Bills finish final camp practice; Marrone sends message to team
by Joe Buscaglia,posted Aug 21 2014 2:13PM
With the sun beating down on the field inside Growney Stadium at St. John Fisher College, the edgy Buffalo Bills went through their final training camp practice of 2014. And with the way the last week has gone, it was fitting that it ended with a few fireworks.
Not even an hour into practice the Bills took a page out of their practice on Wednesday. It was only the first set of team drills, and within just a few plays, the team already had two scuffles between offensive and defensive players.
At that moment, head coach Doug Marrone hit his breaking point.
He started screaming at the top of his lungs at his team. He yelled to the on-field staff to cut the music that serenades each practice. He had a message to deliver to his team — some of which that isn’t suitable for radio or television.
“Conduct detrimental to the team,” and “stop fighting,” were two of his statements to the players — albeit cleaned up versions of the original transcript. The team was then sent to the sideline and Marrone made them run a lap across the field and back as punishment.
That wasn’t before one member of the team, defensive end Jerry Hughes, pushed back and made his comments heard at least a little bit. Marrone and Hughes shared somewhat of a loud exchange before defensive tackle Marcell Dareus put his arm around Hughes and ushered him into the punishment lap before any more words were communicated.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who got the practice off to rest a leg injury, then had a conversation with Marrone once everything had cooled down and the team resumed practice. Marrone and Hughes seemingly buried the hatchet after the practice, with the head coach going over to Hughes and pulling him aside to have a brief conversation about what happened.
Marrone cited a lack of respect for the reason why the fighting has lingered in camp, and then said he’s going to handle it all personally. As could be expected, though, the head coach wasn’t exactly eager to discuss what happened with the media.
“I'm going to say it again and I'm not going to answer another question. We're responsible for the integrity of the game,” he said after a series of questions. “Can you figure it out? Figure it out. We're responsible for the integrity of the game. There is no use for fighting in the game of football, period. End of discussion. Move on.”
Moving on is precisely what the Bills will do, too. They’ll spend two more nights on campus, Thursday and Friday, before packing up and leaving on Saturday before their game on the same night.
It was an extremely long camp, 21 practices in total without counting the one that was cancelled due to weather, but a necessary evil according to the head coach.
“Yeah, we needed it,” Marrone remarked. “I think we benefitted quite a bit from the extra work and I also think the work in Pittsburgh was outstanding for us. I think the more that we can do that moving forward, I think the better chance we have of being a better football team.”
Once Saturday arrives, the Bills will no longer have football surrounding their lives at every moment of every day. When they leave St. John Fisher College, they’ll transition back into real life while still playing the part of professional athletes.
“For us, the environment changes and we have to be careful. We want to make sure that we set the expectations for us when we go back to Buffalo and how we practice. We were trying to that this week,” Marrone opined. “But then, the environment changes. There's a lot more structure when you're in training camp as a whole team, you're around each other quite a bit. Now you have a lot more free time. There's other people that are going to come in that you have to do a good job as a player and also as a coach, to make sure that you have the structure and you have the discipline and the focus remains the same.”
That is the struggle for any team once a training camp wraps up. Reclaiming their lives outside of football and how they’ll approach the work in-season is just as vital as their performances on Sundays. That could have been part of Marrone’s line of thinking when he stopped Thursday’s practice, and brought an intense approach to the session.
He’s doing it for a reason, because he believes in the players that make up the 2014 Buffalo Bills.
“Here's what I sense: we are close. What is it going to be to get over the top? It's a matter of either you get over the top or you don't and we've gotta find a way to push ourselves over the top,” Marrone said. “Now this year it's critical to get us over the top, so, I'm doing everything I possibly can to get us over the top. And if intensity's the answer? Yeah, I'm intense.”
The Bills will head back to Buffalo for their fourth preseason game of 2014, a 4:30 showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the newly renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium.