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Doug Marrone: "It's about winning"

Posted Apr 22, 2014

The Bills head coach talks about the team getting back to work and beginning the voluntary offseason workout program.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Opening Statement:

Hello everyone. It’s good to see everyone again, obviously it’s the start for us of phase one. We started today with our players. Obviously we’re extremely excited as coaches and as an organization when the players start coming back in this building. Even though you’re limited to doing a lot of things and we know it’s voluntary. It’s great to see the players back knowing that we do have a lot of hard work ahead of us. Obviously coming off a disappointing season last year, so again we look forward to that hard work. I talked to the team and the organization today and we talked to them about our theme being getting better every day. I think that’s important as we go through these days and we go through these phases. That we continue to do that so that we can field a better football team that can accomplish what our goals will be going in to this 2014 season.

Q: Do you expect full attendance today?
A: I am aware of everybody, so I’m aware of everyone that is here and I’m aware of the issues that have come out. I don’t really check it or in other words we don’t sit down and say that because it is voluntary. We appreciate the players that are here and understand if the players have other commitments and can’t get there. I’m obviously very happy, extremely happy with the players that are present today.

Q: When you say your theme is getting better every day, I know that applies to everybody, but is it more important at quarterback to keep getting better each day?
A: Sure, I think it’s like all the other players. Everyone has inconsistencies in what they do and they can work on it. As far as EJ (Manuel), you look at our situation last year at this time when we first started phase one, really none of the quarterbacks that played for us were even in the building. Now all of a sudden we have quarterbacks who have played that are in the building and we have EJ who has experience coming back and we’re excited about that. That’s probably a big relief I should say. When the unknown of not knowing what it’s going to be like when a player goes in to his first NFL game and plays, to a point now where we have some experience. Granted it’s not a lot of experience, I understand that, but at least we’ve seen them in those situations and that’s what gets us excited.

Q: How much of a difference do you think that can make for EJ?
A: Not just for EJ, but for all the other, I was going to say freshman, but rookies that come in, I think it’s important because when you look at what they’ve gone through. The same with the class that’s coming up with this draft, you go through a college season, you’re picking who your agent is going to be, you’re picking out where you’re going to work out. You immediately go in to this training program, you might have some all-star games and then you’re prepping for this draft. Obviously it’s the first time everything is being scrutinized. There’s really an uncertainty in your destination and where it’s going to be. All of a sudden you’re drafted by a team and you’re on a new team and it’s a new system. I think it could be potentially very overwhelming for some players when they go through it. When you look at the players now I think what you said is correct. They know most of the players on the team, right now I believe we have 75 players and that’s quite a bit when you look around the league. Most of those players were on the team last year, so they do know each other. They do where things are and they do know how we do things and I think that helps in the progression of getting better.

Q: What is the timeline on when EJ will be 100 percent healthy?
A: I’m going to discuss, I talked to Scott (Berchtold) about this and the doctors have gotten in and they’re seeing all the players and things like that. I’m going to discuss all of the injury situations and everything when we start with OTA’s with who is available and who is not. He’s been working at least on his own from what he told me. I have not seen him; I’m not allowed to watch anything.

Q: What is the ballpark percentage of the number of players who came today?
A:  In the high 90’s. The players that aren’t, I have been in contact with. We’ll be at 100 percent shortly. What happens are legitimate things, people have babies and things like that and we understand that. I think it’s important and I especially would appreciate this, this is an important point for me to make sure that we understand that when we do talk about this phase, it’s very important for our organization because of the CBA and the rules that we always keep saying, and if you could say this I would appreciate it, it’s a voluntary period. It’s very, very important. If someone writes something in this room that assumes that we’re not looking at this phase as non-voluntary, that can cause people to look in to what we’re doing and obviously we’re obeying all the rules. I appreciate that.

Q: Tell us what we need to know about Brandon Spikes. He has a little bite to his personality and a lot of bite to his game. What is it about him that you wanted on this team?
A: I think you just mentioned it. He’s a physical football player who has been very good against the run. Obviously we’ve been here for a year and we didn’t do as good of a job as we need to going forward and stopping the run. I think bringing in someone like Brandon Spikes gives us the ability to help us solve that problem.

