As the Bills conclude their second week of Offseason Training Activities, the team's veterans are encouraged to see close to the full roster in attendance for the spring workouts. The team has big goals, and the players know they need to put in the work early and often in order to reach them.
Dion Dawkins and Jordan Poyer, who are both leaders in the locker room, noted that the high participation rate partially has to do with a level of respect that the players and coaches have for each other.
"We're here because we want to be and we're here because we want to win," Dawkins said after practice.
Poyer appreciates these OTA practices, and he feels that it has helped the team get a jumpstart on the upcoming season.
"Being able to come here, be around the guys, be on the field with our coaches and just finding ways to get better in the time that we have here, I definitely think it's jumpstarting our season," Poyer added. "And I think we have 90 to 95 percent of the guys here. Diggs came today, so it was a cool sight to see. Guys are here. We're working. We've got a goal that we want so guys are here and we're working."
Scroll through to see the best photos from Week 2 of Bills OTAs.
The coach-to-player relationship is one of the most important parts of team building in the NFL. With a lot of the coaches and players entering their fourth or fifth year with the team, there is already an understanding of what is expected.
Dawkins added. "We respect those guys because those guys have given us jobs to play the best sport in the world … The coaches do a great job of taking care of us and it showed this offseason that they have taken care of us, that's why we're here, to take care of them. So, we can go ahead and win and keep them confident that we're still a part of what they have going on, and what we all have going on."
Last season with the pandemic altering the typical OTA format, the coaches lost out on crucial time to see the 2020 rookie class on the field and get to know the incoming free agents. The defensive line group was hit hard with many additions and subtractions along the line and it being the first year for defensive line coach Eric Washington.
Leslie Frazier spoke with the media before today's practice and talked about the challenge of not having OTAs and the impact it had on the defensive line.
"For sure last offseason was challenging, but not only for our team, for every team in the league," Frazier said. "We were really no different than anyone else. It really was a challenge trying to get to that first game and figure out what our rotation was going to be like. Knowing that we lost a couple of guys in free agency and the offseason and who was going to replace those guys and how we were gonna rotate going forward. It presented some challenges but as the year went on, we found our groove and our guys really came on and played well for us down the stretch."
With two high draft picks spent on defensive ends, OTAs this year will be important to help get them up to speed with an NFL defense. Star Lotulelei returning to this defensive line should also give the whole group a boost and Frazier is excited to get him back into the fold.
"It will be good to have Star back," Frazier stated. "2021 is a new year and every year stands on its own. We'll see how 2021 goes but it's a completely new season and there will be some new faces on our team and there are some different teams on our schedule with different styles of offenses. It's just a different year but we're hoping to just keep building on what we have and keep growing as a defense and help our team succeed."
As the team continues to grow and develop the amount of continuity is so valuable because it leads to more veteran leadership and a greater understanding of how things are done. Poyer believes that this team has a lot of experience together, which is rare, but he still knows that the hard work needs to continue to achieve the goals they have this season.
"The more I get older, obviously the more years I've been in Buffalo, our team gains that much more experience," Poyer stated. "You can say this is the most experienced team that I've been around as far as in the offseason going into a training camp … We've all played together for a long time, and you don't necessarily see that a lot in the league. So, it is special to have. And we know we've got to continue to work to get to where we've got to go. And that's just the mindset that we have on the defensive side of the ball. We know the talent is there. We've got to work. And I truly believe the guys have been doing that."