) positive mindset.”
But just how easy is it for Taylor to remain positive when the Bills so far don’t seem “all in” with the idea of giving him a long-term contract extension?
“Very easy for me to stay positive,” he told reporters. “I’m here to work, that’s what I came here to do. We’re preparing for the 2016 season and I’m looking forward to it.”
With that, Taylor put to rest any notion that his uncertain contract situation is going to be any sort of distraction to him. His patented elusiveness on the field was nothing compared to the way he deftly danced away from thorny questions while standing behind a lectern in the ADPRO Sports Training Center.
Reporters tried multiple times to get Taylor to address a subject that has brought strong negative public reaction from his agent, Adisa Bakari, who hasn’t been able to get the Bills to engage in serious negotiations. The team has identified getting long-term agreements with offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, who has a $13.7-million franchise tag, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who like Taylor is entering the final year of his contract, as higher priorities. They’ve also made it clear they’re in the market for a quarterback.
“I know the contract that I signed up for last year,” Taylor said of the agreement that pays him $3 million this year. “I understand it, I understand my contract fully, so the business side … whether I’m out there playing under a contract or extension, my preparation does not change mentally or physically. I’m here to get this team better, I’m here to better myself and do what I can to help our team compete for a Super Bowl next year.
“… The business side of it will handle itself. Whether that gets done or not, that has to handle itself. I’m just here to work and get better as a player.”
Taylor insisted he’s not reading or listening to media accounts of his contract status. Nonetheless, he was asked about Bakari’s recent comments on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Taylor wasn’t the cause of the Bills’ 8-8 nonplayoff finish last season. The agent pointed his finger at poor defensive play and a lack of discipline.
Taylor did his best to distance himself from that perspective. He insisted he wasn’t the least bit concerned that the remarks would put him in a bad light with his teammates.
According to Taylor, there has been no negative feedback in the locker room whatsoever.
“When it comes to last year, we won as a team and we lost as a team,” he said. “Both (offense and defense) are accountable. We know that as players, we know that individually. And that’s what we’re here to do – to better ourselves, learn from last year and continue to move forward as a team.”
Coach Rex Ryan was emphatic in his support of Taylor. He made a point of separating Bakari’s comments from his quarterback.
“That never came from Tyrod’s lips,” Ryan said. “Our players respect the heck out of Tyrod and I know, being around Tyrod, the competitor in him and all that, this is a team game. It’s not an individual thing or whatever.
“But he would never criticize his teammates. In fact, he’s a guy that shoulders the blame more than he ducks responsibility. The agent’s guilty of trying to get his client the best contract he can do. That’s the job of an agent. The fact that he went about it this way, did it make me happy? Hell, no.”
Throughout the team, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of concern that the contract issue will do anything to hurt Taylor’s performance. So far, no one sees any changes in the level-headed approach that went a long way toward allowing him to win the starting job last season.
“I think one of the biggest characteristic traits about Tyrod I admire is just his cool, calm, collected demeanor,” offensive guard Richie Incognito said. “Tyrod can run for a 70-yard touchdown or throw an interception, and you wouldn’t know the difference. I think his demeanor will kind of carry over and help him through this situation. I’m sure, on some levels, it’s frustrating. But his character and his leadership and those things, those traits will carry him through this.”
For Taylor, it’s an entirely different offseason than a year ago, when he was preparing to be part of a three-way competition for the starting job with EJ Manuel and former Bill Matt Cassel.
Taylor sees himself as the leader of the offense and one of the primary leaders of the team. He is confident his coaches and teammates feel the same way.
“(It) definitely brings more confidence and, of course, it brings more responsibility,” Taylor said. “Having a full year under Coach (Greg) Roman’s offense, he expects more out of me, he expects more out of our offensive unit and we expect more amongst the players as well, too, so we’re holding ourselves to a high standard this offseason and everybody’s going to go in the classroom and go to work.”
There have been multiple areas where Taylor has focused to improve his game. At the top of the list is being more vocal at times.
“Guys are going to look for you in the heat of the moment, so you have to go out there and display that you can go out there and handle those moments,” he said.
Taylor also said he has spent time “cleaning up his footwork in the pocket,” so that, while buying time, he’s still able to maintain balance when he throws.
However, one area Taylor doesn’t view as a weakness is an unwillingness to throwing toward the middle of the field, which is commonly cited as a key reason the Bills are hedging their bets on him.
“I can show you plenty of times I threw across the middle of the field,” he said. “Can I be better? Yes, at every position, guys want to strive to get better, and that’s what I’m going to focus on doing. I’m here to learn from my mistakes last year and be better moving forward.”
Taylor addressed several other topics:
• On the Bills’ likely selection of a quarterback during the April 28-30 NFL Draft: “There’s competition at every position. I competed last year and I’ll continue to compete.”
• On whether he feels slighted in light of the $18-million-per-year contract that Brock Osweiler, who has played less than Taylor, received for going from Denver to Houston in free agency: “I can’t control that. Brock, congrats to him. He was going into his free-agent year, so, of course, his deal was up. I can’t look at that and compare that to me. Two totally different situations.”
• On opening the season against the Baltimore Ravens, with whom he spent four seasons as a backup to Joe Flacco before signing with the Bills: “For sure, it’s going to be fun to go back and play against a team that I played for four years. I actually just saw Joe a couple of weeks ago.”