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Buffalo Bills OTA press conference transcript: special teams coordinator Heath Farwell

The coordinators spoke on Tuesday.

The Buffalo Bills continued OTAs on Tuesday and as they entered week 2, the coordinators spoke with the media on Tuesday. Below we have the transcript of special teams coordinator Heath Farwell, who discussed the player evaluation process, his role and philosophies as a coordinator, the punting-game competition and more.

STC Heath Farwell

Q: I’m curious about what this time of year is like for you. You are a long way from knowing the final group of guys that you are going to have and getting stuff set up with guys that you aren’t sure who’s going to be here at the end of it all. How do you go about all that?

A: I think the beauty of it is that we can do a lot of drill work that kind of gets everybody involved, get a bunch of reps. And the more guys we can get out there to see what they can do and how they can help us come to regular season, that’s what we are doing. We are getting a bunch of guys reps and everybody’s getting involved so we’re taking a look at everybody. Everybody out there, we are evaluating so it’s good.

Q: Some of the guys that are drafted, I mean if you are going to make a team, if you’re a fourth-round pick or something, in a lot of cases you better be ready to play special teams. Do you keep a special eye on some of those guys?

A: Yeah absolutely. Any of the rookies, they have big shoes to fill. All of these guys have been playing for a long time, recovered kicks at this level for a long time so they definitely got a lot of work to do. In the later rounds and the undrafted free agents, a big part of it is going to be on special teams so that’s going to be a big part. That’s the evaluation, how they play offensively, defensively and of course how can they contribute on special teams on that side of the field too.

Q: How much is it for you now that you are in this special teams coordinator role finding your way as being that main guy in that position?

A: Like I said, you just want to be able to evaluate them all and every little bit counts. It’s about how they do on offense and defense and then special teams. It’s a big part of the game and it’s a big emphasis here. Coach McDermott and Brandon Beane, that’s a huge emphasis for them so I’m just trying to help prepare them the best I can and [Matthew] Smiley, my assistant who is doing a really nice job just giving them those tools we can and prepare them. But they are all working hard, that’s the cool thing. Everyone is working their butts off and we are getting better everyday but we have a long ways to go. It’s still early and we are only a couple weeks in but it’s fun to be out here. We are excited to be out here and run around and be out on the grass. We are enjoying it.

Q: What about you and your styles specifically, and kind of figuring out how you want to relay your message and run things on that side?

A: I’m hoping the message is clear to them, what I’m into and what kind of program we are going to be around here but I think we just have to keep grinding. That’s the thing, we just have to keep working at it. That’s all we got to do, just keep working at it.

Q: Are there one or two philosophies right now that this time of year you really try to drill home to guys, especially the younger guys, you want them to then continue to carry on?

A: Playing fast and playing smart and playing with juice is kind of the motto we have got around here. It’s playing fast, we want that screaming off the tape. They’ve got to play with great effort, strength and then playing smart. We have got to be smart, we got to know the rules, those are the things. And playing with energy, that’s what the best teams are about. Playing with juice and I’m hoping that’s the message that they are getting and that’s what me and Smiley are trying to portray.

Q: What are your thoughts on a punting competition where that stands?

A: They’ve both done a good job with their rehabs. They’ve worked their butts off all offseason to get back and both get full strength and they both are doing a really good job. I am happy with where their progress is but we are long ways to go from making a decision. Like I said, they are just competing and they are getting better everyday.

Q: When it comes down to September and you need to figure out your special [teams unit] and who needs to be on it and you sit down with the head coach, does he give you a group of names and says these are special teams players or do you ask for certain players? How does that all break down to form the units that you have?

A: I think it’s a collective group. It’s how they do offensively and defensively but can they contribute on special teams. When you have those guys that are on the bottom half of the roster, if you could help us out in one other phase or a couple of phases on special teams it has a lot of value. If you’re a backup linebacker it’s all the phases, so I think that’s part of the evaluation process between coach [McDermott], Brandon Beane and the coordinators. How can it help us win games, that’s what it’s about and how can we pick the best guys to help us do that.

