Bills head coach Sean McDermott has stated numerous times that he wants a leader in every position room on his roster. Just last week he said he felt the team is about 90 percent of the way there. In his wide receiver room they have a new coach in Chad Hall and six receivers who were not here a year ago.
But some of the newest additions are also some of the most experienced. Ten-year vet Andre Roberts and eight-year player Cole Beasley have taken the leadership mantle in the room seriously. In fact, Roberts from the outset of the spring workouts mandated that every Wednesday after their work at One Bills Drive was done the receiving corps had to engage in some kind of outing or activity.
"Wide receiver Wednesdays was inspired by Andre Roberts," said Zay Jones. "Being the veteran he is, not that our room lacked a veteran presence, but we did not have a guy who took control of the room and said we're doing this. Andre has taken on that role and now it has become a fun thing that the receivers do. We all get together and do a certain activity each week."
One week it was bowling. Another week it was doing an escape room. Sometimes it's just a hang out night.
"Last week I had the receivers over, we had some wings and some burgers and we watched the NBA Finals," said Jones.
It might seem like an easy thing for co-workers to take the time to build relationships, but in the cut throat competitive world of NFL football, it's not commonplace. Especially in a room where half the faces were new.
"We had new guys coming in like Cole and Andre and John Brown and we just felt like once we got in the room we were all our own individuals," said Isaiah McKenzie. "But as time went on we developed a brotherhood and not every position room is like that in the NFL."
Doing the escape rooms was brand new to about half the receiving corps, but after doing one, they did another. They've even split the group in half to work competitively in two different rooms. They relish working against the clock.
"We split teams up and we had to work together to beat the other group," said Ray-Ray McCloud. "It's a good thing to work together. It stimulates everyone to talk to each other. We're having fun and some laughs, but people grow together when they share those experiences together."
"It's bringing us closer together," Jones said. "Starting with just the foundation of knowing each other and knowing what we play for each other. I can say Isaiah McKenzie is one of those guys that has led that effort. He's been open and fun and it has really changed the dynamic of the room. It's a place where you can really be open and be yourself. It's a special room. I'm embracing it, especially with rookies like Nick Easley and David Sills in there as well. Everyone has their own personality and we're all just meshing as brothers in there."
As the Bills continue 2019 OTAs, check out photos of each of the 91 players on the team.
And the players say when you're playing with your brothers you're more willing to push a bit harder because you don't want to let them down.
"That off the field stuff and being on the field and seeing guys work and mingle together it's all about that continuity and feeling like a family where you want to play for each other and do right by each other," said Roberts. "If you do something wrong you feel really bad about it because that's your family."
With 13 receivers on the offseason roster, every one of them knows their group will be cut by half when it comes time to reduce the roster to 53. Still, the group has committed to working together knowing those decisions are ones they won't be making.
"Even though some guys might not be here at the end of this thing, for right now we're supporting each other," said McKenzie. "We're creating a bond that we keep on and off the field."