When Josh Allen heard Wednesday that Lorenzo Alexander is returning for another season with the Buffalo Bills, the young quarterback promptly sent a text to the veteran linebacker.
“As soon as it got done, I said, ‘Congratulations, captain, it’s time to get back to work,’” Allen said by phone Thursday. “He responded with a pretty nice little thing, but that’s what he is, he’s our captain. He's our team leader now, he's our vocal leader.”
In light of the recent retirement of defensive tackle Kyle Williams, Alexander’s remaining with the Bills suddenly becomes even larger in the team’s overall makeup and chemistry. For the 22-year-old Allen, who just finished his rookie season as the Bills’ quarterback, the 35-year-old Alexander represents something larger than a teammate. He also acts as a life coach.
“Not only is he a leader for the team, but he's a big part in the NFLPA and he does a lot of stuff,” Allen said from Los Angeles, in advance of Saturday’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and to participate in the Panini Rookie Appreciation with Panini America, the exclusive trading card partner of the NFL and NFLPA. “He's got his own foundation. He's a guy that a lot of guys can look up to — how good of a family man he is and how good of a person he is.
“It’s obviously great to have someone like that back in the locker room. We love him, we’re super excited to have him back.”
Allen is equally thrilled with the optimism Alexander expressed about the 2019 Bills. Alexander told reporters Wednesday that, after last season’s 6-10 finish, the Bills aren’t “that far off as a team” and that there's no reason why they can’t be in the playoffs next season.
“One-hundred percent,” Allen said when asked if he agreed with Alexander’s assessment. “I think, if you look at this past year, we weren't all that far off from being there this year. I’d say there were a few games that got away from us, but for the most part, you can change four or five plays and the season might be a different story. So I definitely agree with him.
“We’re looking to build something special. We’re looking to go back to the playoffs and develop a sustainable success in Buffalo. And that's what we want to do. That's what the city deserves.”
Allen has benefited greatly from the wisdom that Alexander, Williams and other veterans shared with him last year. Now, the quarterback is spending part of this week offering advice to Collegiate Bowl players about what to expect in the NFL.
One of them is a former Wyoming teammate, running back Nico Evans.
“The one thing I really want to tell them is ride the wave,” Allen said. “There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs. You’re not going to be perfect, so don’t expect to be perfect. Obviously, you want to strive to be perfect, but things aren't going to go your way all the time.
“It’s the league, it’s supposed to beat you down sometimes, and you’ve got to learn and grow from it. At the same time, it's still the game of football that you've grown up loving to play.”
Allen discussed other topics:
On whether he feels good about the core leadership of the team.
“I do. If you look at it, we're a relatively young team. I think there's some stat about us being the third-youngest team that played, whatever it was. With that being said, the leadership that we have on this team, the relationships that have been built, the trust that has been built throughout the season this past season, it's going in the right direction. One, we trust Coach (Sean) McDermott. We trust our front office and we trust Coach (Brian) Daboll on the offensive side of the football.
“I won't speak for the other guys on defense, but I trust Coach (Leslie) Frazier as well. We’ve got a good thing going. Obviously, still a lot of room to grow, a lot of areas to improve on, but I mean I can't help but be excited and get back to work. It’s going to be a long two months to get back there, but staying in touch with the guys, hopefully going to see some of them here pretty soon, get together and continue to build that trust in those relationships.”
On how different this offseason will be than last year, when he was preparing for pre-draft auditions.
“It's a lot different. Obviously, right now, I would be training, I'd be just about ready to go to the Senior Bowl (which begins practices next week in Mobile, Ala.) So it was a hectic time, just finishing the college season, but now it's a little more relaxed, taking a little bit of time off to give the arm a little bit of a rest. But staying in shape, doing some non-contact stuff, doing some yoga, some Pilates, swimming around a little bit.
“The best advice that I've gotten is the best way to get in shape is to not get out of shape, so I can't let this time get too crazy. A lot of rookies may not know what this offseason’s about. But I've had Kyle, I’ve had Lorenzo and guys like that to kind of give me a little snapshot of what to expect this time. And I've been using their advice.”
On whether there are specific areas of his game he’s addressing.
“Obviously, getting back to our drops, working on footwork, working on timing, and then just trying to get some throws up. Obviously, being smart about how many throws you do in this offseason, trying to get a little regimented plan on when to throw and when not to throw. Just being smart with that aspect, but still going through footwork drills, working on drops, trying to time them up with what we've got in our offense so then we get back into camp, all that stuff’s been rehearsed in practice and we’ve got good repetition with that.”
On whether he’ll continue to work with Jordan Palmer, the Southern California-based quarterback guru with whom he worked in preparation for pre-draft workouts.
“Yeah, I’ll still continue to work with him. He's got some draft guys right now and I’ll be seeing him pretty shortly and talking with those guys. Obviously, if he needs some help doing that I’m more than happy to give some advice. Going through this year, going through the draft process, there's some tidbits I can give them, but, yeah, I’ll still be working with (Palmer).”
On his predictions for Sunday’s conference championship games.
“I think it's going to be the Chiefs and the Saints. I obviously don’t want the Patriots to win again, being in Buffalo, but it's hard to go against Tom (Brady), what he’s been able to do in the last eight years. I won’t be watching as a fan, but I will be watching as a football enthusiast for sure.”