The Buffalo Bills, like every other NFL team, have had to change their offseason program due to the coronavirus. Gone are in-person workouts and meetings, and the team’s rookie minicamp switched to an entirely online format this past week. McDermott shared details of all the changes with The MMQB’s Albert Breer for his column this week.
Buffalo began preparing for the altered offseason in mid-March, when scouts were pulled off the road during the pre-draft process. Seeing the writing on the wall for later events, the Bills began preparing contingencies.
According to Breer, McDermott leaned on the former NFL players on his coaching staff who worked through the 2011 lockout when players were barred from team facilities. McDermott was defensive coordinator in Carolina at the time, but several members of his current staff were on NFL rosters then.
Special teams coordinator Heath Farwell was with the Seattle Seahawks, wide receivers coach Chad Hall was with the Philadelphia Eagles, assistant offensive line coach Ryan Wendell was with the New England Patriots, and assistant defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire was on the San Diego Chargers back in 2011.
“These guys are now coaches, so they were highly-motivated players,” McDermott said. “But even for them, it was hard to find routine, hard to find structure, sometimes hard to get motivated, because you never knew when it was gonna end.”
So one of the things McDermott did was build in routine and schedule, while balancing it with some flexibility to account for each player’s unique personal situation. The first phase of the offseason program began April 20th. Normally, this would be team workouts led by the strength and conditioning staff in the weight room and on the practice field. They’re also allowed to do some classroom work.
“Through Phase 1, [McDermott] and the coaches have held two hours of daily meetings,” wrote Breer. “They’ll start with position meetings some days, unit meetings others (sometimes both), with team meetings to wrap up the day in the afternoon. There are also two options for strength and conditioning: an East Coast meeting at 8 a.m. and one after the team meeting for those out west.”
And those conditioning sessions look different for each player. Different position groups have different goals, but players also have access to different types of equipment. NFL teams were allowed to send a limited amount of gear to each player.
“There’s a stark difference for a lot of reasons, one of which was during that time they had access to weight rooms, where a lot of guys during the bulk of the virus were kicked off of fields or kicked out of gyms,” McDermott told Breer.
McDermott also spoke with Breer about the players they have brought in since he was hired in 2017. They’ve sought out “motivated” players who can be “dependable”, two words that were used throughout the article to discuss the Bills’ players and coaches. The team has made it a focus of their process to add guys who would hold themselves accountable, as well as young leaders who can build camaraderie and show the path forward.
The Bills’ coach also discussed the leadership of Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds in the article, as well as the lofty expectations for the team in 2020, the AFC East and the New England Patriots, and more. Read the entire article here.