McDermott: We have to 'find ways to bring the team together, to build a team'

By WGR 550 SportsRadio
After spending the past couple of weeks having players report to their team facilities for their mandatory COVID-19 tests and to get clearance to participate in team activities, training camps are underway across the National Football League.

For the Buffalo Bills, it is the first training camp that the team will have at their home headquarters at One Bills Drive in Orchard Park. This is due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and teams not being allowed to hold training camps away from their home facilities.

It was a long offseason that saw teams required to hold all meetings virtually via Skype or Zoom conference calls, while there was also no on-field activities conducted by teams at any training facilities. Now, the players have arrived in town and will start to begin working together as a team for the first time since they were last in Orchard Park in January.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott is glad to have the players back at One Bills Drive as his team prepares for an NFL season unlike any other in the past. He joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Monday to talk about the challenges brought up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his plans going forward with getting his players ready for the 2020 season and more.

Here is some of what he had to say:


McDermott on putting together a daily plan for training camp amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

"It's a challenge. That's what I have a great staff around me. We've got great ownership that gives us what we need to win and the resources we need. With that, it makes my job a whole lot easier. And I'm just fortunate to have good players as well that make my job easier. It's been a team effort. For those that have been around here, the complexion of our building has changed, and again, I think it gives us the chance to be successful. I don't know that it's realistic to think that we'll keep it 100%, in terms of the positive or negative cases, but I think that's just being realistic about it. We're trying to get ourselves focused on growing as a team, bringing our team together, getting to know one another because today is really our first day together as a full team."


McDermott on the struggles that COVID-19 brought about in the offseason:

"I'm no different than anyone else out there. That's life. You go through a lot of things in your life, experiences, but I think it all makes you stronger. If you handle it the right way, you learn from it, and this is no different. When the quarantine went into effect in mid-March, we really tried to set out to learn a lot more about myself and the people around me. I think when we're through this as a world, as a nation, we will have come out stronger for it and I'm confident about that."


McDermott on preparing for the 2020 season under the current circumstances:

"One of the goals for training camp, and really starting back in spring, is to find ways to bring the team together, to build a team. [General manager Brandon Beane] does a good job of getting players, acquiring players, and then as a coach, one of my big jobs is to build the chemistry through the team. When you don't have the shear number of days, you lose opportunities, and we as a staff, myself included, have to be real sharp with where we spend our time. How do you balance it with the time we have available to us? What do we spend on scheme? How much do we spend on team building? How much do we spend on situational football? So on and so forth. So it's a lot like being a teacher - you only have a short runway, in this case, and you can only pick what you feel like are the important ones to get them to the first week against the [New York] Jets."


McDermott on how to make the most of evaluating players without the preseason:

"When you talk about preseason games, usually those are four benchmarks through the course of the preseason where we can get a real strong evaluation of who we are and who the players are. And so now as coaches, with those opportunities gone, we've got to make sure that we plan to evaluate and put our players in positions so we can evaluate them and then also get them ready to go, to play well in the early parts of the season here. We've got to be razor sharp. Even last night we were meeting as coaches to put our collective heads together to come up with a good plan for today and making sure that we're making the most out of each and every opportunity that we have with the players."


McDermott on defensive tackle Star Lotulelei opting out of the 2020 season:

"We're going to lose a good, quality player up front, which, we talk a lot about here, that's where we win up front of the defensive line and the offensive line. That will be a loss for us, but overall, we've got a lot of players that we expect to step in and step up, and it's an opportunity for someone else to show us what they've got. We certainly respect Star's position. With that said, we have to move forward as a team. We'll stay in touch with Star and hope that he stays healthy where he is with his family, and we can't wait to see him again some time again down the road."


McDermott on the loss of guard Jon Feliciano:

"It's an unfortunate set of circumstances in his situation there. We felt like he was in some of the best shape of his life, had a great offseason rehabbing and, I hate to say unavoidable because you always try to go and look back at something that we could've done differently, maybe something he could have done differently. In this case, I really do think it was unavoidable. He was training and ended up tearing his pec just a day or two in once he got here. So unfortunate, but we're confident that he's going to be back and ready to go. And I know that the leadership part that he brings to our football team will continue to be felt  at a high level with having him around the building."


You can listen to the entire interview below: