PITTSFORD (WKBW) Tuesday was a big day at Bills training camp for a variety of reasons. Marcell Dareus spoke to the media for the first time since a tumultuous offseason, Sammy Watkins returned to practice after missing time with a rib injury, and the shakeup on the offensive line continues at the team preps for its home preseason opener.
Below are transcripts from Tuesday, courtesy of the Bills.
Head Coach Doug Marrone
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A: Kevin Kearns: [Stevenson] Sylvester did not practice with a knee. [Mario] Butler did not practice with an ankle. [Jonathan] Meeks did not practice with a neck. [Bobby] Felder did not practice with a groin.
Q: What is the method to all of movement on the offensive line? Does it not matter what positions they play?
A: We’re just trying to find the best five players. I think Erik’s [Pears] a guy that has played multiple positions. He came into the league as a guard, so he can play that. Seantrel [Henderson] had been a right tackle. We moved him to left when he came here. He did a hell of a job, but now he’s back in his spot. He’s played really well. If he doesn’t play well then we don’t make as many moves as we do. And then Cordy [Glenn] having the ability to come back at left tackle [contributed]. What I don’t want to do is have my fifth best lineman be a backup because one guy doesn’t play a position. Do you know what I’m saying? I want to make sure we can get the best five players out there. These moves probably would’ve happened sooner had Cordy wasn’t injured.
Q: That would mean you don’t think Kraig Urbik is one of your best five, right?
A: Oh, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that at all. What I’m trying to do is figure out who is the best five in all the different positions. Trying to figure out who’s the best five and what’s the best situation for game day. All that stuff. There’s a lot of things.
Q: Is there a timeframe on when you’d like to have this figured out?
A: Oh yeah. Before we play Chicago.
Q: You’re going to take it right up to that date?
A: Yeah. I’m telling you, I’m not a big believer. Those guys work a lot together in combinations during individual drills and stuff. We have a system on how we call things. They know what they’re doing. The continuity thing that people kind of harp on, the question is would you rather have continuity and not play as well or would you rather have your best five out there and give them a shot and continuity will be created as we play. My philosophy has always been the best five.
Q: Would it be fair that you’re being precautious with Sammy Watkins’ injury?
A: Well, two things. Obviously, he wasn’t fully cleared today. That’s number one. I think, two, I appreciate the player saying that, but, three, I’m going to watch the tape and see what we see. I think we’ll go from there. That’s normally what we do for anyone.
Q: Have you come to a decision on the backup quarterback spot?
A: No I haven’t. The thing with the reps this week, you know obviously this is our third preseason game so we’re putting a little emphasis on using the cards. We’re still not game planning as much as you would for a normal game, but what we’re trying to get the players used to is what the normal week during the season is like. We’re trying to attack that now rather then go back and try to put that into all the stuff that’s going on with the cuts and with moving back to Buffalo. We’re trying to get that stuff ready today. That’s why today was our first day of cards and we’re just trying to run the practice like we would normally during the year, outside of the time because obviously you guys know what time we practice.
Q: Would you agree that Lee Smith has been a solid contributor for you?
A: I think two things. I think that if he did a better job we’d notice it. Right? And we’d be happy. But he does his job. I do think he’s gotten better. I really do. I think that he’s much better now than he was before. I’m happy with that and I still think there’s room for improvement. His attitude has been much, much better in how he’s attacked things, technically how he’s gone after things. He’s done better things in this camp than he has in the past.
Q: How did you feel that Cordy [Glenn] fared yesterday?
A: Good. I thought he fared very well. I think he was chomping at the bit to come back. I want to make sure we’re careful in what we do in making sure that we get him ready to play and not rush him back.
Q: Is there a sense that Leodis McKelvin will play on Saturday?
A: Well, we’re thinking about it. We’re going to see how the week goes. We’d like to be able to do that. If everything is good, then we’ll get him in.
Q: Will Cordy play on Saturday?
A: I think if he progresses the way he is, then we’ll get him in.
Q: The league is considering adding a couple more practice squad spots. Is that something you’d like to have?
