Orchard Park (WKBW) Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone announced on Wednesday that quarterback EJ Manuel will miss another 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee suffered against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 3rd. Manuel has started on-field rehab for the injury but will be out at least a month as he recovers.
Doug Marrone and Bills players met with reporters on Wednesday as the team gears up for a trip to South Florida and a game with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Below are the transcripts from their interviews.
Head Coach Doug Marrone
First off I appreciate the little change in schedule. It helps me out to work with some of the younger guys because we have extra time. Obviously the business that transpired yesterday, we released Colin Brown from the 53 man roster and we also released Jamie Blatnick from the practice squad. The moves we made, we wound up elevating Mark Asper to bring him up to the roster to see what he can do. Then we signed Jacquies Smith, the linebacker from Missouri, and then Bryant Browning, an offensive lineman, to our practice squad.
Also, I did tell you about EJ Manuel, I spoke to the doctors, it will be four to six weeks from now. The earliest will be four and the latest will be six weeks without any setbacks. That’s how we feel and he’s doing well and he’s in rehab working hard.
As far as the participation in practice, C.J. Spiller did not participate, EJ Manuel obviously. Kyle Williams, that’s been normal for what we’ve been doing and then Jonathan Meeks with the ankle. Limited in practice was Stevie Johnson, he looked good, Ron Brooks, same situation he looked good with the foot, Manny Lawson is fine, we limited him. Mario Williams is fine; we limited him a little bit today. Full participation, and the guys that were out there earlier saw it, was Thad Lewis.
Q: What’s your thought on Ron Brooks; does he have a chance to play?
A: I feel good. I do feel good about it.
Q: On Manuel, is that four to six weeks until practice or a game?
Q: Did you originally think you’d have him back sooner?
A: Am I disappointed? No. I want to make sure he’s healthy when he comes back. Just because you say four to six, it could be four, it could be six, it could be three, it could be seven. I think that’s why you always get stuck. You always get asked that timeframe and for some reason everyone is always nervous about it. If a player returns early, I think that’s a great thing. That’s what we’re always striving for. If he returns later, it’s always what happened, what went on, things like that. It’s four to six weeks and obviously from a standpoint of being disappointed, we don’t want him hurt at all, that would be the way to go. Obviously where he is in the rehabilitation process, I’m happy that we’re going to get him back out there.
Q: Is it four to six weeks until a return to practice or is until a return to a game?
A: I think when he returns to practice, I’ll be able to tell you exactly where he’s at.
Q: Can you afford to go to 0-3 in the division?
A: I don’t like saying you can afford to go anywhere when you’re losing. That’s the problem. For us, we’ve gotten good effort, obviously adversity hit us. We’re not performing at the times we need to perform. That’s what I’ve talked to the players about, we haven’t been in conjunction where all three phases have played at the level we need them to play at at once. That’s where we’re striving to get them. That’s what we’re practicing and keep working for.
Q: Kiko Alonso has obviously made quite the mark so far as a rookie. Can you tell us a little more about his personality? Have you had a conversation with him that’s lasted more than 20 seconds?
A: I think I’m like everybody else. I think it’s the same situation. He’s kind of short, to the point. I try to keep it as direct as possible and try to take any gray out of it. I have had social conversations and he’s extremely bright from that standpoint. We actually had a conversation one time in the hot tub; we were talking about some financial things, which all of the sudden you’re like, ‘Whoa.’ I just think at times especially when you’re a young player and you’re just trying to, the one thing I appreciate from him is he’s just trying to go out there and play. That’s all he’s concerned about right now, is playing well and being productive. Not to speak for Kiko, but some of that may just be a guard to keep him focused and concentrated on doing what he’s doing because he’s doing extremely well right now. I don’t think he wants to break that. He’s kind of clueless to maybe all the other things that were going on. Scott (Berchtold) mentioned about the tweeting and things like that and he was like, ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about.’ He’s focused.
Q: Is it tougher to get a gauge on guys like that?
A: I think probably for us as coaches we’ve been around so many different types of players, so many different backgrounds. Where they’re from and their communication skills are really an extreme level, especially having gone back to college. I don’t think anything ever surprises you. What you look at more importantly is their performance on the field and how they’re communicating on the field. Obviously he’s communicating with the defense, you look at a guy who is a first year player and you look at what we put on his plate. We put quite a bit on it; he has to do a lot of preparation, probably extra preparation during the week because he is responsible for calling the defense. He wears the green dot out there.
