Head Coach Brian Daboll
Daboll: So, I'll just start out on behalf of our organization, myself, (general manager) Joe (Schoen), the players, some of the coaches, some of the staff members – a lot of us have been around (Bills safety) Damar (Hamlin). We offer our prayers to him, his family, to the people in that organization. They've been through a lot, and this is tragic. It's tragic to see. I feel for Damar most importantly, his family, but all the players and coaches that are around him every day. He's a tremendous young man, and just pray for recovery. That was tough.
Q: How did you address that with your team today?
A: I try not to get too much into what we do in the team meetings, but I had the medical people talk. And I had our team psychologist, Dr. Lani (Lawrence), speak. And then I had our team chaplain, Gian Paul (Gonzalez), speak and say a prayer. So, that's how we started before any football. That's how we started.
Q: In terms of the fragility of life and the danger of the game, how do you reconcile what has happened here? And how do you share your thoughts with your team?
A: Really just what I said. I'll leave what we said private. But that was tough.
Q: Is it difficult to go back to work today?
A: It's been difficult the last couple days. This is a relationship business, and when something like that happens to people that mean a lot to you – or even if you don't know them, you have just a great amount of respect for (them) – it really doesn't matter what job you do. But having been around the young man, I know him. I know the type of person he is. Yeah, it's tough.
Q: You were there for one year together with him. You were an offensive coordinator. He was a rookie defensive back. How well do you feel you know him? What kind of sense do you have with him?
A: I know him. I wouldn't say I was, obviously, as close with him as some of the offensive guys. But certainly know him on the look team. Just he's a good young man.
Q: Were you watching the game on Monday? And if not, how did you hear about it? What were your emotions, either having seen it or when you get the text?
A: I'd say about how they are. It's terrible.
Q: What was the purpose of having your medical people talk to the players? What did you want them to relay to the team?
A: I just think when a situation like that occurs, it probably weighs heavy on everybody's hearts and minds. I just kind of let the medical – again, I'm not going to go into what was talked about in the meeting. I hope you guys can respect that. But I just thought that was important for those three individuals to speak.
Q: How worried are you about your guys, especially the ones who know him?
A: I think you're always concerned about your guys. And then when something like this happens, you're always concerned about them. But that's why I have confidence in the people in our building. That's what we're all here for. We're here for the players. Support staff, coaches, trainers, medical – everybody's here to help the player in any way we can.
Q: Did you give your guys a chance to talk or ask questions or share in that meeting?
A: Again, I'm not going to get into it, but yeah. It was a good – I just thought that was the right thing to do for our team.
Q: In the times that you were around Damar or just observing him in any capacity, what was it about him that at such a young age, he seemed to have such a responsibility for a very young brother and also for his community in McKees Rocks (Pa.) where that toy drive started with frankly humble beginnings. It's obviously grown to something, but that was important to him to do as a very young man.
A: I would just say that he's a good young man. I don't want to get too much into that out of privacy and respect for, number one, him and the rest of the Buffalo Bills organization. I'd defer to them. So, I'd just leave it at that.
Q: A member of this NFL family, what's been your reaction when you see the outpouring of love and support and also the donations on the Go Fund Me page?
A: Yeah, amazing. Just the support for that young man has been incredible. And that's a testament to everybody around the country that watched it, or maybe heard about it or saw it.
Q: Obviously, the dangers of the sport are ever-present. There are a lot of reminders, this one perhaps more serious and stark than most. How do you work through that with players who might sort of be grappling with that this week or even yourself?
A: I think that's why we had the meeting that we had. Again, one meeting is never just going to do it. But I think you hire a bunch of competent people that are there for the players and any support system that they need. And that's our job, and that's why we hire who we hire.
Q: I know this isn't foremost, but you supposedly have a game to play this week. How difficult is it for somebody who's very structured and in a very structured business to not know what lies ahead this week?
A: I just think we go about our business and have a normal week. But again, I'd be remiss, that was heavy on my heart, and I thought it was the right thing to do for our players and for our organization. I'd say Joe was on the same page with that. So, that was what was most important this morning.
Q: Do you believe it might be appropriate for the league to push games back?
A: I'm not going to get into that. I know the questions; I understand the questions. But really what I said about that whole situation, I'm going to really leave it at that.
Q: You played the game at the high school and college level and coached it for 25 years. How have you balanced your love of football with the dangers and risks involved?
A: Good question. I just think you deal with things as they come. Again, this situation is pretty unique. So, probably need more time to reflect and sit down and think about that one.
Q: Have you considered giving a day off? Or do any of the guys that have a relationship with Damar need an extra day or have one?