Q: Personality-wise what does he bring?
A: I like his personality. I have no issues at all with his personality. We met and spent a lot of time together, both of us, to make sure it was a good fit. We do that with all of the players that come in here. They sit down with not just myself, but obviously Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon and Jim Monos and the coaches. We want to make sure that we’re around the player quite a bit so we can look in to it. It’s a good fit for both of us.

Q: What do you like about him that we may not know about him?
A: He’s won. He won at Florida, when he went to Florida. He’s won at New England when he was at New England. He’s a physical player that plays in a physical game. I think that he’s emotional and I like that about him. He’s fired up to be here today, he’s fired up to help our football team and I think from all his actions, those are all the actions you want all of our players coming in to this program to have.

Q: Do you have any issues with how he has engaged fans on Twitter and on social media?
A: Well that’s the first time I’ve known exactly what was said, someone did mention something of that issue. Those are the first time I heard the words. Again I wasn’t there when he was there (in New England). I think in all social media, even at home with my children. My sense is to make sure everyone has a sense of responsibility in how they use it and what they say. Obviously we live in a democratic society with free speech. Obviously you would know better than anyone of what we have. I don’t have any issues when players say what they believe and what they really feel is in their hearts. As long as it’s being productive for the team.

Q: How does it work with meeting time with coaches? Do they have their playbooks?
A: Absolutely they do. They spend a lot of their time obviously with the lifting and the running, which we’re not a part of or can we look at or view or be in the weight room. We’ll probably have about an hour and 20 minutes of meetings and there are breaks obviously to go. The players will have their iPads and what we’re doing is basically putting in the foundation of the system with offense and defense. We start with that with phase one and then when phase two comes in we’ll start implementing the special teams and we’ll start going on the field with our players and work with them on an individual basis.

Q: Where are you at with quarterbacks?
A: I’m happy with the depth of where we are now with our quarterback situation, but at the same time I don’t think that limits us of keeping all our options open if we wanted to upgrade some of those situations.

Q: How valuable do you think it was for EJ to get those groups together to throw the ball in California and in Florida?
A: I think it’s good. I give them credit, the players for getting together and trying to get better. I think it shows the commitment they have to getting us back to where we want to be.

Q: In Mike Williams and Brando Spikes you’ve brought in a couple players who have had some trouble off the field. Why has the organization become comfortable with brining in guys that are perceived risks?
A: I think perceived is the word that you said, but I can understand that and why they would perceive that. I believe in giving people chances. They have a chance to come in here and it’s a clean slate. They have a chance to prove that they’re on the right track.

Q: Are there risks in your mind?
A: I think there are risks in bringing in anyone. Any player, any coach, anyone you bring in to any organization, I think there is an amount of risk that you take. With those players there I go back to the same thing. It’s a clean slate for them. Mike Williams is from here and he has an opportunity to live a dream. He’s been a Buffalo Bills fan his whole life and can come to his hometown and help this organization get back to where it should be and get to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Brandon Spikes can come back here, wants to be a three down backer; he’s going to work extremely hard towards that. He has a physical presence and he feels he can help us win. Those are the type of players we want. Obviously everyone on our team understands how they should act and what they should do. We talked to them about what it’s like to be in the NFL and there are a lot of rules and regulations from the NFL in how the players should behave.

Q: Is Mike one of the players that is here and will be taking part in the afternoon session?
A: Yeah, he’s here.

Q: How much of a challenge has it been this offseason to focus with everything going on with the passing of Mr. Wilson and the organization being for sale?
A: Well I think it’s a lot of things. We talked today about one of the things that I’ve always talked to the coaches and the players about is to make sure that you learn or understand to control what you can control and I think that is important. Obviously I stand here and I pain for a lot of the people that have put their heart and soul in this organization. Obviously with the team being sold or going to be sold, these people have put their heart and soul in it. It’s a community; our careers as players and coaches are sometimes short lived. We understand that we may be some place for a couple years and then move onto a different team and organization. The people in this building, the sacrifice they make and the commitment and the extra time they put in it’s obviously an identity for them that goes beyond just a paycheck. For us, we understand that we have to go out there and win and that’s what our focus is and that’s what our mission is. If we can do that and focus our attention on that and the things we can control, I can guarantee you we’ll win more games this year. If we don’t and we start thinking about the things we can’t control and get sidetracked, then we’ll lose our focus and that will hurt us in winning football games.

