Attendance is voluntary, not mandatory.
The first few weeks of work are just conditioning drills, not football.
Even so, optimism abounds at One Bills Drive, as the players return for the offseason conditioning program starting Monday.
There's more optimism and enthusiasm about the Bills prospects than they've had in recent memory from both in and outside the walls of the Bills headquarters.
The opening of the gleaming new state-of-the-art Sports Performance Center is the perfect metaphor for the Bills organized, upbeat attack on the 2019 season. With the schedule release likely within the next week, and the draft less than two weeks away, the drum beat of positive vibes from Orchard Park will get more pronounced in the next several weeks.
"It looks pretty good in Buffalo," NFL Network's Kyle Brandt said on his 'Good Morning Football' show this week. "I'm more excited about the Bills right now than I have been in half a decade."
"It looks pretty good in Buffalo. I’m more excited about the Bills right now than I have been in half a decade." NFL Network's Kyle Brandt
Adam Schein, a columnist for NFL.com and the host of 'Schein on Sports' lists the Bills as one of his "teams to watch" in 2019.
"I'm loving the makeup of this squad," Schein writes. "The offensive line is revamped, with center Mitch Morse and tackle Ty Nsekhe joining the fray. The receiver position actually has some juice, with the additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley. ... Lastly, Sean McDermott's stamp is all over this defense, which quietly finished last season at No. 2 in total D."
The optimism around the Bills seems real and genuine. It's not based on one or two expensive, flashy free agent moves or a big-name coaching addition. Buffalo's upbeat attitude has been two years in the making, fueled by the addition of Head Coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane.
They've focused on a reasoned, painstaking team-building approach highlighted by the addition of quarterback Josh Allen last year. They spent the free agency period this spring building around Allen, with 13 of their 16 free agent signings on the offensive side of the ball (including six offensive linemen). They're poised to jump into the draft later this month and add more pieces, without having to concentrate on one or two must-have positions. They're ready to draft talented players who fit the Bills in the long-term. And fitting into the team's new culture remains the most important attribute the new Bills must have.
The Bills culture is tangible and seems stronger than ever this spring, based on the comments from some of the free agents signed. Running back and special teamer Senorise Perry told One Bills Live he immediately picked up on the Bills culture vibe right after he signed with the team and met with some veterans.
"The culture change, that's what got me. Just talking to everybody—it's exciting to be part of it," he said. "Everybody wants to build on what you had last year."
Newly signed offensive lineman Quinton Spain picked up on the vibe, and the upbeat demeanor of Bills players and coaches, right after he signed last week.
"When I came on my visit here, as soon as I walked into this building, everyone was so nice," he told One Bills Live. "They're big on family. Everywhere I went everybody was happy, nobody had a sad face. Everybody is greeting each other. I thought--I can work here."
It's not just the new additions to the roster—Bills veterans getting ready to return to work Monday have picked up on the positive vibes around One Bills Drive.
"It's going to be a special season," defensive end Shaq Lawson says. "We've got a lot of great talent. It's coming. This team is about to become something special. We're going to turn a lot of heads. Our guys like to work hard, starting with our quarterback—he's a dog. We've got a great team and it's going to show this year."
It may show. But it doesn't happen without effort. Veteran LB Lorenzo Alexander says the new additions to the roster are great and the optimism is encouraging. But the most important component is the work.
"Regardless of what the outside noise is, and what people are going to be looking at…you have to build a team," Alexander told One Bills Live. 'It's not about just bringing every shiny piece in, and I really like the pieces we've put together, we've really gotta start now growing that bond among us, and putting the work in."
The work starts Monday, when the Bills hit the field for offseason conditioning.