It's become something of a tradition in the NFL International Series - at least one, if not both, of the teams involved in any Wembley game will host a "Play 60" event with local London school children, and the Bills were no exception.
A contingent of BIlls players, mostly practice squad bodies but with a few of the team's bigger names, arrived at the Tottenham Hotspur FC training facility in the north London suburb of Enfield yesterday to the chants and shouts of over a hundred British schoolchildren waiting to get their first taste of American football.
The group of 20ish Bills players, joined by Buffalo legend Jim Kelly, split the kids into small groups and led them through a variety of different drills, ranging from catching passes from Kelly to hitting tackle bags and practicing their spin moves.
For the players, it was a rare chance to introduce the sport they love to kids who may never have even seen a pigskin before. "They were so excited about it, everybody wanted to get back and do some more," Marcell Dareus said afterwards. "I wish I had more time with them, they was all like, 'I didn't get a chance to have a go at this', and I'm like, 'sorry buddy I gotta move', and they were all sad-facing me, it was just crazy."
Tyrod Taylor, walking and moving around easily without any suggestion of a limp, agreed that "it was a great time interacting with the kids... some of them I had to adjust their grip on the ball, some were throwing rugby style, but it was just fun being out here and interacting". For those Bills players who took part, it must have come as a welcome distraction from the criticism and noise in the media regarding the team's recent performances.
Still, even here, they couldn't escape the chatter. Dareus admitted to being "frustrated" about sometimes being taken off on third down, or the lack of opportunities the defensive front four have had to just pin their ears back and rush as a unit, but when pressed by the media at the end of the session, the defensive tackle would only respond to questions about on-field performance with the phrase "we're not here to talk about the team", again and again, until someone changed the subject.
The most frank assessment came from Kelly, who was not afraid to express his own frustrations. When asked about the team, Kelly said that "speaking from the heart, I don't know what the heck's going on. I know injuries for sure on the offense don't help... [but] on the defensive side, I don't know. I was excited like everybody was to see what our defense could do, and so far we haven't done very well. I hope that gets changed or fixed or whatever needs to have happen but we need to get better."
Those injuries on offense have definitely hampered the team, perhaps no more so than the MCL sprain that held Tyrod Taylor out of last Sunday's game. When asked about his knee, Taylor responded: "it's progressing each and every day, my body feels good, and I look forward to getting back out there in person... [I'm] taking it day by day, we'll see how it goes at practice tomorrow."
When asked about the other injuries, Tyrod continued: "it's definitely unfortunate that people get injured, but those injuries are out of our control. We have to deal with it and move forward... we've got to take the guys who ARE going to play, and get them the most reps that we can in practice and get them prepared for the game."
One other notable injury on the offensive side of the ball is Sammy Watkins. Watkins, of course, is one of multiple Bills who've spoken openly with the media about feeling misused in their current role. On that subject, Taylor admitted that "we know what type of playmaker he is, we know once he gets the ball in his hands what kind of football player he can be, but we have to let the game come to us. In the end of the day, whatever it takes to win a football game is what we have to do."
The most recent Bill to speak out in the media is Mario Williams. When Jim Kelly was asked what he thought about Williams venting to the media, he replied that "you never want that, but dropping Mario Williams into coverage a whole lot? Didn't we pay him a lot of money to hit the quarterback?... I think one of things Mario should have done is go right to the coaches and tell them that, so we'll see what happens, but we've got to get better."
One area where Kelly had nothing but positives to say was on Tyrod Taylor: "a great arm, surprised me to be honest with you when I first saw him at training camp how powerful his arm was, and of course his athletic ability and being able to move around and make plays with his legs... there's no doubt he's a playmaker, I just hope he stays healthy. We need that."
Outside of the team, Taylor and Dareus talked more generally about being in London. Dareus had been in the UK previously on a press trip a few years ago; when asked if he ever expected to actually be playing in the International Series, he replied that "I didn't know that we would be coming, but once we saw the schedule, we all got excited. We all wanted to get over here and have a good time."
When asked about any potential disruption to the regular schedule, Taylor said that "I think [it's like a normal week], being that we got here yesterday, we had a day off today, by the time tomorrow rolls around I'll be well rested." Dareus said that "it's impossible" to have a sense of normalcy around the game, but that "when we're in our hotel, the organisation does a great job of putting a shield over the hotel, and just keeping it as 'this is our organisation, we're here for business and we've got to take care of business'. We've got our weight room, we've got our field, there's no confusion - all the outside stuff is outside; when we're here, we're here."
As long as the Bills can take care of business on Sunday, then it'll help to quieten the critics heading into the bye week.