Several of the Buffalo Bills' offensive players didn't let a truncated offseason keep them from training together and building chemistry. Nearly every offensive skill player, including quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, gathered in Miami last week to train for a couple days -- a move that caught the attention of the Bills' coaching staff.
In part because the workout was organized by Allen, who has taken considerable strides as a leader since entering the league in 2018, Bills coach Sean McDermott feels confident his quarterback and team are heading in the right direction.
"Very encouraged, and it's a critical step that he took it upon himself and his own initiative to put this together," McDermott said Wednesday. "I'm sure it wasn't easy. Whether we continue to be apart like we are now or when we come back together, this will be a feather in Josh's cap that he was able to do what he did.
"You saw the response just in sheer numbers. And so that alone tells you what type of respect his teammates have for him and what type of respect Josh has for his teammates."
Buffalo's team unity became a topic of discussion nationally on Thursday when quarterback Jake Fromm, a fifth-round pick in April, apologized after screenshots emerged of a 2019 text conversation in which he said only "elite white people" should be able to purchase guns. The Bills released a statement saying they didn't condone Fromm's comments and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he expected team leaders to reach out to Fromm and work with him.
That includes Allen, who McDermott said has fully embraced his role as Buffalo's leader. Even as the Bills have had to hold team meetings virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, Allen is making an impact entering a pivotal season for himself and the team.
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"He continues to take critical steps [as a leader]," McDermott said. "I have a chance to dial in and listen in on some of the Zoom meetings and I try to spread myself around, but I do spend some time in that quarterback room. With Josh, the example that he is to the other guys, you know, is a good example of his leadership.
"He's locked in with [Bills quarterbacks coach Ken] Dorsey, and I would say really all of them are. It's been impressive."
One of the players in attendance at the Miami workout was left tackle Dion Dawkins, who met up with his teammates after months apart. As he put it, the experience was the perfect remedy for all that time spent socially distancing from one another.
"Just being around everybody and feeling each other's energy ... it just brought back a smile," Dawkins said. "I'm just glad that I got to be a part of it."
The fourth-year lineman wasn't necessarily there to take part in the workout, although he did catch a slant against wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, but he did notice the camaraderie among the Bills' skill players. Dawkins also raved about Allen's leadership -- specifically how his attitude has permeated through the rest of the team.
"It just shows that he's not a little kid, that Josh is a grown man and he has his mind set on what he wants to do -- and that's win," Dawkins said. "... to get everyone in one place shows a lot of his character and who he is as a person. Josh has been that dude since Day 1, it's just nice and exciting to finally see it all come together and everybody riding for what he has planned."
For McDermott, the workout resonated for reasons that go beyond team bonding. Occurring during widespread protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Bills' workout displayed the kind of unity McDermott believes everyone needs at this time.
"I just feel strongly about right now as a country we need to unify," he said. "The picture or pictures that have come from that [workout] -- I think it's a great example, that visual, of what our world needs to look like with the guys smiling together and hands on each other's shoulders. I think that's a great snapshot for America.
"That vision is stuck in my head, that's a great, great picture -- albeit just the offense of our football team -- and I'm extremely proud of the guys for what they did and how they did it."