The Bills returned to work Wednesday with the Dolphins up next Sunday in Miami. Below are comments beginning with head coach Chan Gailey:
Q: How do you get your arms around what has been going on with special teams? You are near the top in returns, but near the bottom in coverage.
A: It has been a combination of a lot of things. I think we have done a great job with our return game--kickoff return and punt return. Leodis (McKelvin) was really on fire there for a while. It has been a shame he has been hurt lately. It is different when your top guy is not in there. It is different. The coverage teams, sometimes it is a combination of the kick and sometimes it is a combination of coverage. I do not have the exact answer. You just have to try to get that to all come together at one time so that you have quality coverage teams as well.
Q: Is the personnel for the return and coverage units that much different?
A: We have some of the same guys, but not all the same guys. Probably some of the difference is we have more offensive guys on coverage teams than most teams I have been around. Our defensive players have been playing more snaps on defense, been involved defensively and had not been on coverage teams.
Q: How much do the kickers play into it? You made a change at both kickoff specialist and punter.
A: It makes a difference, it does. We have changed both of those positions during the course of the season and it makes a difference. I think we have had some very good days. It is kind of like the rest of the team. We have had some very good days and some very bad days.
Q: How important are these last two games to sorting out the second cornerback spot?
A: You would like for somebody to step up and see some direction for the future there. You really want somebody to just play well for these two ball games so it gives us an opportunity to win the game.
Q: What is the deal with WR Donald Jones?
A: He has an illness and if he wants to talk to you about it, I will let him talk to you about it because I do not talk about things that are not football-related. This one is not football-related.
Q: WR Stevie Johnson got emotional talking about playing to help you retain your job these last two games. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said you connect with players on an emotional level. Why do you think that is?
A: I do not know. I try to tell them the truth. That is all I try to do. I try to tell them the truth every day. That may resonate with some of them and it may not. I try to help them and let them be as successful as they can possibly be.
Q: How does it make you feel?
A: I am humbled, but at the same time we are in a production business and I know that, too.
Q: What has Johnson proven to you over the last three years?
A: I think that he is an example of persistence. I think he is an example of not ever doubting yourself. It would have been easy for him to not go into the tank and not believe in himself anymore. When he got the opportunity, we gave him a chance and he proved he could be a special football player. I am proud of him for taking advantage of the opportunity he was given and never taking the opportunity to get down on himself or to question his abilities.
Q: How do you rank the catch Johnson made versus Seattle?
A: It is up there at the top. I had Calvin Johnson (at Georgia Tech), too and he made some unbelievable catches. But it ranks right up there with the best catches that I have seen.
Q: Johnson did not give up in that game either.
A: No. I have never seen that one time in the entire time I have been around him, ever. He has played through some tough times.
Q: DE Shawn Merriman, are you getting what you need out of him?
A: I think we make too much out of numbers sometimes. Statistics are for people to make evaluations that sometimes are true and sometimes are not completely valid. I think they would all like to be better at what they do. We need everybody to be more consistent at what they do. I think that he is getting back into it. The guy had not played for two or three years. Everybody thinks you have been in five, six or eight games and things ought to go back to normal it does not just go back to normal. It takes a while. Hopefully it clicks one more time with him.
Q: The defense is on pace to give up the most points and yards in franchise history. Is that a statistic that is true?
A: The yards are more true than the points are because of field position, kick returns and everything factors into that. Turnovers-they end up at the 10 yard line they are scoring on. The points are not as indicative as yards would be in my opinion. I think that we had made some strides up until last week. I think that we had really made some strides. Now it will test our metal a little bit to see how we come back from playing like that as a defense. To see how mad that made them and if we can go down and play well this week.
Q: How good is the Dolphins' defense?
A: They are good. They are big and strong up front. They are eighth in the league against the run. That is a valid statistic. You can see it. They are strong up front. I think Reshad Jones is one of the best safeties we have played against this year. He is playing extremely well, has a nose for the ball and tackles extremely well. They are doing a lot of things right defensively right now.
Q: Has QB Ryan Tannehill progressed since the last time you saw him?