Q: Some starters you are going to want, aren’t you?

A: Absolutely, I’d love to have them all. I’d love to have all the starters out there but that’s part of it. How much are we going to keep those guys out there? They are going to be playing a lot of reps on offense and defense so we got to have backups that play four phases and help out special teams-wise, and they got to be ready to fill in at their position on offense or defense. That’s what it is, it’s how they could help this team win. That’s the most important thing and whatever that value is, is going to be what’s going to make the team.

Q: I’m curious how you think your experience as a player going to the Pro Bowl how that helps your current role, whether it’s getting guys to buy in or commanding respect right off the bat and however that sort of factored in?

A: I definitely think that’s my coaching style. What I lack in experience in coaching I kind of make it up with playing time. I’ve played up against a lot of these guys or a couple guys I should say and just being in those locker rooms a handful of years ago, I feel like I’ve had a good relationship with them and am still building it. I’m hoping they respect me, I’m hoping I’m getting that respect from them as I’m coaching them because I respect every single one of them and I know what they go through. Understanding what they go through everyday, I would say, nobody knows it better than I do.

Q: What’s it been like coaching a guy like Lorenzo [Alexander]?

A: It’s great. He’s one of those guys I love to have on every phase because he can still do it on a high level, it’s just a matter of how much I can use him. But I respect Lorenzo, playing against him some handful of times. I’ve said before I couldn’t block him when I was playing against him and I respect him as a player and I respect him still and hopefully I am earning his respect coaching him.

Q: How has he helped you transition into this role?

A: All those veterans, I rely on them heavily. Being a new coordinator this is all new to me so getting a good understanding of what the feel is, is that clear enough to them, is that clear enough to the young guys because I know those guys, the older guys, get it but what are the young guys getting? It’s the whole group, I’m speaking to everybody not just Lorenzo. Lorenzo knows it as good as anybody. But he’s a good voice to call to let me know if I need to clear something up a little bit more or this so he has been a great sound board for me and a lot of these veterans, I rely on all of these guys who have done this and who have been in special team rooms whether it’s here or with other teams. They are very valuable and I am definitely taking full advantage of those guys.

Q: What kind of mindset do they bring to playing special teams that makes them viable, especially to the younger guys?

A: I think looking at our starters and their background, that’s where I try to explain to them that Lorenzo started off as a special teams guy and he’s found a niche playing defense and has found a great role for him, but it wouldn’t have been if he didn’t play for special teams all those years at a high level. So we have several cases like that where guys contributing whether it’s Micah Hyde, some of these other guys or Jordan Poyer who would be on every phase if we let him. That’s a great example to these young guys. You see veterans who want to sit in the meetings, want to be there, want to be on them. It just shows the importance of special teams and a good team. That’s what I try to tell these guys. The good teams that I’ve been on and been a part of have good leaders who are willing to play special teams and care and really mentor the younger guys and know the importance of them because a lot of these rookies and young players have never played special teams in college, so it’s all new to them. We are starting from scratch but they have good role models for what it could look like.

Q: What are the challenges of coaching special teams to the point where you guys are running around in shorts?

A: It is hard but we make the most of it. Every team is doing the same thing, we do more bags or we do one-on-one drills. That’s why I break it down to drills as much as we do to try and break it down into little pieces and try to get the most out of them. I try to show them the drill and then show them the meaning of how to use that drill in the game. All of those drills, there’s a reason we are doing them and it’s putting those pieces together. So when we put on that game tape, that’s where you use that move that I just tried to teach you, that tool. I think just putting it all together especially for the young guys who don’t have a big understanding of the full game of special teams yet. So you do these drills, you kind of put it together in the meeting room and explain how that’s valuable and how you can use that tool.