Q: What do you see from Doug Legursky moving forward that makes you think he’s the guy at left guard?
A: I think we expect him to be very productive like we do with all the payers. Doug went in there, and there were some times he did a nice job, just coming back. We expect him to get better as he’s back practicing without injury now. At the same time we’re looking to get the younger guys better and all the players better. It’s a constant situation that you’re in being a team in the NFL, at least in our opinion, what we’re trying to do is we’re constantly trying to get better. So development in the players, the other better players that are out there that can make us a better team and then getting our good players to play consistently. Keep getting it to two to three percent higher.
Q: He’s not the ideal size at that position; does he do anything special to overcome that?
A: Ideal size, I used to get asked that question quite a bit, I think you’re just looking for a football player. As long as you can play, they come in all different sizes when you see it. He’s a tough kid and he works extremely hard. He takes a lot of pride in what he does, so he has the ability to be successful there. He has a great opportunity now in front of him.
Q: IsAntoine McClain going to be the backup to Legursky?
A: With Antoine just getting here, it’s still the offense; we’re still getting him going with the offense. Right now it would probably be Mark Asper, he’s been here longer, knows the system better. He’s done a very good job for us. Movement skill wise, strength wise, he’s really come a long in the past few weeks. Edawn Coughman is another practice squad player that’s done a nice job for us; he has potential to move up in case something happens. He’s working hard. (McClain) we like and that’s why we went out to get him. It’s just a matter of him really getting it down and starting to play with some of those guys.
Q: Your thoughts on C.J. Spiller going in to this weekend?
A: Like I said before, he was better on Monday than he was obviously after the last game. It’s a situation that he’s working extremely hard to get back. It’s a nagging thing, the ankle, on a player who is obviously very fast, who obviously makes quick cuts. The strain and pressure on that thing is quite a bit. He’s just working extremely hard to come back. He’s in better shape than he was before, but if you were to ask me is he 110 percent? He’s not.
Q: Do you feel good about him playing?
A: I do.
Q: Can you comment on what Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson have provided for you on the edges on defense?
A: I think Manny has done extremely well, playing the edges and forcing it. Really making a lot of plays on the run, whereas I think before in the past people have said, ‘Is he strong enough? Can he hold the point?’ He’s proved he can do that, so that’s been extremely well for us. I think Jerry’s given us a lot with the pass rush. He’s very quick, very fast; I think he’s someone that you’ve got to watch and study on film. It’s not one of those things where you’re like, ‘I’m going against Jerry Hughes, and I’ll be fine.’ You’ve got to pick it up. Those two players and those two acquisitions have been good for us.
Q: In terms of sacks and interceptions by your defense they’re right near the top 10 in the league. Can you speak about the production you’re getting there?
A: I think the challenges Mike (Petting) and I have talked about it is we’re the third youngest team in the league and we do have some young players that haven’t been in this league and it’s the same with offense and special teams. With the way the CBA is now, it is a little bit more difficult obviously with the less time that you have. For us we have to start it from the foundation and build it up. Are we where we want to be in any of the three phases? Absolutely not. The more we play in the system, the more you can do, the more multiple changes you can make, the more calls you can make. Obviously it creates a greater challenge for the opposition. Right now our challenge is to keep that going.
Q: Did you crank the heat up here today?
Q: How encouraged are you that even with the adversity and youth, the offense have been able to put up at least 20 points a game through six games?
A: I think that’s one way with the glass half full. I tend to keep pushing, I think we have left a lot of opportunities out there, especially form a scoring standpoint when you look at red zone scoring. Obviously last week we left the ball on the two yard line for four plays and lost it on downs. I think there’s great opportunity out there for us and I think it shows that when we do execute well, what we have the capability of doing. I think that’s what we’re striving for. We still have a long way to go and we have to keep pushing and get better quick.
Q: Is it any consolation that fans are happy with what’s going on even though the team is 2-4? They see progress.
A: I think that probably shows how poorly it’s been before. It’s tough because you feel that, you do. There’s been times where I’ll see someone and they’ll recognize obviously that I’m the coach and they’ll be like, ‘We’ve got to win. What are we doing?’ They’ll say those things and you know what, I appreciate that, I really do. I don’t look at it and say, Hey we’re trying our best and blah, blah, blah.’ I think what it is, and I’ve talked to the coaches about this, we just came here. We’re new, obviously. What’s been going on has happened for a while. We all have the same level of, I don’t want to use the word frustration because that’s inability, but the same sense of we want to get this thing done quickly. That’s what our goal is.