A: He is playing better. The biggest difference you see with him at this point is for about a three game stretch he turned it over several times. I think they have had two turnovers since they played us. I think that has been the number one area for them. They have eliminated the turnovers and with their defense playing extremely well, they have been right there in every game.
Q: Does the recent history and expectations of this franchise create an environment that is difficult to win in?
A: I think you create your culture within your organization. I think if you get enough people that believe in winning that you can win. I think if you let outside influences sway you one way or the other in the long run that is going to hurt you, not help you. I think that all of that, everything that has to be done to turn it around, has to come from within and within us. Getting everything headed in the right direction and make the plays to win games. Win a couple big games. It is a momentum situation and when you win a couple of those you get the opportunity to win more.
Q: CEO Russ Brandon said on the radio this morning the talent level for this team is better than it was three years ago. If so, is that an indictment on the job you and your staff has done?
A: Well I do believe the talent level is better. We do not have the wins to show for it, so that is not good because as I said the other day the buck stops with me. I understand that. We are in a production business. We have not produced. I think we can get there, but we have not done it so far. I do not have a lot to jump up and shout about or champion at this point. Just a belief.
Q: Everybody mentions a handful of plays could have changed the trajectory of the season. Do you remember any plays in particular that stand out?
A: Yeah, but I am not going to talk about them. There always are ones that stick in your crawl, but it is just crying over spilt milk if you start talking about them.
Q: Will CB Leodis McKelvin practice this week?
A: No, I do not think he is going to make it today.
Q: You think he might this week though?
A: Maybe. Outside chance.
Q: What would a couple of division wins to end the season do to help everything out?
A: Wins help everything. I do not care where you are or what you are doing. Wins help everything. It gives you a positive outlook. It gives you an opportunity to build on something. It is a lot easier to build on wins than it is to try to pick up after losses.
Q: What does it mean to have C Eric Wood so determined to play in his condition?
A: It does not surprise me. He is a competitor, a great competitor. Not just a competitor, a great competitor. He is a fighter and it does not shock me at all that he wants to get back and try to help us finish this thing strong.
Q: A lot of people would ask why bother with the playoffs not a possibility. Why do you have him come back?
A: Because we want to try to win football games and you want your best football players if they are healthy to win games. If he is not healthy enough to do it, he will not play. If he is healthy enough, we all know the quality of player that he is. You want him on the field.
Q: How important is OG Kraig Urbik and knowing he is going to be here long-term?
A: Yeah, it is great for Kraig (Urbik) and great for the organization. He has done a lot of things here for us and that is a positive step to try to keep as many of your players, quality players, together as you can.
Q: Do you know how the number two cornerback is going to shake out for Sunday?
A: Do not know that right now.
Q: How much could you get behind a 3-3 record going into the offseason?
A: To me, that is a positive. I do not know when we have been there but to me that is a positive. Winning the last two, and you have to win one before you can win two...we keep talking about winning the last two, you have to win one before you have a chance at winning the last two. I look at it as a positive to be able to finish the division .500, but you want to win these last two--I do not care who you play.
Q: Do you think you could use a few more players with Wood's intensity on this team?
A: You always use players with great passion and great intensity. I think we have quite a few of those. It is not like we are devoid of that. I do not believe we are.
Q: Wood called the Toronto series a joke. Is he right?
A: We have had a lot of guys say things during the course of the year in the heat of the battle or the passion of the moment they say something. I am not sure. In my opinion, I understand the situation. I understand the importance of that series for the organization and two years ago it was great up there. This year it was not as great. So when you win and you play good, all those are great.
Q: Just to clarify, when you say the situation you are talking about the series and not Woods' comments?
A: Yeah, the series. Yeah.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Q: What does it say about WR Stevie Johnson for him to be able to go after 1,000 for the third straight year?
A: I think that is always a goal coming into the season and I think that he is a guy that I have obviously relied on a lot the past few years. The constant double teams and attention that he gets from other teams, he has been very productive this year. He is the kind of guy that last year and this year a little bit there was some nagging stuff, but you know every Sunday he is going to be out there. He is going to give it his all and he is going to make plays. He is a very passionate guy and he has really kind of come full circle in that in terms of his leadership and the way that he goes about his business and prepares for games. He understands it. He is the leader of that room and the guys are looking up to him. I think he has done a great job in that role this year.
