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'More of a family' | Siran Neal explains why he signed an extension with the Bills

Siran Neal (33), Andre Smith (9), Damar Hamlin (31). Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium, December 06, 2021.  Photo by Ben Green
Siran Neal (33), Andre Smith (9), Damar Hamlin (31). Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium, December 06, 2021. Photo by Ben Green

Siran Neal made it official Thursday morning and signed his three-year contract extension. Neal who has been a special teams ace and a swiss army knife in the defensive backfield for the Bills is coming off his best season in 2021 and has shown growth as a leader in the past few years. 

Neal was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent heading into March, but the defensive back knew that he didn't want to play anywhere else.

"Reason I wanted to be here is because it's more of a family than just a football team," Neal shared. "Each other, we lean on each other. We lean on each other when we down. We lean on each other when we get up. We lean on each other when we lose, we lean on each other when we win. And I think that's what makes our team so strong. 

"…We don't treat nobody different. And that's another reason why I wanted to be here. I don't wanna go nowhere and have to relearn 'new' this, 'new' that. Everybody knows everybody here. We know when to talk to each other, we know when to leave each other alone, we know when to give each other space. One thing I can tell you, is we stick together. We don't break off at any time."

The camaraderie among the special teams unit and defensive backs unit is so important to him. He would go to battle for anyone of his guys and he knows that they would do the same for him. For Neal, it's easier to believe in himself when he has the support of his brothers behind him. Neal knows that this contract isn't about what happened in the past but what's to come in the future. He is excited to become more of a leader for this team while he continues to grow as a person and a football player. 

"I just think about the task ahead," Neal said. "I know what I have to earn. Yeah, I got the contact, but as I said, I still have to earn this contract. This is not the end of this deal, like I got it all. I have to show this staff that I can lead. I can lead and I feel like they know I can lead, and they trust me to lead, and I thank them for that. … Most people think leading is all about being vocal. I'm really not that much of a vocal guy, I'd rather lead by example. What I have to do is show the guys the way of handling business and helping the teammates around this unit."

Special teams is where Neal has made the biggest impact with the Bills since being drafted in 2018. He has 35 combined special teams tackles along with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his career. In 2021, he had a career-high 12 tackles which ranked second on the team and had an 85.1 overall grade by PFF which was also a career-high.

During his press conference on Thursday, Neal compared the Bills' kickoff unit to a pack of wild hyenas because they don't shy away from anything. Another thing that's important to Neal is how selfless the group is and how they put team success over individual stats. 

"I just feel like our special teams unit, we're definitely unselfish," Neal said. "We don't care about who has the most tackles. We don't care about who got the most this, that, or the third. We don't care about who's the fastest. At the end of every tackle, you see one thing, one guy made the tackle, and all the other teammates picking him up, cheering him on, and telling him to go make another one. Because once you do that, you win games. You win friends with that; you win life."

Other notes we learned from Neal's press conference:

Strong sense of brotherhood among Neal and the defensive backs

One of the reasons that Neal wanted to stay in Buffalo is because this team is like a family and the bond they have with one another is so strong. The Bills' defensive backs group is one of the more close-knit units on the team with a majority of the guys being together for four to five seasons or more.

It's not just about their bond on the field but off it as well. They all know each other's families, regularly get dinner and hang with one another outside of the facility. Neal wasn't ready to say goodbye to his Bills family and knew that he only wanted to continue playing with the guys he calls his brothers. 

"One thing I've been telling everybody, if you got a brotherhood and you got a unit that stays together, everybody's gonna be happy at the end of the day," Neal said. "You win more games doing that. You can't be selfish. That group right there has a lot of selfless people. 

"It's crazy how it works out. You got Micah [Hyde], you got Jordan Poyer they are like the grandfathers. They are like the big dogs of the unit. Not saying they're the big dogs because they don't feel like they're better than anybody, but they just control everything. They know who needs to be doing this or that. I'm not even talking about on the field, they know what it takes to pick each other up."

