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Doug Marrone: "We’re at full strength"

Posted Nov 25, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about getting back to work after the bye week, preparing for the Falcons, the team getting healthy, and playing a home game in Toronto.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Monday, November 25, 2013

Opening Statement:
We just got back obviously, coming off of a bye week. Being our first practice today in preparation and getting ready for Atlanta, I was very happy with the players coming back and their enthusiasm, running around. Everybody practiced today, so we’re at full strength from that standpoint. We don’t expect anyone not to be available for us, which is a good sign. We’re looking forward to going up to Toronto and playing. It’s a great city, great place; we’ve got to learn to win. We’ve got to learn to win at home in Buffalo, we’ve got to learn to win in Toronto, we’ve got to learn to win on the road. I think those are the most important things. That’s what we’re doing, we’re getting ready to go play and we’re excited

Q: How close is this team to what you expected at the beginning of the season, with everybody healthy?

A: I struggle to be honest with you a little bit when I go back and I look. When I go back and look at the injuries that we had, but you really can’t look back. You’ve got to look forward, so I’m happy and excited right now that everyone is back.

Q: The atmosphere in Toronto is not the same as it is for a home game in Buffalo. What are your expectations of the atmosphere, the crowd and the whole experience of playing up there?

A: In order to create that advantage for you, you have to go up there and play well. I think at a point right now, I think we do have some fans in Toronto and I think if we play well we’ll create more fans. I think that will be important to the future of the organization. I think that we can over a period of time, with success, really create that type of advantage for us over there.

Q: It tends to be more of a neutral atmosphere; do you feel that is a disadvantage at all?

A: No, I think it’s a great opportunity, I really do. I think it’s a good opportunity. I haven’t been up there yet to play a game; obviously I’ve been up there to look around. I think it’s a great venue and again I look at it as a great opportunity for us to go up there and people see the style of football that we play. I think you have to play well, I think that’s important. If you go up there and don’t play well, I don’t think you can ever make that turn to where it’s truly a home field advantage. I think if you do, you can create a great atmosphere up in Toronto. I think those fans will eventually come down here and you create a better atmosphere right here. Collectively, that’s what we’re trying to do. Build that regionalization and be more regional. I think that’s what the goal is of the organization.

Q: When you interviewed for the job, was the topic of the Toronto game ever a part of the conversation?

A: No.

Q: It was Stevie (Johnson) and Robert (Woods) first day back. How did they look and would they be limited at all?

A: Well I asked Bud (Carpenter) and today we don’t have to give an injury report up until (Wednesday) and I was like, ‘Hey, listen I’m going to tell those guys how they are.’ Bud said we listed them as limited, but they truly weren’t limited. Does that make sense? They did everything so I was happy with those two guys, the way they came out. I think a lot of you guys saw routes versus air and they looked good, they looked fresh.

Q: Was there a roster move made with Ronnie Wingo?

A: No, there wasn’t a roster move there was a mechanical flight issue, where he missed the flight. I blame Fred (Jackson) and C.J. (Spiller), for him being a young guy and you can’t wait to the last minute and you have to do your due diligence and preparation to make sure you get here. He’ll be fine.

Q: Did you happen to watch the scores yesterday and how a lot of the games fell in your favor? Has that raised the excitement level?

A: I think the excitement for us is to go out and play a game. We’re coming off a game where we did some things well; I think there are some things we need to improve upon. We’re excited with the direction that we’re heading and how good of a team that we can be. We’ve got to keep pushing and keep our focus truly on Atlanta. That’s really what our focus is now. Obviously they’re probably disappointed in what their record is, but they have some quality players on that team and Mike Smith and his staff and that organization, they have a great deal of pride. They’re going to be ready to play and our guys have to be ready for that challenge.

Q: How much of a scoreboard watcher are you?

A: Meaning scores from around the league?

Q: Yeah, as you’re monitoring things, especially with the bye week yesterday.
A: I tend to look at like people that I know that I’m, I’d like to think as my friends. In this business it’s tough; you have very few friends and a lot of acquaintances. I tend to look at where they are a little bit more and how they’re doing I tend to sit back, and I don’t know if this is the right way or the wrong way, but personally what will happen is I’ll watch something, see a game and be thinking I know what they feel, I know what they’re going through. There’s a pain inside when you have to call that third down play and I think you have an appreciation from a different aspect, not as a fan aspect, but as a person that’s in the profession. I would answer that question as I really don’t go popping around looking at scores, but the very few friends I have, I just kind of watch and look at their scores during the bye week.

Q: What’s the likelihood of Johnathan Meeks getting a shot to get back on the roster in a couple weeks?

A: We’ll see where he goes. Johnathan is back and he’s on the reserve list I believe for about two more weeks before we can do anything with him, so I think it’s a little bit early to say what we’re going to do. We’re just going to see and we’re excited that we’ve got him back now. Obviously he was a good young player and did some good things for us. We’re going to see how he develops and we’re going to make a decision when that time comes. That will be a decision that I’ll talk to Doug Whaley about and we’ll do what’s best for our roster.

Q: Stevie has missed a couple games this season which is unusual for him and his numbers are obviously down because of that. How is he both physically and mentally right now with some of those frustrations?

A: It is frustrations, but I had a long talk with Stevie about the challenges coming in. Playing with a young quarterback and obviously the injuries and the different quarterbacks. When EJ (Manuel) was healthy, Stevie wasn’t, when Stevie was healthy, EJ wasn’t. You play with different quarterbacks, so it’s very difficult. I told Stevie, and I’m going to be honest with everyone, people are going to look at the end of the day and come to you and say this is down, this is down, this is down and they’re really not going to look at the whole situation. He’s a productive player, one that when you keep practicing together you’re just going to see his numbers go higher and higher.

