Mandatory minicamp is finally upon the Buffalo Bills, who want to set the tone for training camp and a regular season they all believe can trump last year's campaign on their way to a 13-3 record in the regular season and 2-1 record in the playoffs.
Here are five things they hope to accomplish over these next three days before most depart and decompress to clear their heads for training camp in late July.
1. Building rapport
Yes, the Bills have all kinds of continuity. But they also have new players they will need to contribute right away, or they will take a step backward.
So the newcomers, veterans and rookies alike, must dive into their jobs.
"You know, you're starting from scratch," offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. "... You're not going to come from one year to the next and change the entire offense, but you're going to add some things ... and you're going to take some things out and you're just kind of trying to rebuild the muscle memory, you're trying to rebuild the knowledge of the system, the signals, the audibles, check-with-me's. There's a lot that goes into it.
"Quite frankly, you've climbed that mountain and then you climb back down and now you're climbing up another mountain. That's where you're at. You can't start at the top of the mountain. We're kind of at the base of it right now and we've got a lot of work that needs to be done, and that's what these camps are for."
2. Attention to detail
The more the players concentrate on knowing their roles and can understand exactly how their systems work, the smoother training camp will run.
Hitting the ground running means burying their heads in the playbooks until they feel comfortable enough to be called on in the meeting rooms or even to ask a question in those settings.
They can accomplish a lot during these three days of practice, which should leave them feeling that training camp will be a smooth operation, even though it will be held for a second straight year at their headquarters instead of St. John Fisher College because of the coronavirus pandemic.
3. Getting uncomfortable
Even many of the returning veterans will be asked to do things they hadn't attempted or mastered before. It's all part of evolving as a team and remaining unpredictable.
Because comfort in football is usually a bad thing.
For example, running back Devin Singletary, in his third year, knows he has to have a better overall grasp of his responsibilities beyond just running the football, as coach Sean McDermott pointed out at the start of this three-day camp.
"Devin, in particular, is really trying to master the small things that come up down-in and down-out if you're playing all three downs, whether it's protection [or] something different that comes with those things," he said. "So I've really been impressed with his attention to detail these last couple of days."
4. Get the shot(s)!
Although the Bills players shoved the COVID-19 vaccination issue to the side during OTAs, it remains an issue as far as McDermott is concerned.
"We're doing our best to educate our players," he said. "We're aware in our country on how things are improving & there's a direct correlation to people being vaccinated. I'd like our team to move in that direction, but I respect everyone's decision."
Overall, he feels the team is moving in the right direction, even if it might be at a snail pace.
5. Replacing Roberts
One of the few regular positions up for grabs is the primary punt and kick returner following the Bills' decision to part ways with All-Pro Andre Roberts after last season.
"Playing that position in Western New York is not easy," McDermott said. "It becomes a real art form where you have to put a lot of time in."