A: Yeah, absolutely. I think development is key. It’s a league that really doesn’t have a farm system for players. I’m a firm believer, if you looked at us last, we really didn’t go outside when we had injuries. We were able to upgrade from the practice squad and that’s not going to change with that philosophy. I think it gives those guys an opportunity to learn the system, develop them. We’re able to make decisions from them and bring them up when injuries occur. I would be for that if I had a vote.
Q: Having been there yourself, what can you say about these couple of weeks for those guys on the roster bubble?
A: I get emotional, believe it or not. If someone comes and they don’t respect the game and they don’t really care then I have no problem. ‘Hey, appreciate it. Take care.’ That’s not the case with the guys on this team right now. Everyone here has been busting his butt. They’re beat up, they’re banged up. It’s been a long camp. I have a great deal of respect for these guys and I always get hurt when we say, “Oh, that guy wasn’t good. That guy wasn’t this, that guy wasn’t that.’ Just to be able to get to this point in training camp and be able to play and get on the field, we might not think that’s a great accomplishment, but what people don’t see is the hard work they go through. The hardest thing, and I’ll speak from experience, is here you go into this locker room on this day of the final cut and you don’t know whether you’re going to make the team or not. You walk in that locker room and your life’s going to go one of two different ways. Either you’re going to be an NFL football player. Everyone in your family, everyone that’s followed you your whole career is going to be congratulating you, thanking you and it’s just going to be a great experience for everyone. Or you find yourself saying, ‘What’s next? What do I do? Do I continue to play? Do I move on with my life?’ There are some unbelievable decisions, unbelievable stories. Within a matter of waking up and going into a locker room, it’s a life changing experience right there. I have a great deal of respect because I’ve been cut so many times and I’ve been through it myself.
Q: How far along is this team compared to your goal for them to be contenders?
A: I like where we are right now. I think that, obviously, we’re closer than we’ve been before. I think that we still have a lot of hard work to get over the situations that we’ve talked about. Like I said, I believe we’ve had 11 opportunities in the red zone. I think the turnover battle. Third down we’re increasing, which is a positive sign. Completion percentage is increasing, which is a positive sign. There are a lot of positive signs going. At the end of the day, you can say those things that are occurring during practice, but if you don’t go out there on the field and get that done when it matters, all the other stuff, people won’t really care.
Q: What did you think of the NFL’s experiment with moving the extra point back to the 15-yard line?
A: We’re going to put something together. They’re going to ask us about it. I’ve already said my take on it and told the league it. I don’t really want to publicize what my thoughts are on it because we have channel that we go through. I don’t want to get scolded.
Q: What was the thought process with Corey Graham playing safety the past couple of days?
A: Just making sure that we’re training people game day stuff. You know, how we want to do it. If we have four safeties out there then he can play safety, he can play corner, he can do a lot of different things for us. We had to cross train. We cross trained the backers too with Preston Brown and Ty Powell.
Q: Is Corey Graham still a corner first?
A: Oh yeah. He can play corner in this league for sure.
Q: What have you seen from Landon Cohen?
A: He’s made plays and gotten off the ball well. I think when you do that you’re able to penetrate and have the ability to make plays. I think those are the things that you have seen on film.
Q: Have you seen that before from him on tape?
A: No, I didn’t know about him. Because last year was my first year back, once you’ve been in the league two or three years you know everyone. So I really didn’t know much about him until he came here. He’s done a good job. He works his butt off. I love his effort, I love what he does and I love it when he makes plays.
QB EJ Manuel
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Q: It seemed more like regular season game week practice today than a preseason practice, right?
A: Right. I would say today was an in season Wednesday practice for us. It went great going against a “scout team”. We did a great job. I don’t think we had the ball on the ground at all throughout the team period and the 7-on-7’s. We had all completions so I’m very excited about that and obviously want to keep that going.
Q: Is it exciting that you’re able to do that at a high tempo?
A: Yeah definitely. I think that’s something we can turn off and on when we want to and when it’s shaped to do it. I think we had one of the more grueling training camps as far as the tempo that we practiced at and the reps that we get, especially the first group since we get a lot of reps so we’re definitely in shape. I’m happy Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett kind of let us loose today and go out here and do some of the little stuff we have to work on.
