The Buffalo Bills and defensive end Jerry Hughes reached a contract agreement on Tuesday to lock up the veteran defensive end for two more seasons beyond 2019. After the contract was signed and the day’s session of OTAs were completed, Hughes and head coach Sean McDermott spoke to the media. There’s also one quote from quarterback Josh Allen.
Q: Give us your impression of getting this done and not having to worry about a contract going into free agency.
A: I’m very excited. First and foremost, I have to thank the Pegulas, Brandon Beane and coach McDermott for knocking this deal out and really believing in me. I’m excited to get to work. God is good, and with that being said I’m happy to get my mind focused back on football, get back to where we can take over this AFC East and make another playoff run.
Q: Was there any uncertainty with not knowing what might happen?
A: No, not at all. We’ve always had a great relationship here. Coach McDermott has always kept his door open so I could go in there and talk to him and I’ve taken that opportunity. Every now and then my name would get tossed up and [in] trade talks, so we’ve always had a great open line of communication. I really am just happy to have this deal done to really get focused on football, get with the guys and focus on winning games. That’s always been my main focus.
Q: It’s more to it rather than just the pure sack numbers. [Coach McDermott] was talking about as well as disrupting the quarterback and taking him off his mark. Are all those things an important part of your game and it’s not just measured by the pure sack total?
A: Absolutely, because throughout the course of our games you get hit with double teams and different looks that coordinators will draw up. So for me really, I have to fight through all of that. I have to not give up, feed off the fans’ energy that they bring every Sunday and really just try to make plays so we can get our offense on the field. I think that’s really been my focal point and that’s how I try to play the game so we can do our best job to win games.
Q: It’s a trend in the league, Terrell Suggs just got a big deal. Guys who are thirty or beyond as you’ll be soon, it’s not a detriment. It’s seen at your position as an age where you can still get paid.
A: Absolutely. The Pegulas have done a fantastic job with our facilities here. I call it a spa. We have some of the best facilities here in the NFL and a guy like myself and everyone here on this team takes full advantage of it. So when you do that, you are able to take great care of your body and keep it in optimal shape so that way you can go out there and play fast and look like ‘Zo [Lorenzo Alexander] and go out there running around for fifteen seasons.
Q: What’s it been like to go from having questions about your future when you were traded to now, being the longest-tenured Bill right now?
A: Honestly it feels good to have an organization, an owner, a GM and a head coach who really believes in you and is really excited for me to be back here in this building with the team and with the guys so we can build this relationship early. That way, come September we are out there having fun. We are putting our ears back, we understand how to communicate and how to work on the field and I think that’s a great testament to what they do up front but also what you need to build a championship-winning team.
Q: Does it mean something to you as well that you’re actually finally entering your third season with the same defensive scheme?
A: It really hasn’t happened here and it feels great to actually be able to analyze the film from the past two seasons, past season, and really see what I can improve, not only in the defense but just my skills. That really helps out and puts a great pin into an offseason program that we have here and that we can build on that.
Q: When the Bills drafted Ed Oliver, what was your reaction to having a chance to play with a disruptor like that?
A: I was excited. I’ve seen the kid in college take on triple teams and still be able to be in the quarterback’s face wreaking havoc all game. It was exciting for me because up front we like those types of guys in our room and we have them. Now that I get to play with a guy like that it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Q: Sean [McDermott], when he was out here earlier, talked about the type of person you are and why that was important and why they were interested in doing this. How do you feel like you’ve grown underneath this coaching staff that you’ve had now for a few years?
A: Just the way we work. They’ve always had people around the team that have been able to discuss not only on the field things, but also spiritually. I think that has had me grow more as a man and having my son, who is probably the biggest Buffalo Bills fan, always up there in the suite cheering me on. It’s always been about football and winning but now it’s more about setting an example for our community and our youth.
Q: How much better do you feel about where this team is at now than it was at the end of last season, after offseason moves and draft picks?
A: I’m excited, [Brandon] Beane has done a fantastic job pulling in some guys who have a high motor that will allow Josh [Allen] to spread the ball down the field. We got some big, physical brawlers on our offensive line, which is great for our style of play with the Frank Gore signing, with our running backs like Shady McCoy. It’s going to be a great transition for our offense and I’m excited for it.
Head coach Sean McDermott
(Note: McDermott spoke before Hughes but I’ve placed his comments second in the article. - MRW)
Q: What do you see in Jerry [Hughes] from your time here that would possibly want you guys to have him going forward?
A: Right, you know I knew Jerry just from film out of college at TCU. I watched his skill set as a pass rusher and when he transitioned from the Colts to here. And then getting to know him as a young man and watching him develop off the field and then watching him trying to take his game to another level. I’ve enjoyed that. I’ve enjoyed being around his family and so we are excited. It’s not signed and done yet, but we are excited about it.
Q: If you could put into perspective what Jerry means to this pass rush, because seven sacks last season wasn’t overwhelming, although he led the team. He was consistently getting pressure, where is his game from your perspective?
A: Yes, that’s a fair question. You know when you just look at the stats and you mention the number seven, if you pull up the tape, you watch the tape and talk about sacks versus affecting the quarterback, everyone wants the sack numbers. But just as important at times is how many times you affect the quarterback. Whether it’s getting him off the spot, his vision or his arm in a way the ball comes out. There were a number of those over the past couple years since I’ve been around Jerry and you know we value pass rushers and the ability to affect the quarterback with the front four. He was a big piece of that last year and our goal and Jerry’s goal as well is to grow, improve and evolve and you got to be able to get there with your front four.
Q: Do you consider sacks to kind of be an overrated stat based on what you just said?
A: I don’t know, that’s for you to decide. You never want to take credit away from where credit is due. You look at the great sack artists over the years like as football fans we all watch [Mark] Gastineau and [Lawrence] Taylor who, you know, guys who had the numbers, so I’d never want to take anything away from them. But just when you study the game of how you win games, you have to affect the quarterback. I think a lot of interceptions and incompletions come from just getting the quarterback moved off his spot. Like I’ve said affecting his vision, affecting the way the trajectory of the ball is and his arm. I don’t think it’s overrated because it’s important that you can sack the quarterback but at the end of the day at a minimum you have to be able to affect the quarterback in some way shape or form.
Q: How important is it to bring some continuity to the roster with Jerry Hughes who has been with you since the beginning and how important is that to push forward the message of culture to someone who has been a part of this team since you have arrived?
A: There’s two things that work there. It’s the continuity and it’s also rewarding a young man who has done things right. Brandon [Beane] has done a nice job of balancing the checkbook over the last couple of years. It’s been hard, but it’s necessary so that we can—when we feel like it’s right—target our own and bring them back. Jerry is a good football player, we’re not big fans of letting good football players walk out of our room and our building. The goal is that players that come to Buffalo and can be in our environment every day, can be a part of our culture, can be in this fan base and experience what it’s like to play in Buffalo. That they’ll become the best version of them than they’ve ever been before here in Buffalo and we’ve already started to see that take place.
QB Josh Allen
Q: How important is it to you personally and to this team to have Jerry Hughes in the fold for another couple years?
A: It’s awesome. Jerry [Hughes] is one of the best guys in the locker room. He’s a leader for us. The intensity that he brings every day is through the roof so I’m glad he has got his deal done and I’m glad we’ve got him for another couple years locked down. I think everyone in the locker room would say the same thing.