Reflecting on the end of the 2021 Divisional Round game against the Chiefs

"Thirteen seconds" will pain Bills Mafia for the rest of time with the way the divisional round game ended. After the game, there were many unanswered questions about what happened in the last remaining moments of that game. Neal, who is a leader of the special teams unit wouldn't provide any details about what happened during the final kickoff of regulation in Arrowhead.

"Be curious," Neal said. "We don't have to discuss anything with the outside world if we don't want to. And you know what's crazy, we don't even discuss it with each other. That was a play that happened back then. We've moved on from it. 

"There's a lot of things in that game that we could have done differently to get the outcome that game and that's one thing that the staff does here. They put together a team, not just ballplayers. They put together, personality people. They have great personalities. And that's one thing I love about my teammates. We haven't got to talk about it."

Neal is proud to be a part of the Bills' talented 2018 draft class

The Bills 2018 draft class is one that stands out and was influential in building the core of this team. Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Harrison Phillips, Taron Johnson, and Neal were among those drafted, and Levi Wallace, Mike Love, and Ike Boettger were undrafted free agents. Neal is grateful to be one of those selections.

"Shout out to Beane, he put us all together," Neal said. "That's one thing me and some of the other guys, Josh, Harrison, Tremaine even what's his name that got traded to the Browns. It was a lot of guys that he drafted that year and they're still here. Crazy success even down to the free agents like Levi Wallace. Man, it's a hell of a class and I'll put that class against anybody, even down to people that went to other teams. But this class that Beane put together in 2018, we them boys, that's all I can say."

Drafting all those impact players in your first draft with the team is impressive but developing most of them and still having them be on the roster four years later is even more impressive and a testament to the Bills' front office and coaching staff.

"For sure and they do a great job of keeping us together so we can continue to do what we do," Neal said. "And they know how we handle each other as friends, as boys and how we go about our team. Because most of us on this team were drafted in the '18 class. We are leaders who lead by example. It ain't much to talk about, we know we got to do, and you got one hell of a one at quarterback, he's that boy. Beane did a great job and that staff, not just Beane but everybody put it together down to the coaches, they did their thing."

Siran Neal wishes only the best for Levi Wallace

With Neal now under contract for three more seasons, the only other free agent defensive back on the team is Levi Wallace. Wallace is another member of that 2018 class that has made a big impact on the defensive side of the ball. Coming in as an undrafted free agent, Wallace worked his way up to being starting corner and proved his worth when Tre'Davious White went down in 2021. 

Neal has learned so much from Wallace during their time together as teammates and Neal has commended him for his high football IQ. Whether Wallace re-signs with the Bills or another team this offseason, Neal just hopes he gets all that he deserves. 

"He deserves it all, especially with a guy being that faithful to God," Neal said. "And having his life, business, teammates, family, whatever it is, Levi, he handled it and he put himself second prior to anything. He's a great friend and a great brother. And I thank him for that. Anybody else that needs him, I'm pretty sure they'll figure out really fast that Levi's a guy that they can always depend on and can go to about anything.

Neal is excited for what Matthew Smiley brings to the special teams unit

It was announced on Feb. 9 that Matthew Smiley was promoted to special teams coordinator. With Neal being an important piece of the special teams unit, he has spent a lot of time and learned so much from Smiley. He is excited to continue playing for him in Buffalo this season.

"I'm pretty sure the staff here got full confidence in Matthew Smiley, as I do," Neal said. "You know, Smiley been here since I got here. He's been here since day one and he tells me to take everything with a grain of salt. When times are hard or when times are up, you still go hard. He's a great coach and he's been in every situation, and he knows how to get out of every situation, I feel like. 

"Matthew Smiley is a great coach and looking forward to keep playing for him and that's another reason why I love being here. He's more than a coach. He's more like a friend. He teaches you the game and actually picks you up and I congratulated him on the new job here. It was well earned, and the job Heath got was well earned as well. I congratulate both those guys."

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