Orchard Park (WKBW.com) With the longest work stoppage in NFL history now behind them the Buffalo Bills kicked off what is expected to be a wild week on Tuesday morning. Football is back at One Bills Drive and not a minute too soon for Head Coach Chan Gailey.
"It’s great. That’s what football guys want to do. They want to do football", said Gailey. "I’m not good at all of that other stuff. I don’t handle it very well. I’m ready to go and I know our staff is ready to go. I bet our players are ready to go. I think we’re all looking forward to it."
With the lockout lifted the Bills reopened their doors to players on Tuesday morning. Players were allowed to report to teams facilities starting at 10am and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the first one back in the fold.
"A lot of excitement", said Fitzpatrick. "Usually you dread coming back to the start of it but I think everyone is so excited this year. It's been a long off-season in terms of being locked out of the building, and not being able to speak with coaches".
That changed on Tuesday. Players jumped right back to work with meetings and conditioning. Fitzpatrick led a group of players through some passing drills inside the Bills Fieldhouse.
As of 10am NFL teams were also able to start signing their draft picks, and undrafted free agents. Teams are also now allowed to negotiate with all free agents, with the signing period set to start on Friday at 6pm.
"Our philosophy hasn’t changed." said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix. "The amount of money hasn’t changed the way we think you’ve got to do it. We’ve said from day one we’re never going to be huge spenders in free agency. But our guys that are producing for us we’re going to spend the money on them. Our philosophy is still to draft them, develop them and win with them.", said Nix.
Nix says he'd like to start with getting LB Paul Posluszny and CB Drayton Florence re-signed. "We’re going to try to sign them both. We’d like to. Obviously we hope they want to be here. They’ll have other offers I’m sure but our goal is we would like to keep both those guys" said Nix.
We'll have a full recap of the day at One Bills Drive on Eyewitness News at 5 and 6. Below is the full transcript from the media availability on Tuesday morning.
CEO Russ Brandon opening statement:
We’re obviously excited to be in front of you. As Commissioner Goodell said yesterday, football’s back. We’re excited for our fans. We know it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster for our fans but we’re excited for them. We’re excited that we have 10-years of labor peace and certainty, and we’re excited to head east towards St. John Fisher College and getting ready to go to training camp.
On plans for Training Camp:
RB: We’re finishing up the schedule now. You can ask Coach Gailey about it as well but we plan on being at Fisher on Friday for our report (day) and going through our full training camp schedule as we have over the past decade.
GM Buddy Nix: You’ve got physicals on Friday morning and then you condition and meet Friday, that’s it. And then you can start Saturday.
On if there’s enough time to fill out the roster to the 90-man limit and if it’s possible there may still be some spots to fill:
BN: Possibly, yeah. But I’d say we’ll be at the limit or over. We may have to adjust, but yeah, we’ll have time.
On spending 99% of the cap on additions:
BN: Our philosophy hasn’t changed. The amount of money hasn’t changed the way we think you’ve got to do it. We’ve said from day one we’re never going to be huge spenders in free agency. There are guys that come available. There’ll be waivers starting Thursday and guys cutting people. We always look to upgrade. We’re in the business of production. If we’ve got a guy that’s not producing and if we can get somebody better we’ll do it. But our guys that are producing for us we’re going to spend the money on them. Our philosophy is still to draft them, develop them and win with them.
On plans to re-sign CB Drayton Florence and LB Paul Posluszny:
BN: You really just covered it. We’re going to try to sign them both. We’d like to. Obviously we hope they want to be here. They’ll have other offers I’m sure but our goal is we would like to keep both those guys.
On if he was disappointed that NFL teams were prevented from having exclusive rights negotiating period coming out of the lockout:
BN: I’m really not disappointed with any of it. There’s some of it that I’d of changed but it is what it is and I don’t dwell on that. We’ve said all along tell us the rules and when to go and we’d be ready. And we are.
On what is it about Posluszny that makes him the right fit moving forward:
BN: He’s a leader for us. He’s our kind of guy. He’s a tough guy, he’s smart. We want him back. He’s a good locker room guy and he’s a good player.
