(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a three-part series with fourth-year Bills coach Sean McDermott from a Zoom session with the team media earlier this week.)
Bills coach Sean McDermott got some good news earlier this week when the National Football League permitted its teams’ coaching staffs to return to the club’s facilities on a limited basis.
But that did nothing for the other half of the equation … the players.
Preparation for the 2020 season, whatever form it takes, is up to them and, so far, Buffalo players on the offensive side of the ball have stepped up and gathered at the workout facility of wide receiver Stephon Diggs’ personal trainer in South Florida.
In all, 17 skill position players took part, including quarterbacks Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, draftee Jake Fromm and Davis Webb.
Also on hand were Diggs and fellow wide receivers John Brown, Cole Beasley, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Nick Easley and draftees Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins. Rounding out the group were running back Devin Singletary and tight ends Dawson Know, Tommy Sweeney, Jason Croom and Nate Becker.
OF THE GROUP workout, McDermott said, “That was driven by our players ... Josh Allen and the quarterback position. The neat thing about that was so many guys showed up. That was not an easy thing to pull off. Josh was on the West Coast, along with Matt. Davis (Webb) was in Texas and Jake is on the East Coast.
“We talk about leadership (and) to get the quarterback position to pull all that together and for the guys to meet them, I think it was outstanding and a big step for Josh and his leadership … just a phenomenal job.”
He added, “That visual of what our world needs to look like with the guys smiling together and hands on each other’s shoulders, that’s a great snapshot for America.
“(Josh) continues to take critical steps in all those areas, albeit the venue is different right now. His influence is still being felt through the Zoom meetings.”
McDermott admitted, “I have a chance to dial in and listen in on some of the Zoom meetings and try to spread myself around. But I do spend some time in that quarterback room. With Josh, the example that he is to the other guys is a good example of his leadership. You know he’s in there, he’s locked. It’s been impressive if you had the opportunity that I have to bounce in and out of different meeting rooms, the guys are locked in and the coaches are doing a phenomenal job.
“That part isn’t easy putting together your own meeting from home. I’ve been extremely pleased with the effort (the coaches) have put into it, as well as the creativity. Zooms were great, getting it started I was like, ‘This is pretty cool how we can do this’ (but) after a while the luster wears off. So you’ve got to find ways to continue to engage and keep guys dialed in, and they’ve done a great job of that.”
As for Allen’s development as a leader, he added, “It’s a critical step that he took it upon himself and his own initiative to put this together. Whether we continue to be apart like we are now or when we come back together, this will be a feather in Josh’s cap that he was able to do what he did.
“You saw the response just in sheer numbers. That alone tells you what type of respect his teammates have for him and what type of respect Josh has for his teammates.”
WITH TRAINING camp weeks away, what preparations is McDermott looking for from his squad?
“My expectations on the break are I want the players to clearly understand what’s expected. The longer we’ve been here the better we’ve gotten at setting up our players in terms of handling that break at a high level,” he said. “It’s interesting because, in a normal year, we’re going through the spring with coaches and players both. Then coaches kind of take a break, where they can get away for three to five weeks, and the players need to understand that’s when they should be ramping up their training, so it’s a bit of a paradox. This year we’ll probably be a little similar, but not normal for obvious reasons.
“What we’re trying to do as information comes available to us is have the best plan in place. Our players and staff know exactly what to expect. What we expect (players) to do is handle it well and be in the best shape of their lives and certainly make good decisions off the field.”
(MONDAY: How the coronavirus has affected Bills camaraderie)
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)