A: I think we have our support system in place. If somebody needed that, I certainly would consider it – absolutely. Again, we're here for the players. Our staff is here for the players. And that's the best I can give you.
Q: How much did you consult with your leaders? I know you talk to your leaders in that leadership group that you talk to. How much did you consult with them and sort of make a decision on how you were going to proceed here?
A: On that one, not – no, I didn't. They had Monday and Tuesday. Obviously, you see guys walking through the building; they're working out. Joe and I talked about it. We thought that that was an appropriate thing.
Q: Can this be an escape? Coming out here and being with your teammates and coaches to get away from it, just the thoughts of it. Can it be helpful and therapeutic?
A: I think you'd have to probably ask each individual.
Q: What about from your standpoint?
A: Something like that is always on your mind after it happens.
Q: Have you made a decision on whether to rest people?
A: No, like I said on Monday – we'll go through the whole week. We'll talk about that Friday evening probably.
Q: I think that this kind of team, as far as playing players in a game that maybe doesn't have any meaning, obviously it worked out pretty well for them back in 2007 with the Super Bowl run, that game against the Patriots. Is there, in your opinion, something to momentum and generating momentum late to potentially carry it through the postseason?
A: I'd say the same thing I said on Monday: we're going to do what we think is best for our team. What happened in '07 or five years (ago) – we're going to do what we think is right for our team.
Q: Did any members of your organization go to Cincinnati or any type of outreach that would be worthwhile sharing?
A: I don't know that answer. In terms of players, I don't know.
Q: You and Joe, obviously, (were) so recently in Buffalo. Have the two of you reached out to folks up there?
A: Yeah, I've talked to, I would say, a number of people. I talked to – I'm not going to get into everybody I talked to – but I've talked to a lot of people there. Just offered my support, not that I can do much. Those people, I'd say, mean a lot. I don't want to speak for Joe, but I know it does. They mean a lot to both of us. I know there's a lot of people in the building, the players, the staff, the trainers – thank God for them – you build relationships. Being there for four years, I have a ton of respect for the people in that building. Just really a call for support.
Q: You said that, obviously, you offered support. But there's really not much else that you can do. Is that a little bit of a helpless feeling in that situation?
A: I think, again, not having been through a situation like this, you try to do the best you can to be there as a friend, as a mentor, as a former coach. Just be there for them.
Q: Has anybody come up to you and said, a player saying, "I don't know if I want to play this weekend?"
Q: Were you watching when it happened?
A: Yeah, I saw it.
Q: What was the immediacy after that? I know a lot of people took to social media. You're not necessarily a social media guy. Was your phone buzzing, or do you kind of turn away and try to be with your family a little bit more?
A: Yeah, probably a lot like all of you. Just praying for him.
Q: Does this make you appreciate more just being a part of the football community that you're in? The overall group.
A: Yeah, I mean it's a close-knit community, obviously. But I would just say in particular for guys like myself, Joe (Schoen), (quarterbacks coach) Shea (Tierney), (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson), LY (director of coaching operations Laura Young), (running back Matt) Breida, (cornerback Nick) McCloud, (wide receiver) Isaiah (Hodgins), (center Jon) Feliciano – I'm probably leaving somebody out right now – (safety Jason) Pinnock. I really don't know what else to say, guys, honestly. I just hope everything goes okay.
Q: In terms of your guys, is anyone not going to practice?
A: Yeah, so Leo (defensive lineman Leonard Williams) won't practice today. (Outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) won't practice today. And Feliciano won't practice today. Then we'll give Dex (defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence II) his usual vet day off on Wednesday.
Q: (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson)?
A: Yeah, he'll do something. He'll do a little bit more than he did last week.
Q: Azeez only had seven snaps on Sunday. Did it affect him? Did the ankle bother him?
A: He toughed it out. He went; he played. We took him out of there after those reps. Hopefully we can get him healthy as we can here the next couple of weeks.
Q: With Feliciano is that –?
A: Back. Yeah, back.
Q: How did (safety) Xavier (McKinney) come through with the hand and everything?
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q: I'm wondering what you saw on Monday night and what your thoughts are?
A: It was certainly a tough scene Monday night. Thoughts and prayers to (Bills safety) Damar Hamlin, his family. I can't imagine what they're going through. The Bills players, his teammates – and yeah, just a really tough scene. Thinking about them, praying for them. A really tough situation. It puts things in perspective, for sure.
Q: (Head coach) Brian (Daboll) was talking about support resources that are in place for several players and several who had relationships with him. Can you talk a little bit about that?
