Rex Ryan promoting Bills unity with an 'All In' motto
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Bills coach Rex Ryan is promoting a team-first approach after a string of player complaints and criticisms created a distraction and rift in the locker room last season.
Borrowing a phrase from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, Ryan issued each player a black hoodie with the words ''All In'' printed over a Bills logo on the front to open the team's offseason voluntary conditioning program on Monday.
''It's easy to talk about: `Yeah, he's all in,' or, `Yeah, I'm all in.' But your actions speak louder than words,'' said Ryan, who has been a longtime fan of Swinney, and whose son, Seth, plays at Clemson. ''That's what I think we need to strive for, and that's to get everybody pulling in the same direction and going for that same goal.''
That certainly wasn't the case during Ryan's first year in Buffalo, which ended with the Bills finishing 8-8 and extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 16 seasons.
A month into the season, receiver Sammy Watkins wondered why he wasn't being targeted more often. Running back LeSean McCoy caused several stirs in questioning why he was traded to Buffalo by former Eagles coach Chip Kelly. And there were several occasions when defensive end Mario Williams suggested Bills players didn't fit Ryan's defensive scheme.
Williams was released last month and has since signed with Miami, Buffalo's AFC East rival.
Without mentioning specific players, Ryan said it's time to put last year behind.
''I hope I don't have to answer more questions about last season as we move forward. Hopefully, this will be it,'' he said. ''This is a team shirt, not a defensive shirt. It's on all of us. We're a football team.''
The players are buying in, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
''I love the quote,'' Taylor said. ''It just reminds us each and every day what we're here for: Everyone being accountable.''
And yet, Taylor's long-term future in Buffalo is uncertain, and raises questions about the team's commitment to their starter. Taylor is entering the final year of his contract, and his agent, Adisa Bakari, has been openly lobbying the Bills to negotiate a long-term extension.
Two weeks ago, during an interview on SiriusXM-Radio, Bakari defended Taylor and cited a lack of discipline and an under-performing defense as the reasons why the Bills missed the playoffs.
Ryan wasn't pleased with the agent's comments, while carefully noting that he wasn't placing any blame for them on Taylor.
''I don't think it's going to affect our locker room because that never came from Tyrod's lips,'' Ryan said. ''He would never criticize his teammates. In fact, he's a guy that shoulders the blame more than he ducks responsibility.''
Ryan referred to Bakari's comments as posturing.
''The agent is guilty of trying to get his client the best contract he can, that's the job of an agent,'' Ryan said. ''The fact that he went about it this way, did it make me happy? Hell no, you know, of course not.''
Taylor declined to specifically address his agent's comments.
''When it comes to last year, we won as a team and we lost as a team. Both sides are accountable,'' he said.
''I honestly don't read anything about the contract,'' Taylor added, later. ''I understand the situation I'm in. That's really up to my agent and the business side. I told you, my job is to come here, prepare as hard as I can mentally and physically, and let the rest speak for itself.''
NOTES: Ryan announced S Aaron Williams (neck), CB Ronald Darby (hernia), DT Marcell Dareus (foot), WR Robert Woods (groin) and DE Jarius Wynn (knee) have been cleared for participation. Not yet cleared are CB Stephon Gilmore (shoulder), LB Jerry Hughes (lower body), DT Kyle Williams (knee) and WR Marcus Easley (knee). ... Ryan had no update on the playing status of starting RT Seantrel Henderson, who has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. ... Backup DT Corbin Bryant has signed his qualifying offer. The Bills cut DB Cam Thomas.
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