Q: What are your thoughts going into the game on Saturday?
A: I’m very excited for the opportunity to treat it like a true game. This is a big game, for myself especially being that this is our third true preseason game without the bonus game. Definitely looking forward to getting a lot of reps and make sure I play quite a bit. I just want to go out there and execute like we should.
Q: Can you talk about finishing it in the end zone?
A: Yeah definitely. Every drive we get the ball we don’t want to end it with a field goal. That’s good, but we also want to finish it with a touchdown whether that’s me throwing the ball or when our backs swing the ball in. We have plenty of playmakers and a bunch of power and it’s just our job to finish the job once we get down there in the red zone.
Q: How hard is it to judge your progress in the red zone offense when you’re not really game planning?
A: True, that’s a good point. We’re not really game planning. Trust and believe that there’s a lot of stuff that we could do down there. Obviously these are still preseason games, but the competitive edge of us makes us want to score so we’re not going to use that as an excuse. Nonetheless, we haven’t truly been game planning. I know we’re working on it each and every day at practice. At the end we do reps of red zone period and throwing the ball. I think it’s just a matter of just continuing. The more at-bats we get, the better we’ll do.
Q: Is game planning even more important in situations like third down?
A: Definitely. Game planning is everything for situational football like third down, strike zone and red zone. You can categorize the +20, the +15, the +10 and so on. All those things we’ll do in a regular season of course, but nonetheless we’re in there so we want to score.
Q: How are you going to answer questions or concerns that Bills fans have?
A: I’m just focusing on getting better. As I get better, our team will get better. Offensively, I think we’re doing a great job. Every night we’re coming out here and if we compare our practices from last week to how they were our first week, they’re night and day. We went out and competed great versus the Steelers in Latrobe. I thought we did pretty well in the game. Obviously we want to score but nonetheless, we’re on the right track as far as getting where we want to be as an offense.
Q: How important is having Sammy Watkins out there?
A: Extremely important. Obviously if he’s ready to go, he’ll go. It would be important. We want all our guys out there. Everybody is going to play against Chicago, that’s who we want out there. But we still have to be smart at the same time.
Q: Has all the changing on the offensive line affected you in anyway?
A: Not at all. I think I have a great rapport with whatever center I have. Of course E[ric Wood] was my guy. He’s the main guy I’m in there with as far a center. But I know [Kraig] Urbik has been in there a couple times and Doug Legursky has been in there as well. They’ve all done a great job communication wise. They’re all veteran guys. That’s another thing, I was speaking to Jay (Skurski) about earlier. I was honing in on my skills as far as protection so I could communicate with those guys and the rapport between myself and the centers have been great. We just have to communicate throughout the rest of the line. We have a couple young guys out there but I don’t see any fall off. Those guys have done a great job. Seantrel [Henderson] has done a great job and Cyril [Richardson] has done a great job so I’m very excited about those guys.
Q: So basically you’re just telling the protections that whoever is there, just do it?
A: No doubt about it. I’m never going to worry about who is out there. If we’re out there we have to go play, so I’m not going to be worried about a personnel guy. I trust that Coach Pat (Morris) knows if he’s going to be in the game, trust that he knows what to do.
Q: Can you talk about where the offensive mindset is at since it’s about to be the last “dress rehearsal” before the season opener?
A: It’s an extremely important game for us especially down in the red zone. We haven’t scored a touchdown down there yet, whether it’s running or throwing the ball. I think this is a huge test for us especially being that it’s our last time before we get a chance to go against Chicago for the real deal. I’m looking forward to the opportunity and we’ll be ready for it.
Q: Are you looking forward to the end of camp?
A: I like the ground at camp. Obviously these are dog days. I think we’ve been here for 35+ days now, minus the days when we were in Pittsburgh. I like the ground at camp- the college dorm atmosphere and we’re all together. Sometimes when we’re back home in Buffalo, we all live in different places. There’s downtown, Orchard Park and different parts of the city. I think it’s good for us as far as getting close and being around each other every day. And everything is right here, the meetings and all that kind of stuff so obviously I just go with the flow. When it’s time to go back to Buffalo, I’m excited for that.