A: I think this organization has always, since I've been here, done a great job supporting us as players and offering whatever we need in certain situations and this is a certainly unique and tough situation for a lot of guys – a lot of guys who know Damar well, who have been teammates with him, who have coached him. This organization does a great job offering those tools and those resources that can help guys going through tough times. Like I said, thoughts and prayers to him, to his family, his Bills teammates, and his friends all over – and some of them are in this locker room.
Q: Does it show the best of the NFL fraternity the way that you guys have all rallied around Damar during this difficult time?
A: Yeah, I think it does say a lot. You've seen just a huge outpouring of support from players around the league, from coaches, from fans. So many fans have shown their support. Such a tough, tough situation but I do think you can see some hope, inspiration and the support that has come out of it.
Q: Does it make you think more about the dangers of football which is the sport that you play every day?
A: Yeah, I think you understand it's a violent game. There's inherent risk in playing each week. At the same time, seeing something like that puts it all in perspective and you never expect it, right? It's not something you're thinking about a lot, honestly. To see it happen, to see that situation Monday night was tough.
Q: A lot of the former Bills that are in this locker room – what has it been like seeing their emotions and what have you guys discussed with them?
A: Like I said, a lot of the guys in this locker room who know him, know him well. Coaches who have coached him and been around him a lot. You hear about all the great things, the great guy he is and the great teammate he is, the great player he is. That's what you've heard from, there's been an outpouring of all people sharing their experiences with him and who he is, and you hear the same thing (from) the guys you talk to here. I think guys are dealing with it in different ways, grieving in different ways, so just trying to be as supportive as we can. I think this team (and) this organization has done a really good job.
Q: On a number of different levels, obviously the injury with Damar, but do you go into this week with uncertainty in the sense that you don't know how much you're playing and things like that? Is it harder to prepare?
A: I'm preparing as I always do; preparing to play and doing what I do to prepare. I don't think that changes. I think certainly the Damar Hamlin situation and that factors into your mindset and your approach. It's certainly going to affect all of us, like I said, in different ways, but it's going to affect us. It puts things in perspective.
Q: When it comes to playing or not playing this final game of the season, will you go to Brian and let him know your thoughts or your opinions on what you would prefer to do? Or just let it go with whatever the coach says?
A: I think if he asks my opinion, I would share that with him but at the same time, he's the coach and it's my job to prepare to play, and I'm prepared to do that. That's what my job is, I understand that. If he asks for my opinion I'd share it, but he's the head coach.
Q: As a competitive athlete, is your preference to go all out to try to win this game?
A: Yeah, I mean I think as a player you're always wanting to prepare to play and do what you can. At the same time, you have an obligation to the team, you have an obligation to what's best for the situation and that's Dabs' job to make those decisions. I trust him and obviously I'm going to do whatever he tells me to do.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: How hard is this whole thing that is happening with (Buffalo safety) Damar Hamlin hitting you? How much do you feel it?
A: Yeah, I mean you never want to see anybody get hurt. I know Damar a little bit from recruiting, I've seen him at Pittsburgh. Being a recruit and coming to visit Penn State. Knowing (Eagles running back) Miles (Sanders), and I know him and Miles are really close. Any time you see a guy go down, especially when you have no idea what's really going on, it definitely hurts, it sucks. Just praying for him and his family and all those guys over there in Buffalo.
Q: Does this put in perspective the fragility of life?
A: Yeah. You think about it, you talk about, but when you actually see something like that – it leaves you speechless. The first text I got was from my mom. My mom was just saying how bad she feels for Damar's family. That's a mother's, that's a parent's worst nightmare. It definitely does put it in perspective. Me having kids seeing that – it's a physical sport, it's a game I love to play, but at any given moment, it makes you just appreciate all the little things. Going out to practice, spend time with your family, spend time with your teammates, your friends and even stuff like this. Any moment, anything can happen.
Q: What's your reaction to the outpouring of love and support that he has received?
A: I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised. The NFL community, the NFL is a very loved sport. Obviously, there were a lot of eyes on that game, there were a lot of eyes on that moment. I never was with Buffalo, but you hear a lot about Bills Mafia, the positive things they're doing. You see (License Plate Guy) LPG getting Giants' nation involved. You see all these guys from different teams, different careers, all donating to his charity. It's a good thing to see how the NFL and how the community is getting behind and supporting him. The only thing you can do right now is hope for the best and continue to pray and keep him in your prayers and keep his family in your prayers.
Q: Was today's meeting necessary? Obviously, there was a meeting with different people, the chaplain, and things like that?
