The Buffalo Bills take the field for their first training camp practice on Wednesday and general manager Brandon Beane addressed the media beforehand. The decision-maker touched on several notable topics so we’ve rounded up the four biggest takeaways from the press conference.
Vaccines aren’t causing locker room divide
Wide receiver Cole Beasley has caused quite a stir over the last few months due to his stance against the COVD-19 vaccine. With such a divisive issue, many wondered how the veteran’s outspoken stance against the vaccine would impact the locker room, given the nature of the protocols the NFL has in place.
Beane addressed the issue and made it clear that while he hopes the entire team eventually receives the vaccination, there’s a healthy discussion regarding the vaccine in the locker room and it isn’t going to cause a rift.
“Are we 100% with COVID-19 vaccinations? We’ve had a recent uptick in players with at least one shot, but we are not going to force the vaccination on the players,” Beane said.
When asked about Beasley’s social media use, Beane explained that as long as his comments aren’t taking away from the team’s goals, he’s free to say whatever he wants.
“We allow our players to express their views, as long as it’s not going to be a distraction,” Beane said. “I don’t think it will be an issue once they get on the field, then their focus will be on winning.”
Beane added that over 80-percent of the team has received at least one vaccination and that number is rising as players become educated.
“There will be some bumps in the road with what we have to figure out with our unvaccinated guys. I think they know we’re behind them, and we have to protect each other. Everyone has to be smart whether you’re vaccinated or not. We’re just over 80% that have had at least one COVID-19 shot. Guys here have continued to do their research this summer, and they decided to go through that process.”
Beane also said that Dion Dawkins and Ike Boettger are in the COVID-19 protocol.
Last season’s success means nothing
The Bills took the NFL by storm last year, finishing with a 13-3 regular season record before being eliminated in the AFC Championship Game. But this year, it’s back to the drawing board. Beane isn’t looking at past successes to determine future results and training camp is the time to lay the foundation for the 2021 NFL season.
“We’ve stressed all year and offseason that what we did last season was really good, but that means nothing now. We’re starting at the bottom of the mountain and everyone is at the starting line at 0-0.”
While Beane is certainly proud of last year’s team, he’s intent on the team looking forward.
“We have high expectations, but it all starts here. We have to put the work in. Everyone understands 2021 is a new year, and nothing from what we did in 2020 will affect us going forward. If you want to be a consistent contender, you have to back it up. We wanted to host playoff games, and we knew we had to win the division. We still didn’t meet some standards last year that we wanted to achieve. We have to hit the reset button from last season.”
Bills expect Cody Ford to win LG job
The Bills traded up to select Cody Ford in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft but through two seasons, injuries and position switches have resulted in a less-than-stellar career from the former Oklahoma star lineman.
After transitioning to guard last year, Ford suffered a torn meniscus that ended his season. Entering training camp, Beane still has high hopes for his young lineman and expects him to win a starting job.
“We believe in (Cody) a lot,” Beane said. “When he’s been out there, he’s done a lot of good things. Cody doesn’t bat an eye. We played him at right tackle his first year, bounced him around last year and that isn’t easy for a young player. So the thing we’re going to do with Cody is to figure out which spot is best for him. He’s going to have to go win it. He will have to show who he is and why we picked him. But I’m very confident in him and I think once we get out there and he gets his feet wet, we’ll see the Cody that we drafted.”
While Ford is the front runner, he’ll be battling with Ike Boettger and Forrest Lamp for the starting role.
Star Lotulelei’s presence will be felt
Star Lotulelei’s return to the lineup has arguably been the most anticipated roster move on defense outside of the two rookies joining the team. The Bills defense struggled last year as they lacked a true nose tackle that could anchor against double teams and opposing offenses ran the ball seemingly at will.
Beane expressed excitement when asked about Lotulelei’s return and said that the entire defense is better with Star in the lineup.
“We’re excited to have him back. He’s been an integral part of our success. I can tell you our linebackers are glad to have him back. He does a great job of letting those guys run free and I’m sure Ed Oliver is glad to have him back as well, you know, as he’ll see a few less double teams.”
Beane elaborated a bit on the struggles of the linebackers, but made sure to explain that those shortcomings were largely due to injuries and not having a nose tackle, than their actual talent level.
“He (Star) does a great job of eating up blockers and keeping guys from getting to the second level so those guys can roam to the ball. Tremaine and Matt had some injuries early in the year, but it was also dealing with not having Star in there.”
Stay tuned to Cover1 throughout Bills Training Camp as we’ll have you covered with all of the latest news, rumors and storylines.