On the challenge for him as a GM of having to do what he does in essentially three days rather than having three months to do it:
BN: The rule changes every 30 minutes it seems like. We got word last night 20-minutes to seven when we were all leaving going to dinner that we could contact undrafted free agents and get them lined up and signing today. So we were able to secure some commitments last night. We just adjust on the fly. It really is a little difficult but everybody’s got the same problem. I’ve said this before, if we know what the rules are we’ll try to do them better than everybody else. Now, we don’t always do that but that’s our goal.
On the changes at St. John Fisher College:
RB: I think from our standpoint it’s going to be a change. We need to be on the field and we need to go through camp to get a firm understanding on how it’s going to affect us. Obviously there’s one grass field and there’s one turf field, but it’s a significant change. We’ve worked with Fisher throughout the process. I can’t say enough about President Bain and the senior staff and everyone over at Fisher. It’s a tremendous place to prepare. It’s very good for us from a business standpoint. Everyone knows the Rochester community is very important to us. We have a full commitment from President Bain and the staff there that they’ll do everything it takes to make sure that we’re happy moving forward.
On this being the last year in the contract with St. John Fisher:
RB: We are in the last year of the deal but I think we are committed to working through it with President Bain. We’ll do everything in our power to make it work. But as we go through the negotiation and discussions, this camp will help us define what we need moving forward.
On the organization’s opinion on the supplemental sharing revenue:
RB: I think as you know, it was important to our organization and many of the small markets throughout the league. Mr. Wilson supported it and we voted for it so we’re pleased and we’re moving forward.
On if the supplemental sharing revenue is an improvement of the previous deal:
RB: It’s fair to say. I think we need to go through the agreement, see how it applies and what the mechanics are moving forward. But obviously we voted for the agreement in totality; Mr. Wilson did, so we’re pleased with where the agreement is. We’re not really looking back now. It’s about looking forward, preparing our team to win and providing every resource available to Buddy and the football operations staff to get ready to win and get back to where we all want to be and that’s in the playoffs.
On if the economic terms of this deal are good for the Bills:
RB: I think from our standpoint, again, the deal is very new. We’re all trying to get a good grasp of it. But I think in our situation that we talk about it all the time as an organization is we need to be regional. We’re a volume business here in Buffalo because of our price points and what they are. We have a large stadium. We have a lot of suites and we need to be filled to capacity as much as possible. That coupled with the core economics of the agreement, we’re focused on the field and providing Buddy all of those resources.
On if he sees the minimum cash spend as being any kind of a problem:
RB: Mr. Wilson has always given everything to this organization to provide us the opportunity to win.
On if the supplemental revenue sharing deal is viewed as a tax on higher spending teams:
RB: I think we voted for it and we’re going to stick with that.
On if he has had to delegate responsibilities more than he had to in the past with all that they have to cram into this week:
BN: We’ve hired good people and that’s part of an adjustment I’m making and I’m doing it willingly. They are very capable.
On the offensive line and upgrading the tackle position:
BN: If a guy becomes available that we think can upgrade us, we’ll do it. I think that the offensive line has been beat to death where somebody writes that we need this or somebody says it and then it goes around. We’ll see. We think we’ve got better players than you guys and maybe the fans think we have.
On if it’ll be a challenge to sign draft picks this week:
BN: It does get started at 10 am (today). I think it’ll be quicker and easier, but it’s all new ground for us. None of us have been through it and we’ve just got to play it out. But I do think that the shortened time will help us and there’s not much advantage to holding out really.
On if there’s been any change on where they stand with Donte Whitner:
BN: You’d have to ask Donte that. There’s been no change with me.
On the free agency process and what they can discuss with them under the new timeframe:
BN: Except sign them. The undrafted free agents we can sign starting at 10 am this morning. But with the other guys we’ve got to try to recruit them, make a deal with them and tell them what we got. Hopefully at six we can sign them.
On if he expects draft picks to be at camp Friday and for the first practice on Saturday:
BN: That’s certainly a goal that we plan to achieve. They may have a different idea but we’re going to make every effort.
On if it’s impossible to get veteran free agents in for a visit:
BN: You can’t bring them in. You can’t. You used to but you can’t anymore. Now, once we get through 6:00 pm Friday, then I think it goes back to normal during camp. We can bring them in, work them out like we always did and continually try to upgrade during the year.
On if free agents that sign Friday are not able to practice until the middle of next week:
BN: Well the August 4th fourth is the final day. But it could be earlier if the union ratifies and if a CBA is signed and all that’s done. But until that’s done and the League year officially starts then they can’t do anything except meet and work out on their own.
RB: The ratification process needs to go in totality. The 32 player reps voted for it but now it goes to the membership. Once they vote for it and ratify it then the League year can begin.
On if it is a handicap for free agents that will have to sit around until the middle of next week:
BN: Handicap for 31 other teams, too.
On if there are any medical updates for players they haven’t been able to be in contact with like LB Shawne Merriman:
BN: All we get is about what you get. What we read, what we hear about. We were able, because of his injury, through the doctors to monitor some. To be honest with you, I’m excited about for 10 o’clock to see some of those guys. But we hear good things and that’s all I know.
On what he thinks about the leadership role that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick showed rallying teammates together for their off-season workouts:
BN: That part might have been an advantage maybe because Fitz had to take over. I think he was ready for that. I think this is the first time he’s been the guy going in and I think all of the teams did a good job with that. But we’re pleased with what we hear. We don’t know anything but what we hear.
On how season ticket sales compare to last year at the same time and where the team stands on group and individual ticket on-sale dates:
RB: With season ticket sales, our renewals are pacing slightly above where we were year over a year from last year. We are not where we were a year ago in new sales. Our fans obviously needed some certainty. And how people plan in Buffalo for the dates they needed certainty. The ticket office has been extraordinarily busy over the last 24 hours, but we have a lot of inventory to move in a short amount of time. I’m not going to say that we don’t. So from that standpoint across all of our business platforms with finalizing some of our major sponsor deals, suites and suite renewals there’s a lot of work to be done in the next four weeks. Groups (ticket sales) went on sale a few weeks back and we had a very good group on-sale. Individual game sales will take place in the very near future. So we’ve got a lot to do.
On if he senses a feeling of frustration from fans and how that correlates to ticket sales:
RB: Actually I look at it exactly the opposite to be quite honest. I think our fans - from all that we’ve done in the off-season, coming off of last year and where we were in the last eight games of the year and what they feel about Coach Gailey and Buddy and the job and direction we’re headed in - our fans are very focused on where they think and feel we’re going as an organization. And that has translated very well. Now, we’ve got a lot of work to get done as I mentioned in the next few weeks. But it’s been very positive feedback from our fans.
On if the team will begin more advertising to increase sales of inventory:
RB: What we’ll do is we’ll put in our full ad plan moving forward that we’ve had on hold with everything from a business point of view. It’ll be fast and furious. We are, throughout the organization, in that mode right now. But we’re excited to be in that mode.
On if the team has signed University of Buffalo undrafted free agent Dominic Cook:
BN: No, not until he signs.
On how the changes at St. John Fisher will affect the team’s training camp:
Head Coach Chan Gailey: It’ll be more of a challenge than it was last year, but it’ll be doable. We’ve adjusted it to have two half fields so that we can work offense and defense and if you can change into the field that you work on, you can’t wear out one area and I think get our job done. We can use the stadium field and we’ll probably use it a little bit more than we have, especially for our full special teams full field type stuff. That’s where that’ll have to take place. It’ll be different, but we understood that going in that it was going to be a transition year for them because of the changes they’ve made over there.
On the practice restrictions limiting full padded practices, OTAs, etc:
CG: I’m really more concerned about right now than I am next spring. That has our full attention right now what we need to get done for the immediate future. I think I made this statement before: as long as everybody is under the same set of rules you don’t feel like anybody is getting any kind of advantage. So we’ll get done what we need to get done. It may not be shorts practices. It may be a walk-thru instead of a shorts practice. We’ll get it done. It’s going to take a little bit longer to get everything in. The installation process will be a slower process than it has been in the past because you don’t have as many practices. But you will eventually get there. It’s just going to take a little bit longer.
On if it’s realistic to think the rookies will be ready for September:
CG: That is the goal. The goal is to get everybody that is capable of playing on our football team and helping us be a winner ready for September. It used to be you were trying to get everybody ready for the first preseason game because you had all of the OTAs and their knowledge was much more advanced. Now the whole process is geared toward September 11th.
On the benefits of increasing the roster size to 90:
CG: The advantage right now is you can rest guys a little bit more in practice so that you can get work done but not have to push guys rep-wise. You can slowly bring them along conditionally rather than having to have fewer than 80 guys and have them take all of the reps.
On how close to 30 players may not know much of the playbook heading into camp:
CG: You have to be very basic with those guys and we are going to set aside special times, walk-thrus and practices just for the young guys. We’ve got to set aside those times.
On his plan for incorporating walk-thrus at training camp:
CG: A lot more walk-thrus than we’ve ever had before. But there’s still a four hour limit that you can be on the field including the walk-thrus. You won’t stay out there and you won’t walk them for two-and-half hours and then practice for two hours in the afternoon or at night. You won’t do that.
On the changes to the amount of practices that can be held:
CG: For an old-timer, it certainly is different. That’s a definitely a true statement. It’s going to take some adjustment, but almost everybody in the league will have to adjust because most of these head coaches have been in the league for quite a while. So everybody’s going to go through this period of adjustment and it’s probably going to have to experience it for a year - the whole year - before you get a full handle on how you have to do things differently. We’ve done it the same way for a lot of years in a row now, so now it’s different. We experience what the difference is, come to grips with it, understand it and then come up with the best way to do what you need to do to get your football team ready to win football games.
On an evaluation perspective of players in a short timeframe:
CG: It’ll be harder. And that’s why we’re going to give these guys a little bit more special attention than we ever have in the past. We’re going to give them more extra time like I said in the walk-thrus and maybe post-practice so that we can do a good job of evaluation.
On his impressions of how QB Ryan Fitzpatrick ran the player workouts in the off-season and assumed a leadership role:
CG: That doesn’t surprise me in the least. You would anticipate your quarterback being the guy that leads, if not completely for the most part, you would expect your quarterback to do that. So I’m not surprised and I fully expected it.
On the possibility of OL Eric Wood practicing at center:
CG: We’re going to talk to both he and Geoff (Hangartner). And I want to talk to them about the plan before I talk anywhere else.
On what they do in the next few days up until Friday:
CG: Meeting with them as much as you can and explaining what our thought process is going into this coming year. With the veteran guys it’ll be building on what we did last year. With the young guys it’ll be introducing them to the system - offense, defense and special teams.
On the high return of key players returning as an advantage to hit the ground running:
CG: We can hit the ground running more so, but you still have to be careful because you don’t know the conditioning level of everybody on the team. You can only go as fast as the guy in the least condition. You have to be smart about you handle practices early.
On if there will be two different classrooms for the young guy and the veterans at training camp:
CG: You’re getting your guys that you think are going to play ready to play on September 11th. It’s not I want to get those other guys up to speed as well as possible but I’m not going to sacrifice what we’re trying to get done to get our core guys ready for September 11th.
On if there is any thought to extending QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract:
BN: Obviously we’ve thought about him since that’s a pretty important position. But we’ll cross it and we’ll deal with that at the time. Like I said, a guy that’s producing is a guy we’ll spend our money on.
On how much of a relief it is with training camp being a few days away and being able to talk football:
CG: It’s great. That’s what football guys want to do. They want to do football. I’m not good at all of that other stuff. I don’t handle it very well. I’m ready to go and I know our staff is ready to go. I bet our players are ready to go. I think we’re all looking forward to it.
On if he thinks the veterans will see more playing time in the preseason:
CG: No, I don’t. The reason is the conditioning level. You don’t want to throw them out there too quick. You’ve got to build them up to September 11th. You can’t say we didn’t have OTAs, didn’t have mini-camp and they have to play. To me, the conditioning is more important right now in making sure you develop them that way better than worrying about how many reps they get in a game.