Coach Sparano: "It was high energy, we practiced fast"


Coach Sparano: **"Injury report today: Tarell Brown did not practice today with a foot; Vincent Brown did not practice today with a groin; Derek Carr was limited today with a thumb; TJ Carrie was limited today with an ankle; Chimdi Chekwa did not practice today with a hamstring; Brian Leonhardt did not practice with a concussion; Denarius Moore did not practice with a knee and ankle; Menelik Watson did not practice today with a foot and ankle; and C.J. Wilson did not practice today with a knee."

Q: Did Derek Carr get hurt on a particular play or did it happen out here?

Coach Sparano:"No, I think it was just something from the game."

Q: Is it on his throwing hand?

Coach Sparano:"It is, yes."

Q: Was he injured from the game?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, it was just from the game."

Q: Carr was able to throw today, I assume.

Coach Sparano:"Mm-hm."

Q: With Sio Moore going on IR, does he need surgery or anything?

Coach Sparano:"That's not something that we're going to talk about now. He's on IR."

Q: It doesn't sound like you're terribly concerned about Carr's thumb.

Coach Sparano:"No, not from what I just watched."

Q: What makes the Bills' defense so good? Not many teams have done to Aaron Rodgers what they did last week.

Coach Sparano:"They're pretty simple in their approach; they don't do a lot, but what they do they do really well and they've got good players doing it. That's the truth. They've got good players doing it. When you look at their front, it's as good as any front that we've had to block this year. There are three guys in there with over nine sacks apiece in that front – are active. They can keep bringing them on in waves at you. But they really just play good team defense, fly around pretty good, keep the ball in front of them. They're good on third down. They allow a lot of third-down conversions that way and they have a ton of takeaways, a bunch of takeaways right now. It's up in the thirties or somewhere around there, so they get the ball out pretty good."

Q: In terms of protection and running the ball, you've been pretty good at home the last few games. Is it normal for a team to be better in those areas at home?

Coach Sparano:"I don't think so. I just think it happened to work out that way. I think sometimes you get on the road, if it's a really loud environment sometimes they can get a little bit of a jump on you there – that type of thing, depending on what kind of cadence you're working with. But I view those things as excuses. I don't really pay too much attention to that. I think this group up front has been pretty consistently good protecting the quarterback in a lot of situations with the exception of maybe two football games."

Q: Ray-Ray Armstrong hadn't played a lot of defense before Sunday. How did he look and how do you think he's going to be able to fill in?

Coach Sparano:"I thought Ray Ray played well in the game the other day. I felt him quite a bit – felt him in some pressures. I thought he did some really good things in the run game, got around the football quite a bit. He was active and played with a good edge to him. Ray-Ray's a young player, and I'm sure at some point you could get that young guy on a mistake that jumps up out of there, but that didn't happen this past weekend. I thought he was very solid. Guys did a good job getting him ready to play and it's a credit to him, because he hasn't played, staying into the meetings and making sure that he understands what's going on. But what I like about him is just the way he competed out there. I think his skillset is unique. This guy wasn't a linebacker prior to a few years ago, so all of a sudden he's playing linebacker and starting out there and doing those type of things. His skillset is more of a sub type of a player, but I liked what he did out there. He kind of had a little bit of slink to him and found the football."

Q: Do you need to add another linebacker before Sunday, or is four enough?

Coach Sparano:"We'll see what we do here. We have some different options."

Q: I know that you'd never use injuries as an excuse, but you now have nine defensive players on the Injured Reserve. That has to take a toll in some way.

Coach Sparano:"I think it takes a toll, but it's hard to use those things. Everybody's hurt right now. It's just the next-man-up mentality for us and we've been fortunate that some of these young guys that have gone in there and done a good job. That's the good news, is that you're not going to have to sit here at the end of the season and wonder whether or not so-and-so can play. What is Denico Autry like? We know that. We're getting a chance to see it every single week right now. These kind of guys – Ricky Lumpkin now getting a chance to play in there and do some things. You're seeing a lot of these young kids play and that's a good thing. There's been quite a few injuries right now."

