1. Bills receive good news on testing
Bills head coach Sean McDermott confirmed that multiple players would be back on the field for practice Monday after receiving false positive COVID tests during the weekend.
The NFL announced Sunday that it had received positive results from every team serviced by the same New Jersey lab, including the Bills. Josh Allen, Harrison Phillips, Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler missed the ensuing practice for undisclosed reasons.
"They all tested negative and they'll be back on the field," McDermott said.
General manager Brandon Beane referred to the situation Sunday as a "fire drill" for the uncertainties of the coming season, one McDermott felt the Bills were able to turn into a positive. The team pushed Sunday's practice back an hour, using the extra time to assess the situation and determine whether they could safely take the field.
The situation not only allowed for players such as quarterback Matt Barkley to step into an elevated role for the day, but served as an example as to how the Bills will prioritize player safety this season.
"We were able to build trust through these experiences now, these shared experiences where our players – and they were concerned, as was I, as was Brandon and [head athletic trainer] Nate [Breske] – that once we had the information, we were able to put a plan in place to go out and practice safely," McDermott said.
McDermott said his confidence in the league's testing system has not been shaken.
"We're very fortunate to have that, quite honestly, so that we can come in and do our jobs," he said. "I'm very appreciative of that. The reality of the situation is that yesterday it wasn't good enough. I don't think it takes a genius to say that or to know that. It wasn't good enough. Obviously, we were able to get through it and I think the NFL is going to learn and the labs are going to learn how to do it better. I'm confident in that, confident in leadership in both spots there.
"But look, it turned out to be a positive. I think that's honestly how you have to look at it. We found a way to work with it and work through it, and I think for our football team that's they key."
2. Replicating game action
The lack of preseason games presents a hurdle for every team to navigate during training camp, one that McDermott explained goes beyond what happens on the field.
McDermott said the Bills will look to replicate every aspect of a usual game day for their intrasquad scrimmage at Bills Stadium on Thursday, from clocking out warmups and halftime to what happens between the lines. The hope is to provide a glimpse of what to expect not only for the rookies, but for veteran newcomers to the team as well.
McDermott offered Stefon Diggs as an example.
"He has yet to go through a game in our locker room, whether it be dressing in our locker room or how we handle halftime or how we handle our pregame situations," McDermott said. "So, we need to expose our players to that in a mock runup here so that they're comfortable or as comfortable as they can be when we turn around to the season."
3. Bills to play in front of fans in Miami
The Miami Dolphins announced Monday that they will have a limited capacity of 13,000 fans for their home opener against the Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 20.
State ordinances and individual team policies play a role in whether or not teams can have fans in their stadiums this season. McDermott expressed frustration regarding a lack of uniform policy across the NFL but said the Bills will focus on what they can control.
"It is what it is," McDermott said. "We control what we can control. I think it's honestly ridiculous that there will be, on the surface, what appears to be a playing field that's like that: inconsistent across the league with the different away stadiums. But it is what it is, we control what we can control. That's got to be our mindset and that's how we attack it."