Bills Begin First Game Week With Attempt to `Block the Noise'

As they get ready for the Steelers, they know what the national expectations are, but coach Sean McDermott wants players to focus on process only.
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Now that their first game week has finally arrived, the best thing the Bills can do is focus only on what's immediately in front of them, according to coach Sean McDermott.

The fifth-year coach revealed a simple mantra to the public in a press conference before Tuesday's practice. It's the same one he pounds into his players' heads at every opportunity: "Control what they can control."

"You've got to stay in the process of a week-by-week season," McDermott said. "So if you focus on things outside this building, on things you can't control ... you get your tail kicked. So we've got to be mentally tough in our approach and focus in on our process and insulate ourselves as much as we can from all the other noise that is outside the building."

In the Bills' case, the Pittsburgh Steelers are their first and next opponent, so the best way to prepare is to think only about preparing for that season opener on Sept. 12.

"This such a ... process-driven operation, in particular during the season," McDermott said. "That's the mental shift that you have to go through to get yourself ready to go."

A golf fan for decades, the coach referred to FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay, who started the Tour Championship with a lead and calmly maintained it throughout to capture the $10 million prize on Sunday.

"I mean, he held the lead for so long, and I think that showed a lot of mental strength by him," McDermott said, "and I think we can learn from that. We can use that as a model to, `hey, no matter what's going on outside, you've got to stay dialed in, you've got to stay in your process and get yourself just right and ready to go.' "

As for the game, McDermott reported encouraging injury news, saying he expects wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (shoulder) and nickel cornerback Taron Johnson (hand) to play and that defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (calf) is "trending in the right direction" to be available for the opener.

The competition for the starting guard spots apparently remains ongoing, and could keep going long after the season begins, because McDermott said on Tuesday that all three could be used in a rotation.

Earlier, the Bills named eight captains for the 2021 season: Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, quarterback Josh Allen and special-teams standouts Reid Ferguson, Tyler Matakevich and Taiwan Jones.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.