DT Marcell Dareus
Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Q: How is your elbow? We noticed it was wrapped up earlier.
A: It’s alright, just some bumps and bruises. Nothing too serious.
Q: Football-wise, how is camp going?
A: We’re having a great time; camp’s been great this year. Coach Marrone has put a lot of thought into what we’re doing and getting us prepared. I’m just excited with what we have in and what we’re looking forward to.
Q: Has it been good to sort of isolate yourself here and just be about football all the time?
A: It’s been great, the team is so supportive and the coaches have been outstanding. Everybody, it’s just a great atmosphere to be around. St. John Fisher College is a great place to be.
Q: Marcell, I’m sure there was a fair amount of soul-searching going on the past couple of months. What have you learned?
A: To be honest, I’ve tried to keep it just all about football. We’ve been locked down for a couple of weeks now, we’ve just been all football and focused and trying to get ready for the season.
Q: Mario Williams went through some trying times off the field the past couple years, have you gotten any help from your teammates that may have had to deal with some off the field stuff in the past?
A: Of course. They’re all here for me; we’ve all got each other’s back. There’s nothing really that’s been said, there’s not much to talk about, we just kind of move forward. Of course I can rely on them, when I’ve gone to them they’ve given great advice.
Q: I’ve seen you spending time with Stefan Charles on the sidelines, is there any sort or mentoring going on there with him?
A: Stefan is a special talent. We work with each other, we all talk in the meeting rooms. He gives me some points and tips; I always try to give him little things he can do here or there. It’s mostly just football-talk trying to get a better understanding of the game.
Q: How much do you hope you’re finally going to be able to put your previous problems behind you? How confident are you that you are capable of doing that?
A: I’m 100% sure that everything is just fine and we’re going to keep moving forward. I don’t have any other words, I’m just trying to sit back, put my best foot forward and do what’s best for the Buffalo Bills.
Q: Was it frustrating that when you finally got to camp you had to go through the whole conditioning test process?
A: That whole issue wasn’t really anything about the physical; it was more mental for me. It was just a hurdle I had to get over and mentally I got over it and got over everything else. When I took the test two days later I got through it and got over it and started moving forward. I’m just ready to put everything I have into what we’re trying to do here.
Q: You went through a lot, so was it important to be able to clear your head and not really deal with the media and other distractions?
A: Really it was all about just trying to stay focused. A lot of issues coming from other people distract you from what your main goals are, so I’ve been trying to keep my eyes on the prize and do the best I can. My weight is a lot better; I’m staying focused, doing what I can on the field, feeling good. I’m just happy to be back out here.
Q: Marcell have you heard anything from the league offices at this point?
A: I’m not talking about any of that legal stuff.
Q: What is your level of concern that you will be suspended by the league?
A: I’m not really discussing that, that’s a conversation I need to have with them. When we get to that point, we’ll get there.
Q: Has there been contact with the league office in terms of meeting with the commissioner or something like that?
A: When I talk to them and when I hear from them, that’s when I’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on.
Q: What about your relationship with coach Marrone, he took you under his wing, he stepped out and said, “I’m going to help this guy.” What did that mean to you?
A: Coach Marrone is such a good guy. With the players and everybody, he’s always trying to put his best foot forward. He’s a players’ coach and we all know that. He supports me, just like I support what we’re trying to do here, and he’s just that type of guy. I can go to him if I have any questions or if I have anything going on, he’s just another outlet for me.
Q: Is there anything you want to change about decision making off the field going forward?
A: I’m a grown man, I have my own responsibilities. I’m going to do the best I can to straighten my own things out because I am human. I can only move forward and be positive about it from here on out.
Q: You said focus is what’s helped out a lot. Is there anything you’re consciously doing to try and keep that focus moving forward?
A: I’m the type of guy that can wipe the slate clean and think clearly. Nothing that will distract me from what my goal is should interfere (with football). I try to be an out of sight, out of mind type of guy. I just have to keep moving forward with tunnel vision and keep going from there.