Q: Has Johnson proven himself in some way considering he was a seventh-round draft pick?
A: I think he is constantly out there trying to prove himself. And when you are a guy that came into the league unheralded without much expectation but all of a sudden there is expectation thrown on him every year to continue to produce--it has been a nice thing to see. His role changed a little bit as we have gone into this season, a little more inside receiver at times. How he has taken to that and how he has really honed in his route running ability and those types of things to get on the same page as me with some of those inside routes as well as the outside routes, I think it says a lot about him.
Q: Why do so many of the big plays, like Stevie's catch against Seattle, not lead to anything?
A: I do not know if you took stats on that or know exactly, that one in particular was a big part of the game where he makes that play and we do have momentum on our side. I think that one ended in a turnover. I believe it ended in a turnover, but we have to be able to when somebody makes a play like that...Scott (Chandler) made a great play earlier in the game that I think we were able to capitalize on. But when guys step up and make plays like that you have got to be able to feed off it. Just finish a drive, make sure it leads to points or make sure momentum stays in your favor. That one was unfortunate because it was such a great catch and a great individual effort by him to not be able to get more out of it.
Q: Does it matter to win these last two games in terms of gaining some traction in the division?
A: Yeah, I think it does. To be honest though, I think these last two games are more about us than who we are playing. Just kind of finding our identity again and making sure that we are out there just kind of pushing through. This season has been very disappointing, but we have to make sure we go out there, play for each other and play for ourselves. I think it is going to be more about us and trying to end on a good note than who we are playing or the two divisional opponents that we are playing.
Q: Do you think last time their success stopping you in the red zone was a lack of execution or good defense that you need to adjust to?
A: They did a good job. They have done a good job against us recently in terms of the third-down stuff and really just they are a very talented defense. I think their scheme is a very good scheme. They have given us problems especially when you look at the third-down stuff and what goes along with the third downs in the red zone and whatnot. That is the kind of stuff they have been getting us at. That is a focus for us-being able to go out there, execute and convert on third-down. Hopefully the points come with that.
Q: Do you feel that a lot of guys might be playing for their jobs in these last two games?
A: Yeah. The reality of the situation is these last two games really matter. Obviously they matter, it is a professional game. You go out there and you play, but in terms of how we present ourselves and how we come out and play. I think to end the season with two wins, I think that does matter. That is an important way for us to sit here and look about it. It just gives us that much more of an emphasis to make sure we are studying throughout the week, make sure we come out with energy and play. These last two games are very important for us.
Q: Are you guys playing for HC Chan Gailey's job as well?
A: I think you do not go out there in between huddles or in between the plays and think 'OK I have to do this,' or 'I have to make a play for my job or someone else's job.' But I think it is important to realize the gravity of the situation right now and the difference between two losses and two wins to end the season I think would be a lot. It is important to keep that in the back of your mind. Important to remind yourself what you are playing for and why you are going out there. It is not something during a game that you can be concerned about I guess.
Q: Stevie was getting emotional talking about Chan. Does Gailey connect with this group on that emotional level?
A: Yeah, I think so and I think it is with particular guys, too. I have said this a few times but with Stevie, with me, with Scott Chandler, with Fred Jackson and with some of the linemen just looking at the offense, he has given so many guys a chance. To have the season kind of turn out the way it has so far, I think a lot of us feel like we have let him down a little bit in terms of the opportunity and the chance that he has given us. Stevie is an emotional guy and I think that is an emotional topic when you think about not being able to produce the way you wanted to and not being able to represent your coach when he has given you all the faith in the world. That goes for me and that goes for a lot of these guys, so I think it is something that we as players feel. I think it is a natural way if you feel like you have let somebody down. We have to go out there, play, understand what we are playing for and who we are playing for.
Q: Was all the deep shots last week a way to stop the other team from keying on the screen game?