A: Yeah, it was definitely necessary. The most important part I think was when we all just prayed. Like you mentioned, it puts everything in perspective. At any given moment, it can be taken away from you. We all sat there and said a prayer for him, for his family. Like I said, you never want to see anything like that happen.
Q: When you took the field today, I know practice is different than a game, but what do you think with the first hit, the first contact – does that go through your mind and how do you prevent that when it comes to game time?
A: We didn't really get into any physical contact in practice today. I guess – I wouldn't guess – I assume that would go through your mind the next time, on Sunday, when you're about to go through physical contact. You've got to try your best not to think about it that way. I'm the kind of guy who, like I said, put it in perspective knowing that can happen but still just be appreciative. Go out there and just try to take advantage of every single opportunity and every moment you can get.
Q: Obviously you know there are dangers to the game especially in a week like this when you see an injury like this. How do you reconcile with the sport that you love, you're good at and you made a career out of versus the fact that it is such a dangerous sport?
A: You know it's a dangerous sport. Obviously, you've seen guys, the injuries. Unfortunately, you see some guys get paralyzed. You never see, I don't really want to speak too much on the medical because I'm not really 100 percent familiar with it, but you've never seen that. I've never seen that. Obviously, I wasn't there but seeing it on TV, seeing it on social media, definitely makes you stop – and it was like, 'Whoa.' It really puts you on notice because that's not something you just ever think of. Obviously, it's a physical sport when you go out there and there's contact and you're trying to make the other guy miss or you're trying to run the other guy over. You never ever see that, envision that happening until it actually happened. It's definitely a shock, but like I said, the only thing you can do is just hope for the best and pray for the best and continue to keep him in your prayers and his family in your prayers.
Q: For it to come on a play that was pretty nondescript as far as football goes – how do you put that through your mind?
A: It's tough because it's a routine play. It's a play that's happened millions, millions of times. It's a play that I've done millions and thousands of times before. It's tough. It really is tough. It's hard to even speak on it. Words can't really explain how you even feel in that moment. Like I said, I know I sound like a broken record, the only thing you really can do is just pray. Just pray for his family, pray for him, pray for the guys over in Buffalo, all of the people that are impacted by that – even the guys in Cincinnati – and just wish for the best.
Q: How much, if at all, does it make you question whether you would want to play this game or not?
A: I wouldn't necessarily say it made me question if I wanted to play this game. Kind of going back to what she asked me – it kind of puts you in shock like, 'Whoa.' You know it's a physical game, you know it's the nature of the game, but I've never ever seen – me playing, watching the game for a really long time – I've never seen anything like that before. I didn't even know that was possible. It's sad to say, you never even have that thought in your head. I wouldn't say it really questioned me playing the sport that I love, it was more just like, wow I didn't even know that was possible to happen on a football field. Now that you see that, it's crazy. It's just crazy but like I said and I'm going to keep saying it – the only thing you can do is just pray. That's really all it is right now. You just pray. Just thinking about him and his family because there are a lot of people that's going through a rough time whether it's his family or the Buffalo Bills and people that were impacted or directly associated with that game.
Q: After witnessing a traumatic event like that, do you think everyone in here will be able to compete and engage by game time Sunday at a full extent or is that going to be difficult to do?
A: That's a good question. I really can't speak for everyone. I think it kind of – those are things that we addressed a little bit in this meeting, the meeting that we had earlier, understanding what happened. (Senior Vice President, Medical Services/Head Athletic Trainer) Ronnie (Barnes) went up there, did an amazing job speaking on the medical side. (Director of Wellness and Clinical Services, Player Engagement) Dr. Lani (Lawrence) went up there and did a great job on the psychological side. It's going to be tough, yeah, I would say it'll be tough. That's a true conversation that really needs to be had, I've never – I know where I'm at mentally, but I think that would probably be a really good thing as a captain and a leader of the team to bring the team together and ask that question. That didn't even cross my mind.
Q: Are you a proponent, then, of the league potentially suspending games for a week or postponing games for a week? Just to kind of have everyone cool down, or come to grips with the reality of the situation – if that's the right word for it.
A: That's a great question. It's hard for me to really answer that because I really only can speak for myself, how I feel.
Q: How is that then, how do you feel?
A: Me personally, that's a conversation that I would have to have with my family. How I feel, going back to what I've said – you never think about something like that. Really didn't even have any physical contact. Obviously, went out there in practice and didn't have any physical contact. None of that even crossed my mind until you guys actually brought it to my attention. That's something I would probably have a better answer later on in the week having to sit down and really reflect on that. It's sad to say but it's the God honest truth. The only thing I've really done in this moment about the situation that happened is more thinking about Damar and thinking about his family, thinking about those guys. Really haven't even sat down myself thinking like, 'Wow, I'm actually going to take the field too.' Seeing that on live television, seeing that on social media – that's a really good question but I would really have to sit down and reflect on that before I give you an actual, God honest answer.
