1. Star Lotulelei has returned after opt-out season
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is back at One Bills Drive for mandatory minicamp. After opting out last season due to the pandemic, Lotulelei has reunited with his teammates to get to work for this upcoming season. McDermott is excited to have the defensive lineman back in the building and ready to see what he can bring to the team.
"There's definitely been a gap in terms of his playing of late, just in terms of him being here," McDermott said. "So, there's going to be some catching up to do. It is good to have him here and participate. I'm sure his teammates feel the same way. And so, he can help us, we all know that. It's just he's going to have to continue to put the work in to get himself back, acclimated, comfortable, if you will, and ready to go."
2. Attendance is appreciated
Even with the great participation, the Bills have seen throughout all of OTAs, it hasn't been at 100%. At this week's mandatory minicamp, many veteran players will be coming back into the mix and McDermott believes that full-in-person participation is the best way to build a team.
"Great to have the team here. Great to have everyone here. I certainly appreciate everyone's participation. This is how you build a team. It's hard to build a team when you're spread throughout the United States or other parts of our country and different countries if you will. That's no way to build a team, a good team and that's what we're trying to do. I appreciate everyone being here."
While the team's minicamp is scheduled for three days, McDermott noted that depending on the work the players do, it might be shortened.
"As far as the length of our week, we'll see," McDermott added. "Right now, we're scheduled for three days, and we'll see what happens with that. I want to get a good practice in today and just take them one at a time and we'll move on from there."
3. Upcoming positional competitions
The Bills will have multiple position battles take place over the next few days and into training camp. Some will be an open competition and others between one or two players. The kick returner position is one of battles that will take place and McDermott said that job is open for the taking.
"As far as the kickoff return and return duties overall, it's an open competition," McDermott stated. "We had a pretty good one last year in Andre Roberts. He has since moved on and so that job is up for grabs, as are many other jobs. So, that has to be earned and there's a trust that comes with that right because of how important that change of field position is going one way or the other. And playing that position in Buffalo, New York is not easy with the way the wind blows and we get some weather from time to time. So, it becomes a real art form and science with it that you got to really put a lot of time into that. So, I know Matt Smiley and the return group right now is hard at work to continue to refine those skills."
McDermott also gave some advice to the players that will have to battle it out for a roster spot this offseason.
"Those things have a have a way of working themselves out," McDermott explained. "When I was around Andy Reid in Philadelphia, for years he always told the guys to never count the numbers in the lines, just make your reps count, and that's the piece that those players can control."
4. Optimism around vaccinations
The Bills players have made it clear this offseason that they will keep their vaccination status private. Whether they get vaccinated or not, McDermott respects their decision and that the best thing for him to do is educate and inform his players.
"We're trying to do our best to educate, build awareness but at the end of the day the players that you're referring to have to make their own decisions," McDermott said. "We know, we feel like we know that in our country and around the league where and how things are improving. And to me, there's a direct correlation to people getting vaccinated. Again, I would like to continue to see our team move in that direction. Continue to move to an increased number of people that are getting vaccinated. I certainly respect everyone's position, that being said. That's really where I'm at and where we're at."
McDermott is more positive about the whole situation now than he was at the start of OTAs.
"I feel better and I feel like we're moving in the right direction," McDermott stated. "The important piece is that we continue to build awareness and continue to move in the right direction."
5. Injury Update
Throughout OTAs, the Bills have had limited injuries to work around. Only a handful of players have been wearing non-contact jerseys, and they have still been heavily involved. McDermott is pleased with the progress of players that are rehabbing injuries and looks forward to seeing them when training camp begins.
"As I've alluded to before, whether it's Zack [Moss], or a couple of the other guys, Cody Ford in particular, then you know Josh Thomas and Isaiah Hodgins are a little bit more ahead of those two other guys. It's a long road and to show the discipline, consistency, and commitment it takes a lot to stick with it. And they've done a great job for those two – Cody and Zack in particular, they really haven't been able to get back out there to where I'm sure that they would like to at this point. So, we look forward to getting them back at training camp."