It happens right after the players are done stretching. Immediately the team is thrust into a specific game situation that could arise on any given Sunday. It could be anything from a scenario that happens two or three times a game or two or three times a season. Either way head coach Sean McDermott is trying to ensure that his players are in a position to handle it.
"There's a long list of situations that are kind of staples and then there are others that are further down the line, kind of pebbles in the bucket," McDermott told Buffalobills.com. "So we're trying to hit the ones that come up more times than not. I've never really been on a staff where we've done this. I just feel like it's important. If you're going out there wouldn't you have liked to go through a drill before the real thing?"
QB Tyrod Taylor sees the value in reviewing these scenarios as a unit so everyone feels mentally prepared on how to execute when the situation is no longer a simulation in practice.
"We talk about it every morning, we address it as a team situation," said Tyrod Taylor. "Just trying to keep us on our toes, more importantly, practicing things that are going to come up in games. We get three different situations, three different down and distances, and this is just to try to help us think through practice and think through games. That way, when it happens you just go out and do it."
The last thing any coach wants to see in a game are his players being unaware of a rule on a certain play or a plan for handling a specific situation.
Many NFL fans still remember Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett sliding into the end zone to scoop up a blocked field goal attempt with three seconds to play with a one-point lead against the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving in 1993.
Miami recovered the loose ball and got a second chance to kick a game-winning field goal. The attempt was good and the Dolphins won the game.
"There's a certain amount of fear," said McDermott. "Fear of losing. Fear of not doing my job. Fear of not being prepared for a situation that could come up. That's part of what drives successful people."
So McDermott, with his staff, chooses some of the more likely game situations that can arise where there might be a lack of familiarity on the part of the players. What's the rule on a play like this? What's our approach on this kind of play if we're down three points as opposed to four?
During one practice in the first week in camp he set up a 4th-and-goal situation at the eight-yard line at the end of the game.
The offense has to take a shot at the end zone to win. What are the best options?
For the defense in that same situation, what's the best call? How do they defend the goal line?
The situation is executed three times by the first, second and third team units on both sides of the ball. In the 4th-and-goal situation, the offense won on the first two plays with touchdown passes to Sammy Watkins and Philly Brown with the offense using a good deal of pre-snap motion.
This was where coach McDermott stepped in to provide the defense with a better approach. In one of the most critical situations that can be the difference between winning and losing a game, the defense was practically silent on two consecutive plays.
McDermott implores his defenders to talk to one another pre-snap so everyone is in sync on the play.
'Say something,' he shouts.
"When people move on offense they're trying to create gray. I don't like gray," McDermott said. "I like black and white so we need to make it black and white. Sometimes when someone motions you'll hear me say, 'Talk, talk, talk, talk!' That's what I'm trying to get done. The communication is important."
On the third and final play the offense wins again as Nate Peterman finds Rod Streater in the back right corner of the end zone.
The defense had better communication, the offense just had sound execution to score on the play.
An added benefit to the situational segment of practice is right at the start of practice the players have to be sharp. The day-after-day process of training camp practice can allow the minds of the players to wander during stretch and individual position drills. A new situation each day early in the session forces players to focus.
"Yes. Guys are definitely dialed in at the beginning of practice," said Taylor. "It makes you think about5 certain things. Coach Rico (Dennison) does a good job of not necessarily telling the offense what to do, just allowing us to think. I think we've been pretty good in the situations for the most part."
"It's great," said rookie QB Nate Peterman. "It forces us to get ourselves going and put ourselves in those situations and so once we get in those situations in a game we should be ready for them."
"These guys are not robots so you want to make them adaptable," said McDermott. "I think that's the key word. Adaptability to what's going on. It may not be exactly the situation, but if the guys have been in that situation before or something like it they'll be able to execute."