(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of a three-part series with fourth-year Bills coach Sean McDermott from a Zoom session with the team media last week.)
Starting last Friday, the National Football League permitted coaching staffs to return to their team’s facilities on a limited basis.
However, that did not include the players, whose interaction continues on an interactive basis through options such as Zoom and similar virtual meeting sites.
But that does little to enhance the Bills’ team-building camaraderie that coach Sean McDermott sees as so important.
“This has certainly been an event-packed offseason just in terms of the things that continue to happen,” McDermott said during last week’s Zoom conference with the team media. “My biggest answer is what do you do with it. To me, it comes back to leadership, and that’s my job. That’s also the job of the veterans on our football team ... it’s their team.
“I’ve got to take ownership, they have to take ownership and find a way to navigate everything that’s happened and adjust. I’m confident that we’ll do that. We’ve got guys on our team that are built and wired that they’ve overcome adverse times before.”
He admitted, “Does that mean it’s going to be easy? No. Does that mean that the world right now is easy? No. We all need leadership and our football team needs leadership. That’s what we plan on doing as the leaders of our football team, myself included, leading us through these times.”
So how do the virtual sessions work?
“For our team, and it may be different for other teams, we’ll start with rookie meetings just to give them their chance to get comfortable with their position coach and ask questions they had from the day before,” McDermott said. “Then, on normal days, we’ll come together in a team meeting format, or we’ll go right into unit meetings (for) offense/defense and then special teams.
“The rookies end the day back with their position coaches and also in the rookie development program (which) is transitioning to life in the NFL and off the field.”
HAVEN’T the rookies been affected more than anybody?
“It’s been interesting … nothing’s been normal or very few things have been normal,” McDermott admitted. “I would say those are the guys, as well as the veteran free agents, but in particular the rookies that are new to our football team.
“It’s a big-time uphill climb for them because not only do they not know us, they don’t know our systems, our schemes. On top of that, you talk about transitioning to life in the NFL. That’s a whole other program that we’ve tried to be on point with in Buffalo with our development team, and the amount of time that they spend in helping these young men transition.”
He conceded, “It’s been a challenge, and I think just awareness to that has been the first step. Awareness that there’s a huge gap and we have to also be realistic with potentially what could be their contribution level. We’ll see, early on in particular.
“There could be a chance that if we don’t come back until training camp – we’ll see where that goes – but if we don’t, there’s only basically six weeks, and we’re playing a real game that counts.”
McDermott added, “What, realistically, and I’m talking the whole team, as coaches, can we expect our players to do, and get good at during that time? There’s ongoing conversations and we’ve got to be at our best as a coaching staff and as an organization as we move forward.”
FINALLY, he was asked about a story on the culture within Pegula Sports & Entertainment – firings, furloughs and the struggles of the Sabres, etc. – in which there was supposed concern on McDermott’s part about low morale within the company, whose prime possession is the Bills.
“Any concern I have is addressed directly to Terry and Kim (Pegula, the owners), outside of that, overall I’m encouraged by where things are going,” he maintained. “When we arrived here a few years ago, I think things have changed drastically since that time. I’m focused on the Bills and leading a football team and an organization to the best of my ability, and I’m excited about the future.
“I’m excited about the people we’ve brought on board. Obviously, no one wants what’s going on now and the challenges that we have, but it’s an exciting time in Buffalo and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)