Wide Receiver Isaiah Hodgins
Q: On the possibility of being seriously injured
A: We go on that same field and there's a possibility of something like that happens, but it also hurts just because personally knowing him and playing with him for a couple of years, and just knowing how good of a dude he is and how hard of a worker. He's a late round guy, had to fight for his spot, kind of like me and was playing really well this year, so it was tough to see something like that happen.
Q: What was (safety Damar Hamlin) like to play within Buffalo?
A: Like I said he was a great dude. If you guys would've asked me about this last week, I would have all the same stuff to say about him. He was a hard worker, brought energy every day, it's rare that you see him moping around or anything, high energy guy, just fun to play with. Fun to just do stuff with off the field, on the field, everything. A good dude.
Q: We're seeing so much outpouring of emotion, love, and support from players around the league. Talk about the family, the fraternity that is this brotherhood.
A: It's definitely just good to see that, and I hope that he's able to see that. The amount of just love and support from everybody, from different sports. From our sport to his locker room, the support around the league of just how many people are pulling for him. It's good to see to have everyone come together, support him, and I hope for the best for him.
Q: How is your heart worrying about him?
A: It's tough. Again, just knowing him on a personal level I'm just trying to keep in contact with as many people in that organization and trying to get updates to see, trying to stay posted because it is tough. I can't imagine what his family, close relatives, are really going through right now.
Q: How hard was it in practice? What was it like to go through practice today?
A: I would say this whole week is going to be a little challenging. I would say for players on our team, around the league, players on the Bills, players everywhere just knowing that is a possibility. I'm sure a lot of people have said it on ESPN or whatever, we know that it's a violent game and there's an opportunity of injury and tearing something, but rarely does it cross your head like, 'I'm not going to be able to go home and see my family'. Just the fact that it became a reality is a little scary, but we're praying for the best and hoping for the best.
Q: Does the practice field give you some escape mentally for a little bit to get away from those thoughts?
A: Yeah, I think usually that's what a lot of people often use football for. Whether it's personal stuff or stuff like that it's just to keep going and it kind of takes your mind away from it. You just have to find that mental block in your head to kind of like keep everything aligned at the moment and just try to keep pushing forward. But it's tough man. I'm praying for him and hoping the best for him. I'm just hoping he pulls through.
Q: How are the meetings today with the medical experts and psychologists, how were they helpful?
A: Those are helpful just getting insight from all the doctors and people just having that reassurance that there is a lot of people to help us just in case there is a moment like that, that happens again in the future with anyone. Just good for the mental health side of things too which is knowing that they're people there to help but also that there's people within this building that we can talk to that if we are feeling a certain type of way or if we're a little anxious or nervous, or anything, that there's people on our side.
Q: Is there a strangeness when it happens? You've gone up against him in practice, so I assume you've talked to him a lot and things like that?
A: Yeah, it is just tough but that's my brother. I've got nothing but love for him and his family, that whole locker room in Buffalo is just real tight knit, real close, offense, defense, everything. So, everyone was able to hang with everyone, so he's defiantly a brother of mine. I'm praying, pulling for him. I was super excited to watch that game, I was watching with my wife just sitting there, and then that happened and it felt like I was there, and it felt like a heartbreak. Again, just praying the best for him.
Q: What'd you do the rest of that night? Just sit and watch and try to find updates like the rest of us?
A: Yeah, literally. It was hard to sleep. It was tough man, just to try to act like nothing happened. I don't' feel like any regular person or human can do that. So, yeah it was tough the rest of the night and even the days to follow.
Q: You guys have a lot of connections between a lot of guys here directly to that team. How much is it still a constant topic in the locker room? It's a constant topic everywhere outside the locker room, I'm just curious how much you guys talk about it in here?
A: There's been some discussions especially the day following of just, how things were handled, and people's opinions and just trying to get updates. It's been talked about and quite frankly it's going to be hard for people not to talk about it. It's this rare even that hasn't really happened in a while. So, it's tough, but we're all rooting for him.
Q: From the outsider's perspectives, how do you compartmentalize that and play a football game a week later?
A: It's tough. I don't think anyone just goes out there and completely forgets about it. Personally, at least that's how I think about it. You've got to do your best, whether you've got to dedicate the game to him or just go all out just know that he would want you to do that. It is tough just knowing that happened and I can't imagine what the Bills players are going through just knowing that they have to go out there next week, without their brother there.