Q: You mentioned 14 seasons without playoffs, was that part of your message to the players today?
A: Absolutely.

Q: What amount of focus does that need to end?
A: It’s been put at a high priority for us, it really has. That’s what it is. You have to get everyone on the same line; everyone has to understand that it’s about winning. A lot of times we think of our roles as, my role is to coach the team, some roles are to play offensive guard or to play corner. Or PR or selling tickets or doing that, but I told everyone what we need to put on top of that job description is win. That’s what we have to do. When that is at the top of your job description, you can hold everyone more accountable and you can push each other and you can develop a trust and a respect. It gives you the ability to get better each and every day and that is what we’re trying to accomplish.

Q: In the lead up to the draft and you see the stocks for players fluctuating all the time, what are your thoughts on that craziness?
A: I always just go back to the film. For me, you have to remember that it’s interesting how misunderstood I believe a lot of how the draft works. I know there is a movie out, I haven’t seen it yet. Has anyone seen that movie? Does it give a good description? Obviously my role in it is that I get a chance to be part of the process and write a player up. I’m only going to look at what I see on film and I’m going to write that player up. That’s it. As far as everything else, I don’t really follow the ups and the downs because I think Doug (Whaley) can give you a better answer that that because as a coach, for me, if I wanted a player what do I care where I pick him? When ti comes down to the picks of is he worthy of being number nine, is he worthy of being number one, is he worthy of being 15 or you’d rather take this player at 18 rather than nine. Kiko Alonso played every single snap for us and we took him in the second round. What would have happened if we took him in the first round with our first pick? Everyone here would have said that’s pretty good, but back then everyone would have said, ‘What the heck are they doing? This guy is a second rounder.’ So I can’t answer that question, I look at it sometimes and I just smile.

Q: We could talk for an hour about the players that have gone late in the draft that have become stars.
A: An hour is really cheating it. We could really sit here all day and that is what is amazing about talk radio and all those things. Like the John Murphy radio show or people that have radio shows, they can talk. I’ll never forget, when I used to recruit in New York City, (Mike) Francesca at the time was on the radio. He would be on for a long period of time and we’re driving around to all these schools and you get stuck in traffic and you can picture just how that is. I turn on his radio show and they’re talking about the Yankees from the first time he got on that show until I got in the car after going to six or seven schools. They were talking about the same subject. I think that’s what happens with the draft. People keep going back and they keep looking at the insider and they keep looking at ESPN and keep reading the articles to see what is going on. It’s crazy. It’s a crazy time of year.

Q: Does moving the draft back a couple of weeks have any impact on what you guys are doing?
A: No, I think Doug has done a good job of trying to keep it as the same type of mindset, the same type of work areas and how far out we’re doing our readings up until the draft. Doug has handled all of that.

Q: From the other end, after the draft does it condense what you do in workouts and mini-camps?
A: It’s the same as before. I think what is tough for us is the challenge for us is the rookie mini-camp. I talked to Scott (Berchtold) when we put it out. I’m not a believer of bringing a bunch of people in just to have a camp. We have 75 players here already; we don’t have that many that are eligible for camps, so we’ll run it more like an individual practice.

Q: Have you finalized when you will be going to St. John Fisher for training camp?
A: I’ve actually planned out the first two weeks, so I’m working on the schedule. It actually has two weeks done for camp that I’ve done already. I’m waiting for the schedule to come out which I think will be Wednesday or Thursday, I’m not sure on that. I think when that comes out and I can see the total season of what we’re doing and how we’re doing things I’ll be able to put it together and we’ll be ready to roll.

Q: Are the planned practices with Pittsburgh still going to happen?
A: Yeah. I plan on that going forward. I talked to Coach Tomlin and he’s excited about it. Right now we’re all waiting on the same thing which is the schedule.

Q: Are you going down a few days before your preseason game?
A: Absolutely we will. When we solidify those plans, we’ll get them out right away.

Q: You talked about the clean slate Mike Williams has with the team, how much do you look forward to having a clean slate with him yourself after the way things ended in Syracuse?
A: Yeah, Mike and I have talked about that in private conversations. I feel great about it and I’m sure Mike does too.