A: There is a lot of different ways teams have been dialed in. Sometimes d-tackles or d-ends not really rushing as much in order to spy the back. Maybe a linebacker assigned to a guy to spy the back. Teams have done a better job of late. The thing is, and the one who have been successful, sometimes they do a good job but you just get it in C.J. (Spiller)'s hands, let him make a few guys miss, set up his blocks and go. That is one of those things. I think teams have done a good job. You just have to continue to find ways to get him the ball and maybe it is not through the screen game. Maybe it is getting him out of the backfield and having him run routes or just continue to hand the ball off to him. That is just what part of what we are trying to do. Get him those touches and if is not in the screen game, which has not been real successful of late, maybe there are some other ways we do it.
Q: Does a losing culture really play into the result of seasons sometimes?
A: I think maybe a little bit. But when you are having losing seasons, things are not going well and you are seeing a lot of turnover whether it is with players or with coaches. Then all of a sudden a lot of new guys are in. A lot of new guys come from different NFL teams and cultures, so maybe some of it sticks with it but in the NFL in this day and age, a lot of it is when you have constant turnover there are new guys that step in and step up. You kind of create your own identity every year I guess is what I am trying to say. Looking at a team like New England, they have had a lot of the same guys. They have obviously had the guy in Tom Brady. Has been there and has really helped to nurture and create that culture. But with a lot of losing teams you are trying to reestablish yourself and create a new identity every year.
Q: C Eric Wood called the Toronto series a joke. Your thoughts?
A: Eric (Wood) is a guy that is going to speak his mind. That is what he thinks about it. I gave my thoughts last week on it and I usually try to just stay out of the controversial issues like that a lot of the time.
Q: At what point is loyalty just not enough? Opportunity to play...you say Coach Gailey has given you a chance to step up, but doesn't that really happen for every team with injuries?
A: Yeah, I was turned over the reins when Trent (Edwards) in my first year here was a starter for a few games and he put me in. Not only that year, but the last few years. Stevie Johnson was a guy that nobody really wanted on the field or did not know if he could play or not and he instead of bringing three, four or five different receivers in that had a big name like a (Terrell Owens) or whatever it was, he felt like Stevie had the talent and the ability if given the opportunity. He gave Stevie an opportunity. Roscoe Parish was kind of the same way. David Nelson, Donald Jones--two guys that were undrafted free agents that were thrown out there. Maybe it was not popular to the public because they were not high draft picks, they did not have a name and nobody knew who they were, but he knew how they fit in his offense. They have been able to be successful. A lot of it has been the faith that he has given them. Scott Chandler got cut by however many different teams. Chan saw something in him when we brought him in and allowed Scott to get out there on the field and prove that Chan was right with what he saw in him and his assessment. So there have been a lot of different guys. It is not just about other guys getting injured and stepping up. It is about Chan in the offseason identifying who he thinks will be successful, allowing them a chance not only through the offseason, but when we get to the games to go out there and prove it. He has done that time and time again with a lot of our guys.
WR Stevie Johnson
Wednesday December 19, 2012
Q: What about that catch? I mean ESPN has it ranked the number one play on Monday.
A: I mean it's just a guy trying to make a play and we ended up making it. It didn't really lead too much so. It is just a play. That's it.
Q: Have you got the chance to see it? Maybe it impressed yourself in some ways.
A: I didn't see it on TV. I saw it on the Internet though. It's a pretty cool catch. I try to talk down on it but at the end of the day it was a neat catch. But it still didn't lead to anything.
Q; How would you assess your season? Take away 5-9. Just to get to 891 yards with no David Nelson and a lot of guys trying to play opposite.
A: It's work. It is continuous work. That's what I take out of this season. You always have to work no matter what it is. With not making the playoffs, but getting to a 1,000 (receiving yards) it still shows how much you have to work. Things might not go as planned, but you never know what you are working for at the end of the day. Come to find out I'm working to get a third straight 1,000 yard season but you know that is all minor. We have to go out here, win and beat the Dolphins. Hopefully go out and beat the Jets so we can have another run at this next year.
Q: One-thousand is the number you had in mind?
A: I mean it is for any receiver. It is what we have in mind. That's not what it started off with throughout the season. It was basically playoffs, get to the playoffs this is the year. Now that is not happening. I don't want to lie and say you know I can't lie good you all would know if I'm lying. I can't say that I'm not thinking about getting a 1,000.
