Isaiah McKenzie’s daily routine hasn’t been changed much by the pandemic currently facing the country.
The Buffalo Bills’ receiver has always been a bit of a homebody. So being contained inside his offseason home in Miami as part of the nationwide precautions being taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus has largely been the status quo. Yes, like seemingly everyone else, he’s watching "Tiger King" on Netflix. A noted Fortnite fanatic, he’s also spending plenty of time playing his favorite video game.
“I actually bought a lot of Nerf guns so I can play inside the house,” McKenzie said on a Zoom conference call with Western New York reporters Tuesday. “I feel like this is what I do every day anyway. I work out on the field. I work out with my trainer. I come back home, there's really not much to do. I say this every offseason. All my friends have real jobs. Every day they go to work. Every day I just work out and come home. I feel like my friends are at work, so I only see them after 5 o'clock. ... This quarantine thing is not really new to me.”
He’s also preparing for the upcoming NFL season, which he’ll spend with the Bills after re-signing last week. A fourth-year veteran, McKenzie wasn’t tendered an offer by the Bills as a restricted free agent. That made him an unrestricted free agent, and although he had offers from other teams, McKenzie made it clear coming back to Buffalo was his ideal outcome.
That remained true even after the team swung a trade for Stefon Diggs – a move that could cut into McKenzie’s playing time.
“I had no idea they were going to get Stefon Diggs, but at the time, well still now, I just wanted to be in Buffalo,” he said. “I told my agent, I was like, ‘no matter what, I would prefer to go back to Buffalo no matter what happens.' He was like, ‘we can make that happen' as long as they gave me a fair opportunity, a fair chance.
“I always wanted to be back, no matter who came, no matter how many receivers they drafted. I felt like I had a role there and I just want to build off what I did there and stay and not be hopping around. I felt comfortable about it. Even though we got Stefon Diggs, that’s even better. I like competition in the room.”
McKenzie, who turns 25 next week, appeared in 15 games for the Bills in 2019, making eight starts. He finished with 27 catches for 254 yards and also rushed eight times for 49 yards. He was frequently used as a decoy in Brian Daboll’s offense, faking jet sweeps.
He figures to compete for, at best, the fourth receiver spot behind Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley.
“There's a lot of competitors in the room,” McKenzie said. “Coming in in 2018, we were kind of sluggish and things like that. We had talent here, (but) we had a little bit of laziness and things like that. The next year Cole Beasley and John Brown came in and they changed the whole atmosphere of the room. Everybody else behind them, all the young guys that came with them, we just worked behind them. We knew what we had to do to be better.”
McKenzie will be in competition with, among others, Duke Williams, Robert Foster and Andre Roberts – all of whom ended last season on the active roster. There is also the possibility that the team adds a receiver in what is thought to be a historically deep draft year at the position.
The depth built at wide receiver is one reason why the Bills have been a popular pick to dethrone the New England Patriots now that quarterback Tom Brady is no longer in the AFC East.
McKenzie wasn’t shying away from that Tuesday.
“The Brady situation, you know, I cheered," he said. "He's a great player. You can't take it away from him. Just him leaving, now that our team is stacked – the last few years we've been giving him a run for his money. But now that he's gone, it's going to be kind of the Bills' time to take over. So, I like it.”