The Bills seem like they’ve had enough of St. John Fisher.
Monday’s practice devolved into a string of fights and arguments and general misbehaving. It all happened after Sean McDermott had already stopped practice to lecture his team.
The Bills new head coach called the players together about an hour after practice started. For about five minutes, he laid into them with a profanity laced tirade. “If you want to be winners, play like winners,” McDermott screamed well within earshot of reporters on the sideline.
And that was the cleaned up, PG version.
Whether or not the “play like winners” message was received, the intensity certainly wore off on his players.
A full contact, full tackle, 11 on 11 goal line period was stopped when Walt Powell and Colt Anderson got into a post-play fight. Lorenzo Alexander and Tyrod Taylor were among the peacemakers.
It did not end there.
Shaq Lawson was jawing with offensive linemen on back to back plays. Jordan Mills seemed ready to brawl. Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier had to walk Lawson off the field.
Finally, Jerry Hughes and Taylor got into it when the first team portion of the drill concluded. Richie Incognito had to step in between. Frazier yanked Hughes from practice shouting, “It’s always about you, Jerry!”
It’s not uncommon for training camp to feature some loud, demonstrative and sometimes physical disagreements among players on the same team.
The flurry of them in one period was the eye opening part.
“If it never got chippy through camp, I’d almost be a little concerned,” Eric Wood said. “And it has gotten chippy out here, already, but today was probably the most little skirmishes and whatnot. But, that’s fun.”
McDermott spoke with both Hughes and Marcell Dareus individually after practice. Dareus did not speak with media, but Hughes said the conversation was about an off field issue. He did not elaborate.
Whatever the on field issue was with Taylor, Hughes was done with it.
“We exchanged words, but at the end of the day, we didn’t want them to score,” Hughes said. “I was just more excited that they didn’t get in the end zone – firing up our guys. Our second unit has got to go out there and match our intensity. Especially in the goal line, we don’t give up.”
Not only is training camp fights expected, it’s better they happen there. Alexander says guys can seem themselves on film doing dumb things and, hopefully, not do them again.
“It’s a great learning experience,” Alexander said. “You want to have it now and not in the game where it cost you points, a game, or a player that’s maybe ejected and suspended the next time.”
This was the first time McDermott stopped a training camp practice to read his players the riot act, but he also did it during the spring in OTA’s and minicamp.
“I think it’s a really mature approach that you don’t wait until the practice is over to say ‘this isn’t going as we planned or the effort isn’t quite what we wanted’,” Wood said. “Stop it right where it’s at and say, ‘From now on, let’s not waste it’.”
“He just wanted to rally us back up,” Alexander said. “With that, came a heightened sense of competitiveness. If you’re not responding to your head coach, then he probably shouldn’t be your head coach. It’s a great job by Sean being a great leader.”
incognito joked after practice about finally becoming the peacemaker in the locker room. He liked the McDermott gave the team “a good butt-chewing.”
“A lot of guys needed to hear that. A lot of guys at this level are not used to hearing that,” Incognito said. “The practice instantly changed. It got chippy, it got physical, it got violent. You mix in a little bit of Coach McDermott’s speech and a little bit of just being hot and tired, and you kind of get a powder keg getting ready to explode.”
When it’s over, Incognito says the guys will be joking about it in the locker room. “I will be pushing everybody’s buttons that got into it.”
Wood compared the practice to fighting with his little brother. Whenever they fought, they still loved each other afterward. It’s the same with any team, including the Bills.
“You’re gonna fight with each other because you’re going against each other every day,” Wood said. “You move past it. You actually become closer from it.”
If that happens, then the fights and arguments at Fisher will have been plenty worth it.