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'Defend our Dirt' more than a slogan to Bills' players

Vlad Ducasse reached into the black backpack sitting next to him in front of his dressing cubicle and pulled out a small glass jar.

"I always carry it with me," the Buffalo Bills' offensive guard said, proudly showing it to a reporter after Friday's practice.

Every player on the team has the same jar, with each containing the same brownish mixture of ground rubber and sand. It's supposed to serve as a constant reminder of the slogan coined by coach Sean McDermott: "Defend our Dirt."

"That's from the football field here and some of the sand from camp," Ducasse said of the jar's contents. "All the blood, sweat and tears, everything you've been through. So now, defend it. Go out there and defend it."

A "Defend our Dirt" sign hangs in the hallway outside of the Bills' dressing room at New Era Field. Each player gives it tap on the way out.

Corny? Perhaps. A bit too rah-rah for the NFL? Maybe.

But it's fair to say that, at some level, it works. For the record, the Bills are 2-0 at home this season with victories against the New York Jets and Denver Broncos. They play their third game of the year at New Era Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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You can bet every man on the roster is going to be placing a hand on that "Defend our Dirt" sign before kickoff. That includes even their most senior veteran, 12th-year defensive tackle Kyle Williams.

"Statistically, it shows that teams that make the playoffs or win championships, they're winning 80 or 90 percent of their home games," Williams said. "Of their eight home games, they're going to win six or seven, win three or four on the road. And that's kind of what it goes back to. If we want to be the team we want to be, we have to be able to defend our dirt, win at home.

"It's got to matter. Any time that we're at home, we have the crowd, we have the comfort zone of being here, it has to mean something. Playing well at home has to be big for us, so every time we go out and have the crowd, have an opportunity to grab the momentum and play well here, we have to do it."

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