Q: You guys have had big plays this year and a lot of them haven't lead to anything. Why haven't big plays lead to anything this year in many cases?
A: Just the way the game unfolds. Sometimes we make the most out of it and sometimes we don't. And that is why coach said that we need to work on being more consistent.
Q: When a frustrated fan base is calling for change for better or for worse, can you do anything as far as a player to change that opinion you think?
A: Yea, do what you have been doing which is working and hope for the best. Hopefully we win because if we win things can change for the best on our part. We don't have to hear what the fan base is saying and at the end of the day we have to win.
Q: Does it enter your mind at all that you are playing for your coach's job at all?
A: Yea definitely. I don't want to see him go. I don't want to get too emotional and all that stuff but he gave me the opportunity to play here. I want to do what I can or do my part to ensure that he will be here. Hopefully I will go out there and do the most I can and we a win these next few weeks.
Q: You say you don't want to get emotional. Were you able to get emotional here?
A: No, I just didn't want to start ranting on about what he did for me and everything like that. I think it is very evident what Coach Gailey has done for me. I guess these next two week are going to be the ones that are going to make or break all of us.
Q: It's obvious how much you care about him just to talk about the possibility of something that might happen kind of gets you going.
A: Yea, most definitely because like I said, the opportunity and this whole job, this game is about opportunity. I didn't have that coming in my first two or three years until Coach Gailey came in and pretty much gave me the opportunity to play. Now I'm here getting interviewed by you all.
C Eric Wood
Wednesday December 19, 2012
Q: Why risk further injury or won't you do that? Is it going to be at a point where it is at a hundred percent before you are going to go out there?
A: I'm not going to risk further injury, but most people at this point in the season are not a hundred percent. It may bother me a little bit, but there is risk in injury any time you step out on the football field and I don't think I am putting myself in a greater risk by coming back this week if it feels good. I want to show this organization that even if I do get dinged up I'm going to fight to come back no matter what. So that is kind of my goal coming back this week.
Q: Consider the training staff kind of puts guys coming back from injury through the paces on Tuesday. Did that happen yesterday? And how did everything feel for you?
A: Yeah, we have been doing it the last few days just because I didn't want my first day yesterday kind of feeling it out. I didn't want that to be the first time I did anything. We have been kind of working it the last few days and it felt good. And it keeps feeling better and better so hopefully by Sunday it will feel real good.
Q: Considering how your seasons have ended the last couple of years, is it important to you to be out there for the last game?
A: Yeah, when I got the MRI back and it wasn't that bad all things considering the way it looked on film my goal was to come back and play. I didn't want to go on IR again. I told Buddy (Nix) that immediately, 'I don't want to go on IR and I don't want this season to end like that.' And at the time we had a chance to make the playoffs. At that point I thought being here, this is my fourth year, and if we make the playoffs there was no way I wanted to be sitting on IR. I'm going to try and make it back this week. I know we are out of it, but there still is a lot to play for.
Q: Is it Thursday because Chan had said on Monday probably not today to practice, but Thursday?
A: I'm going to do some stuff and hopefully tomorrow I will get a full work load.
Q: After letting the Toronto comments sit for a day, what are your thoughts on that situation right now and how they were received?
A: I didn't realize me and Andy's (Levitre) little radio show had so much clout to it (jokingly). That is my initial reaction to it. I understand the benefits of the Toronto game. I understand we have a small market and we have a huge market just north of the boarder. I love the city of Toronto for eating and for pleasure, but the game just has a different feel and it's not a whole lot of fun to play in at this point. Now will that change in the future if we resign with them? Possibly. It kind of rubbed me wrong last year when we jumped offside on a 3rd-and-one when they're doing the wave. This year from what I heard, I didn't get to travel, everybody was complaining that there were more Seattle fans than there were Bills fans. I don't think that many people from Seattle made the trip, but I think the non-Bills that go to the game are just cheering for plays as opposed to cheering for a team and that kills you. I realize we are out of the playoff hunt. In years to come hopefully we will have some crucial games that we will need to win up there and hopefully we can bring more of a home field advantage.
DT Kyle Williams
Wednesday December 19, 2012
Q: Is it just a case of guys playing for their responsibilities?