Sean McDermott sounded like he would have rather read off his four-digit ATM password than the Buffalo Bills’ injury report Monday.
Welcome to a playoff week.
McDermott, the team’s third-year head coach, is usually pretty tight-lipped when it comes to anything injury related. He took that to another level, though, just 24 hours after the regular season ended.
“We’re working through the injury list right now – really no update for you at this time,” McDermott said. “So, we'll just take it one day at a time and get these guys going and working through some rehab and working through some treatment and then on into tomorrow.”
The injury list includes veteran right tackle Ty Nsekhe and second-year cornerback Levi Wallace, both of whom suffered right ankle injuries in a 13-6 loss Sunday to the New York Jets at New Era Field. At least in the case of Wallace, there was some reported good news. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Wallace has a sprained ankle and is day to day.
The Bills will practice Tuesday, a day earlier than most weeks, with their AFC wild-card playoff game at the Houston Texans set for 4:35 p.m. Saturday. Other than the accelerated practice schedule, it will be business as close to usual as possible this week.
“I think we do things rather well just overall with our process and the consistency with which we approach every week,” McDermott said. “That’s really the important thing this week, as well.”
McDermott has coached in 26 previous playoff games, including one with the Bills. That came after the team ended its playoff drought in 2017. That gives him plenty of experience to draw from as the Bills prepare for the Texans.
One of McDermott’s biggest takeaways from those previous playoff appearances deals with the importance of staying consistent from a routine standpoint, for both players and coaches.
“Then we double down on the philosophy of what wins,” he said. “Using all that experience and the knowledge and intelligence that I've gleaned from it, to help us as we continue to move forward as an organization is probably the biggest thing we’ll try and put into place this week.”
Chances are, there will be distractions along the way. One potential disturbance came up Monday night, when it was reported that the Cleveland Browns have asked permission to interview Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for their head coaching vacancy. That’s a formality because Daboll is under contract. Assistant coaches can’t be blocked from interviewing for jobs that would be promotions, although any interview would not be able to take place until next week, as NFL rules prohibit assistant coaches on teams playing on wild-card weekend from interviewing in the week leading up to the game. If the Bills win, Daboll would be permitted to interview next week in Buffalo, on a day the Bills choose.
Of course, the Bills have to get past the Texans first. Daboll spoke to the media shortly before the report of his requested interview came out. He didn’t drop any hints about it during his press conference.
“I worked for a guy that has a lot of playoff games under his belt and the message I took from him was, ‘You can only control what you can control,’ and that’s this week,” Daboll said, referring to the Patriots’ Bill Belichick. “It’s not where you play and when you play. You’ve got to take care of your job and do it to the best of your ability. One game really has no bearing on the next whether it’s being in the Super Bowl, versus being in the wild card, versus being in the divisional game or AFC championship game. They’re all important and each week is its own week. We’re going to have to do a good job with our stuff.”
The Bills have a good deal of experience when it comes to playing on the national stage this season. Their Thanksgiving Day game against the Dallas Cowboys drew a massive television audience. The team also played on Sunday Night Football in Week 15 against Pittsburgh, and then the following week played in the same 4:30 p.m. time slot against the New England Patriots.
Those games are appetizers, though. The entrée comes Saturday in Texas.
“It’s just an entirely different atmosphere around the building – the fact that everything shrinks. You're the big fish in the pond now,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “All eyes are on you and people that haven't had a chance to watch you during the course of the year, get a chance to finally see what your team is all about. It's just completely different and what you're playing for this time of year is kind of really crystallized now.
“You're in the tournament for the world championship, and that means a lot. So, the emotions and all the things you maybe dreamed about as a young kid growing up, to be in this position, and as we all know in this room, there are a lot of guys that play for a long time and never get to this position. So, to get to the playoffs and have this opportunity, it kind of reshapes things in a lot of ways. Really an exciting time for our players.”