Q: How much did you note yesterday that the wild card field came back to you a little bit?

A: I think you’ve got to be careful this time of year. I think a lot of people are going to be talking about that and I think it really pulls away from the core of what you want to get accomplished and I think you can find yourself talking about that more and losing sight of the fact that you’re playing a good Atlanta Falcon team coming up that, again like I said before, has a lot of pride. I addressed it with the players, don’t let people pull you out and talk to you about all this other talk, the most important thing is let’s just win a game. That’s where all our focus should be.

Q: Now that you have all of your complement of receivers healthy, do you feel like you need to get Marquise Goodwin on the field more than you already had?

A: It was exciting for all three of those players last week. Marquise and obviously T.J. (Graham) and Chris Hogan. I think those guys showed a lot. I talked to Ike (Hilliard) today and said, ‘We can roll those guys in now, just keep rolling them in.’ Any one of those guys can make a play and they’ve proven they can make a play. We have to look at what we want to do and I still think there is some growing going on between everyone. Coaches, players of what they do well and how they go. I think he’s someone that can run behind a defense; I think people can play off him. I think we’ll be challenged this week. When you look at Atlanta, (Desmond) Trufant is back there, he’s been playing extremely well for them as a rookie. We’ll have some challenges in trying to get our guys open.

Q: What is your analysis on your punt and kick returns?

A: I wish we had more opportunities. Really at the end of the day I think when you look back, it’s funny with special teams, you say, ‘Oh if we would have had this block, if we would have had that block,’ it’s a lot of that that goes on. I hate that when you start talking about that even though it’s the truth. I would like to get more opportunities. If we can get more opportunities, the players we have back there are explosive and I think that we have, we’ve done a good job with playing a lot of players. Whether it’s Evan Rodriguez or Ty Powell or Chris Hogan, moving a lot of guys in that special teams area. We got hurt a little bit early in the season with some injuries to some guys that were key special teams players. Then we had some injuries, some of those guys that we thought were going to be key special teams players became starters so really we’re just settling in to that core. I think that is important. I talked to Coach Crossman about it; I talk to Doug Whaley about it quite a bit about creating that core. We feel we have those players on the team and the healthier that we get, the more of that role they can take over.

Q: What do you mean by opportunity, do you mean actually fielding the kick and returning it?

A: I mean actually, we’re low on the opportunities when you look at it. People have not given us the opportunity to return the ball. People have been kicking it out of the end zone and deep. On punts they’re directional kicking on us, not really trying to change the field and giving us a lot of hang time and pinning us in the corner. Strategically I think that when we’re playing teams, they understand that we have two guys back there that can do things well. We’ve just got to find a way to create those opportunities where we can get the ball run.

Q: Do you think that kickoff returns are being eased out of the game?

A: I don’t know, there’s a lot of talk about that. Where the ball is now, a lot of those kickers can put it out of the end zone, so therefore the opportunities are done. I think you’ve got to be smart. I think that that it’s something to bring up when you sit in those competition and rules meetings. Something that people will talk about that, but again I think those discussions are ongoing. I’m not really sure because my focus is on the team and winning. I’m really not sure where exactly they’re going with that.

Q: How would you assess Doug (Legursky’s) performance since taking over at left guard?

A: Doug has had a little bit of inconsistency early on. I still think he was bothered by his knee, you could see him hobbling out there sometimes early on. I have a lot of respect for him to go out there and play. Sometimes we’ve gotten some consistent play out of him. I think it’s the same thing; it’s a development process, just keep working him. Getting better and better each week and it’s not a secret we’re bringing in some young guys and working them out and rotating that part of the roster and trying to get bigger overall through our whole offensive front.

Q: You tweaked the schedule a little bit this week, going Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and giving them Thanksgiving off. Can you explain why you did that?

A: I think you can get better work done that way. They can be more focused. Thanksgiving, everyone is a little bit worried, what time are you getting home? What time are we going to eat? What are we going to do? Pick this up before you go, all those kind of things that go on. We can get a lot of work done Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Give the players off Thursday and then let’s go to work. It’s a lot easier to do that coming off a bye than if you’re coming off a structured week to week before.

Q: Does the rest give your team an advantage?

A: I think a lot of it depends on how you play, but I’m a firm believer that those extra days and get guys back, you can see fresher legs and people running around. We don’t have the true bye week, obviously Atlanta played on Thursday, so they have the extra days. I’ve always been a more rest thing that I am the extra practices. I think it helps in that way for sure.

Q: Were you ever a big Bon Jovi fan?

A: Yeah, I liked Bon Jovi.

Q: I’m assuming you saw the report that he may be interested in owning the team. Is that something that would be on your radar?

A: No, not my radar. I always talk like this and you guys have heard me use this expression before, it’s mostly my core. My core is being with the team, winning football games and getting this team better. We have a long way to go, we’re challenged, we have a big game coming up in Atlanta. When I start thinking about things outside that core, then I’m not doing my job. But I have heard about that.

Q: Do you know him personally?

A: Do I know? Come on now I’m from the Bronx, I didn’t grow up with special privileges, I really don’t. No I don’t. I’m just a football coach, not a groupie.

Q: Never ran in to him on the sidelines of a Jets game?

A: No, I haven’t.