Q: What are the things specifically you’re working on with Thad?
A: What we’re working on is the overall concept of the offense. The routes and the timing and the balls and the footwork and all of the same. I don’t think there’s anything particular to say we felt really poorly about this. I think it’s a matter of improvement on the accuracy, the route running, the managing. The same things you would be talking about with any new quarterback or young quarterback that you’d have in there.
Q: Is the opportunity for him to come back and get right back at it as the starter big for him?
A: Credit to him because, I think it came out during the week, he always has been preparing for this. He’s always prepared himself for something like this to happen. I think that’s what you have to do and that’s what it means to be a pro. He’s done a great job. I think a lot of people may have been if you didn’t know Thad Lewis, you weren’t around him or haven’t really seen him or watched him practice; I think a lot of people were surprised maybe by that performance. I don’t think anyone on the team, and I can’t speak for everyone, was really surprised about the way he went out there, the way he went about his business. That’s who he was since he really came on board.
Q: Where are Gilmore and (Jairus) Byrd in terms of being back to their full time responsibilities?
A: Again it’s that coach’s schematic thing. Not to say what we’re trying to say, but Jairus Byrd and obviously Stephon Gilmore are definitely more comfortable now with having started to play than they were before. They feel, in talking to Stephon Gilmore in particular, I haven’t talked to Jairus about it, Stephon Gilmore feels much better now than he did last week because that was really the first time and you’re playing with a cast on your hand
QB Thad Lewis
Q: How does the foot feel?
A: Feels great. I was able to get out there today, move around and do everything I normally do, so it feels great.
Q: Do you have any limitations?
A: No, no limitations at all. I did a great job treating it the last couple days so I was able to go.
Q: Have you felt pretty good in terms of driving off that back foot?
A: Felt great. I didn’t miss a beat today, which is positive and something to look forward to going into tomorrow and things of that nature. My foot is fine and I am able to go.
Q: How do you assess your performance on Sunday?
A: I did okay. We didn’t get the win so I didn’t do good enough. There are a lot of things to learn from, a lot of things to build on and that’s what this week is for. That is what practice is for these next couple days and you’re going to try and not make the same mistakes you made last Sunday, this Sunday.
Q: How much have you looked at Miami, are you excited?
A: You’re just excited every week you get to play football in general. I looked at the defense, they're a great defense, they do some things. Similar to Cincinnati, they're great up front so we just have to go out there and execute the game plan and play within the scheme. Hopefully the plays come.
Q: Thad, do you remember the old Dolphins and Bills rivalries from the Jim Kelly, Dan Marino days?
A: Oh yeah, I definitely remember those. Growing up in Miami, watching “Dan the Man” which we called him, that was his nickname where I was from, but you loved watching the guys playing when they come down to sunny Miami. Those were the great old days.
Q: Did you ever play in that stadium?
A: Yeah, I played in there in college when I was at Duke pairing the University of Miami.
Q: In high school at all?
Q: No, not in high school.
Q: Did you go there much as a fan?
A: Yeah, not to Dolphins games. I think I went to one Dolphins game growing up.
Q: Are they your team?
A: Yes, the Dolphins are always your team but when you’re a kid and your parents can’t afford to take you to a Dolphins game, it’s on TV every week so you don’t miss it.
Q: How many tickets do you have this week Thad?
A: I think about 15 tickets.
Q: Is there anything you’re looking to do specifically better and build on last Sunday going into this game?
A: Just limiting mistakes. Actually I want to take care of the ball a little better than I did last time. That was a costly fumble so you never want to put your team in a predicament like that. So going in, take care of the ball, and some of the reads I might have missed, make sure I correct that this week.
Q: When you look at the video, is it an “ah-ha” moment, how have you responded when you look back at your own game?
A: You are your worst critic. You go in thinking, you should have had that maybe if you just checked the ball down here or there. Definitely the time where I fumbled, I knew better than that. The quarterback has to take care of the football so that was kind of discouraging but something I need to work out here in practice and that was ball security so I did that today.
Q: What does it mean to you to be playing in Miami this week?
A: It means a lot playing in the NFL, period. It’s just extra to get to go home and play in front of people you know and people that know you. It is a great opportunity.
Q: Is this something you could have envisioned when you were having difficulty buying tickets or seeing [the Dolphins] play on TV?
