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Brotherhood-type bond among Bills creates hope for future after a painful loss

Harrison Phillips (99) Taiwan Jones (25) and Tyler Matakevich (44) Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs - AFC Divisional Playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, January 23, 2022.  Photo by Ben Green
Harrison Phillips (99) Taiwan Jones (25) and Tyler Matakevich (44) Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs - AFC Divisional Playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, January 23, 2022. Photo by Ben Green

When Dawson Knox came from Ole Miss to the NFL, he didn't expect the guys in the locker room to be so close. 

In college, his team felt like a family. Coaches and players would get dinners and would party together on weekends. But when he got to the league, he thought it would be more individualized. He pictured that everyone's egos would stand in the way of team building. 

This Bills team has been the exact opposite.

"There isn't a single guy in our locker room that isn't like a brother," Knox shared not even 24 hours after the game. "We all love each other. We play for the love of the game. We play for the love of the guy that's next to us. So, whether it's a guy on offense, defense, or special teams, everybody loves each other on this team. 

"It's special and you can see that on the field too. That works wonders for us when we're out there on the road. We know it's only us there on the sidelines, playing for each other. That love for each other really comes out, and I think it did over the course of the season. And I think it's just going to keep getting better too."

Sunday's heartbreaking loss stung the Bills' players, coaches, and fans. The team didn't accomplish their goal of winning the Super Bowl which is disappointing to them. But playing their last game together with this special group of people is a bigger reason why the team is low-spirited after the divisional-round loss. 

"I would say one of the biggest, or one of the saddest things about ending a football season, not on our terms, is the locker room will never look the same," Pro Bowl left tackle Dion Dawkins shared. "It'll never be the same one year to the next. 

"It's just sad that our brotherhood is going to be broken apart and some guys will be here, and some guys won't. And when you have that much love for one another, it could definitely like bring you to some sad points."

This Bills team has had great continuity over the past few seasons with many players and coaches being together for three, four, and even five seasons. In the locker room, it's not just a football team, it's a family. 

With the business side of the NFL, there is always some turnover on the roster and the coaching staff. Some players will leave for other teams, new players will be signed, and coordinators may move on for head coaching positions.

While the core group of guys are set to return, every season brings new circumstances. With a team this closely bonded, losing just one of their guys is going to hurt.

"The brotherhood is incredible," Harrison Phillips said. "That's what adds an extra layer of emotion when you come out of a season like this, knowing that it's not going to be the same the following year because of the people you're losing, the pieces aren't going to be the same." 

Phillips noted that it feels like when you finish college and enter the real world and you aren't seeing and working with your friends every day. The adjustment to the offseason will be difficult for this close-knit team. While the players will stay in touch, it's a big difference between seeing them every day and competing with them every week to achieve one goal. 

Even though the Bills couldn't get the win, the game showed that they closed the gap between them and the Chiefs. This team knows that closing the gap isn't good enough and to be the best, you have to beat the best. 

The loss is just another test of adversity for Buffalo. The players that do return next season will grow from it and keep working to be the best. 

"We've got a great group of guys, a great group that cares about one another," Tremaine Edmunds said. "And we're gonna stick with one another. That's just the type of guys we have here, coaches as well. In good times and bad times, still understanding that this is a family. Understanding the hard work it took to get here, and just continuing to stay by one another and uplift one another."

Year after year, these players are working together on the field, but they are also building relationships off it. Every day, these guys are having real-life conversations with one other and have become a part of each other's families. They have watched teammates' kids grow up and have had countless dinners and gatherings with each other.

That level of camaraderie and connection these players have is rare to see in an NFL locker room.

"There's major love," Bills' running back Devin Singletary said. "Just over time and as you go through things with guys, you get closer and closer. You have more real convos, which leads to bringing you even closer. Then just going through all that hard work, all the ups and downs together. There's so much love in the locker room. It's definitely one of the best locker rooms I've ever been in, in my whole life."

Even though they didn't accomplish their main goal, the team should be proud of the smaller accomplishment that came this season. Buffalo won the AFC East in consecutive years for the first time since a four-year stretch from 1988-1991 and continued to break and set new franchise and NFL records. 

Even though the players won't all be in the same place again for a while, distance will make these bonds grow stronger. They are the only ones to know the exact pain of the loss in Kansas City and they will use that shared painful experience to be even closer next season. 

"I feel like it's a tight-knit group," Gabriel Davis shared. "Everybody's good with each other, offensive, defensive side, we all communicate with each other. There are some teams where it's not like that. And we all just want to win for each other more than anything. And when you have a team that wants to perform for the brother next to him, it's a really dangerous team to go against. And I feel like that's how strong this Buffalo Bills team is."

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