This is the seventh in a 10-part series previewing some of the biggest questions the Buffalo Bills will have to answer when training camp begins July 27 at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford.
Sean McDermott made his expectations for the Buffalo Bills perfectly clear before they headed out of town on summer vacation.
"It’s important that we – as you’ve heard me say before – we win off the field first. That’s how you set yourself up to win on the field, and that we handle this time off the field with class, No. 1," the team's coach said. "We put in the work to earn the right to win as a football team, myself included, and that’s really where it starts. That’s what I expect and the players know that, the coaches know that."
McDermott has been around the NFL long enough, though, to know that the stretch from the middle of June until the end of July is a dead time for the NFL. At least, that's they way it's supposed to be. It can also be ulcer-inducing for a coach.
"It is a period of time on the calendar where things happen, so we have to make sure we stay mindful of that, aware of that, and that we do things the right way," he said, before adding that the break on the calendar "absolutely" worried him. "We’ve discussed that as a team, so pray every night going to bed that as a family we do the right thing and the good Lord takes care of us. The same thing with the players, because I worry about them. I do care about them and we’re all a family here, that’s a big part of it."
As it turned out, McDermott's worries were warranted. Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington was arrested earlier this month in his home state of Ohio and charged with improperly carrying a concealed firearm outside of a waterpark. Intense video of the moment officers approached Washington was later obtained and released by TMZ Sports and shows just how close the situation was from turning tragic.
As officers came toward Washington with their guns drawn, they scream at him not to move. Later, after he is in custody, video shows Washington sitting in the back of a police car. A voice off camera, presumably that of an officer, tells him "you don't know how lucky you are, man. That was close, buddy. Very close.
"Why in the hell would you have that gun in your hand with a cop standing right in front of you? What would you be thinking? I saw you reach for it. I knew something was up."
The Bills have been quiet regarding the matter outside of a team statement issued after the news broke that read "we are aware of the incident regarding Adophus Washington and have been in contact with him. Since it is a pending legal matter, we will have no further comment." (Update: Washington plead not guilty to charges on Monday, July 24.)
McDermott, however, will surely be asked about it Thursday, when the team opens training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford. In many ways, how he handles the situation with Washington will be his first big test as coach of the Bills. Up until this point, he's enjoyed the honeymoon phase all new coaches receive.
After preaching the importance of character since he was hired in January, how McDermott handles the situation with Washington will be closely scrutinized. Will the Bills simply let the legal process play out? Or will they try to make an example out of Washington, knowing that the second-year defensive tackle is a replaceable player?
Before his arrest, Washington figured to be a reserve defensive tackle in Buffalo's 3-4 defense. He figured to be on the second team with Jerel Worthy behind starters Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. Dareus has had his own share of legal issues, so the team would surely like to have as much depth as possible behind him.
Washington's contributions as a rookie third-round draft pick consisted of 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 15 games played, 11 of which were starts. Drafted as a five-technique in Rex Ryan's 3-4 scheme, he was never going to put up huge numbers.
It remains to be seen how he projects as a defensive tackle in the Bills' new 4-3 defense. The bigger question, however, will be just how much McDermott wants to show that character matters.