A: You dream as a child to obviously get to this level, but to be starting is a dream come true, so you just take it in stride and try to make the best of the situation.
Q: The amount of time between your first start and your second start was obviously a big deal of time, how different is it to have the opportunity to follow up right away this time?
A: I think it’s better in a sense because it’s the game plan and you know what you did. I had a whole off-season to think about some of the mistakes I made in that game and then you go through pre-season, I don’t play much. Now its six weeks into the season and you get a chance to start, but I get to go the following weekend, do what I love to do and play quarterback. Hopefully you can build on it.
Q: Prospect of getting Stevie Johnson back?
A: It would be big to go out well as a unit with him. It would just add another dimension to our offense getting him back and hopefully we could get everybody back healthy, hopefully be a force to be reckoned with.
Q: How did you feel after making what looked like an effortless pass to Marquise Goodwin for the touchdown?
A: Obviously you feel great doing what you can to help your team to get in a situation to win a ball game. Obviously it wasn’t enough because we didn’t come out with the W. Try to build on that and hopefully get a win. Whatever you do on Sunday is okay, but unless you get a W it really doesn’t mean much.
Q: What did you see on that passing game, for a guy just coming back, the chemistry seemed admirable.
A: We had passes like that in practice; we just got an opportunity to link up. We thought we had a pass interference call on the first go ball early in the game, but this time he was able to run by the guy. With a guy with that type of speed you have to give him something he can run under. I just gave him a pass that he could probably run under. The worst thing you think about is him out-running your ball, that’s what you don’t want.
Q: It looked like you had to extend yourself in the pocket a little bit?
A: Yeah, I had to double clutch because he released inside. When he released inside I wanted to see his angle, was he going to keep straight this way or was he going to stack the wide receiver, and he actually did a great job stacking. That’s when I was able to gather when I wanted to throw him the ball.
Q: Having Stevie back, third down conversions are really important, do you feel Stevie would help getting some movement with the sticks a little bit?
A: Anytime you can have all your weapons at full force it is going to do a great deal for your offense because you can do some many different wrinkles and put guys in so many different places. Getting him back and just adding another dimension to the offense. With the third down situation, it’s something we have to work on as a unit and hopefully it’s something we get going into Sunday’s game
DT Marcell Dareus
Q: Talk about the impact that DC Mike Pettine has had on the defense.
A: (Coach Pettine) has us on top of our game and we always have the best scheme going in so we are always ready for what we have. Just on top of it and stay on top of whatever they have for us.
Q: The Dolphins have struggled against the pass rush, what do you make of what you’ve seen from them on the offensive line?
A: They have been together for a while and they still have a good sign with each other, it is what it is with them. As the season goes on I’m pretty sure they are going to get stronger. That’s one of our biggest rivals, they're going to come with their A-game and we are going to do the same.
Q: This may be the most motivating part of the success you guys have had getting to the quarterback, being the fact that there seems to be opportunities for everybody, like you guys spread the wealth in this system.
A: Coach Pettine really has our system broken down to a science. Once you do your job, you do it to the best of your ability, your time will come, you just have to be there and make the plays you are suppose to make and be accountable. It’s not really an issue. Just wait your turn and play hard.
CB Stephon Gilmore
Q: Did you feel like the cast limits what you can do out on the field?
A: Of course, it feels like I’m playing with one hand, but I am getting used to it. In practice I feel more comfortable, my legs are getting back under me. I feel good out there.
Q: Do you worry that teams might view you as a target as someone to run and or throw at because of your limitations?
A: I hope they do, I hope they throw at me. I’ll be ready if they do and allow me to make more plays.
Q: You guys do a pretty good job on defense for takeaways so far this year, you’re right up near the top in the league this year, what do you think that’s all about?
A: Just trying to make plays on the ball. Coach always preaches to us, you have to take chances and we have done that. We just sometimes have to take away the deep ball and I think we would be a better defense.
Q: Is that a function of the pressure that you applied when you get that many takeaways that you have?
A: Yeah, it does, you have to give defense line some credit, linebackers some credit, we are all a team so sometimes its good cover and sometimes it’s a good pass rush. It goes both ways.
WR Marquise Goodwin
Q: How about having Stevie back, what does that do?
A: It definitely gives us a boost, Stevie is a wonderful player and even better person. Just having him back is going to be great.
Q: How do you think the offense looked last week?
A: We started off a little shaky but at the end of the day we progressed throughout the game. We started making plays, the quicker we can get that done earlier in the game and we can get in the red-zone and score touchdowns, it will be better for the team.
Q: Seems like it was easy for the receivers to get on the same page with Thad, can you talk about that?
A: It’s not like he just came out of nowhere. Thad has been throwing with us, he’s been practicing with us even before he got moved up from practice squad. The timing was there, all it took was for him to get an opportunity to get out there with us.
Q: How about that welcome to the NFL, you tie a game in the fourth quarter, is that kind of an “I’m here” moment?
A: That wasn’t just my moment that was everybody’s moment. I had the easiest job on the field I can guarantee. I can get all the praise for it but I definitely had the easiest job. The line and tight ends blocking, running back stepping up for pass protection, and other receivers running routes to get me open. At the end of the day it took all of us, it was a great group effort.
RB Fred Jackson
Q: What are your thoughts on the match-up against the Dolphins?
A: They're a good one for us. I like the game plan we have going in. We are going to try and take advantage of some of the things we can do. Get guys in spaces that will make some plays so it will be a good game for us. We get to go into a hostile environment for us, it’s always a good game when we go down there. I am looking forward to the challenge.
Q: What are your impressions of the way Thad stepped in and ran the offense last week and what do you expect to see out of him this week?
A: Improvement. He did a tremendous job for us. He gave us an opportunity to win that football game, managed everything well, put guys in place to make plays, made some great deep balls and he did everything we asked him to. I expect him to come out and take advantage of the game plan we have going in and continue to get better.
Q: How big do you think it will be for him to have one start then starting again the following week, opposed to having months in between?
A: I think it will be the best thing for him. This allows him to kind of pick up where he left off and not have that layoff he had in between the first two starts. I think with a player like that, a guy that’s hungry, that wants to make plays, it’s just going to be better for him, allow him to progress and get better as a player.
WR Stevie Johnson
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Q: Your thoughts on coming back to Miami?
A: I was able to go through the entire practice, all the reps. I feel good about my body, get back in the training room and continue to keep doing this rehab work.
Q: How did it feel catching passes with Thad today?
A: It was good, everything was pretty much in stride. We know it is another level when you get on the field on Sundays but this is where it starts. This is my first time working with him in the reps and it was good so far.
Q: What do you think he will bring to the offense?
A: I guess just the charisma that he has as far as making plays, he’s got that it factor about him. He walks around with big shoulders and head up, I think that’s what he brings, confidence to the team and offense.
Q: Do you think you’re at a disadvantage from not playing with Thad last week?
A: Well I don’t think it will be a disadvantage because we had today, we have tomorrow, Friday and another walk through on Saturday. It’s a lot of time in between until game time. I am not worried about any miscommunication between me and Thad and we’ll just go from there.
Q: Third kick in the can inside the division, on the road, and it’s the Dolphins. What are your thoughts?
A: We just have to win. Another big one for us, we have the record we have right now with 2-4. We need to win against the Dolphins and against everyone else. At the end of the day we just have to get these wins and stop getting these losses.
Q: When you look at the Dolphins secondary you see opportunities everywhere, specifically to the defense, what do you see?
A: We just have to get open and have to get open fast because their line and linebackers are studs. I think as receivers we have to get where we are supposed to be and make sure we have space for the ball. Those linebackers are coming.
Q: What percentage would you put yourself at health wise, are you where you need to be?
A: I probably have a little more work, maybe 80 percent to 85 percent. As good enough right now and I’ll have treatments for the rest of the week, so I’m feeling good about this Sunday.
LB Manny Lawson
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Q: Do you find guys actually looking forward to these challenges coming up?
A: I can’t speak for everybody else but I know for myself my only focus right now is Miami. What I think tends to happen, when you try to look past a team, that team ends up coming in and getting the best of you so I refuse to look ahead. My focus and goals are finding a way to best Miami.
Q: What do you see from this Miami team, do you see opportunities on defense?
A: Yeah, just in a quick scout of them this far I think we can get after the quarterback and get him off his spot, rattle him a little bit and get a couple hits on him. Overall, they are a talented bunch, they have my applause, they can really take the field. We have a past history of getting beat on deep balls, so that’s one thing we really have to take home to, really shut them down and not letting them get deep and keeping our safety’s and everyone else deep. That goes into the front seven also, the quicker we can get to the quarterback the less yards they have to cover and less time getting to the ball so it’s all one package. Their tight end is coming up strong. He’s really showcased himself as a dominant tight end in the league and that’s a guy to watch.