Q: How much carry-over is there when a young guy gets to play late in a year in terms of helping them for Year 2?

Coach Sparano:"For Year 2? My experience is when you get that kind of playing time, and there is significant playing time here – we're talking about a lot of guys playing a lot of snaps right now that are young players – I think that's very, very valuable and I think there's huge carry-over. I think that that provides a real easy transition into Year 2 for them. The game doesn't surprise them. The speed of the game doesn't surprise them. The preparation that it takes to play the game doesn't surprise them. More importantly, they kind of know these opponents. Unless I'm Gabe Jackson, I've played against J.J. Watt; I've played against so-and-so; I've played against Justin Smith. I've played against some of these guys. When it comes around next year and you have to go around and start playing some of these other teams, he's got a little bit of history. He's built his own little file on some of those type of players. I think that's a huge, huge value down the road. I think one of the biggest mistakes is when you're sitting here a year from now looking at your football team – or not a year from now, a month from now – and you think, 'Man, I wish I knew something about that guy. I don't know anything about him. I've never seen him play in a game.' That's kind of like where we were with Latavius [Murray] last year. The end of the season last year when you're going into this season, you're saying, 'Really, I don't know about this guy.' Well, we know clearly about Latavius now, so those are good things."

Q: With Carr, was there a process this year where he had to learn that a throw that worked in college don't really work in the NFL?

Coach Sparano:"I'm sure there is. I think that's a better question to ask Derek, but I'm sure there is. I think some things that he got away with in college, he has figured out it's harder to get away with those things here. Derek has outstanding arm talent, everybody knows that. Some of the windows, I think, in college and the way those things stay open, that's not the case here and I think that he's had to fit the ball into tighter windows here and make some of those throws. So I think those are some of the things that he's learned a little bit that way – that some of the balls that he had a little bit more time and a little bit bigger window to throw through, he really can't do that here right now. That ball's got to come out, it's got to be on time, and that's going to be the biggest difference. I think he's finding out his margin for error obviously is a lot different than it was in college.

Q: Up to this point, you've really been able to keep the players focused and locked in. With just two games left, do you think that's still the case? Did that energy translate to practice today?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I mean, listen: These kids – these men – have done a great job as far as that goes. The practice was good today; it was high energy, we practiced fast. Today, I was really proud of the way they came out of there. I've said this all along: They've been resilient and I've been proud of them in a lot of different ways – what they do on the field, the way they bounce back. Listen, it's not easy for anybody right now, but you've got to handle what comes with not having a winning season right now, not doing those things. They've handled it well. It hurts when you lose. They've been able to identify with that and they've kind of felt a little bit of a taste of being able to win some big games. But I've been proud of this group all over the place – what they do on the field and what they do off the field. We had a situation yesterday on a day off – players' day off – where our booster club hosted a huge function and Derek Carr kind of won an award for Man of the Year there. Derek goes out there with Khalif Barnes on a day off and is giving out gifts to young kids out there in the community. Those things – if you're out there sulking and brooding and doing those things, you don't see a lot of that. I've been in situations where you don't see that. These guys don't do those things. I've been proud of them in both areas."

Q: With so many unknowns at the end of the season with players and coaches and everything, what is your message for the team over these last two weeks?

Coach Sparano:"My only message to them right now is – again – we really decide how this thing is going to go at the end here. We can only control what we can control right now, which is this football game. The biggest message I've given them right now is that, 'Hey, we have a chance right now to be 2-0 at home in front of our fans in the month of December. It's the last opportunity to play at home in front of our fans right now. We want to go out there, we want to play well. We want to win a football game against a good team out here. We've been kind of concentrating on winning the month of December. That's what we've been concentrating on."

Q: Do you remember forming an opinion on Sammy Watkins during the draft process?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I sure do. I thought he was a really talented player and I really like the things that he did on film. I had a chance to watch him there and then get to watch him just before the draft as well in the final evaluation phase of that process. I was brought in there for that phase and got a chance to see him play. I think he's a talented guy, a talented guy with the ball in his hands and really an explosive player."

Q: Had he still been available at No. 5 along with Khalil Mack, would that have made the decision a little more difficult?

Coach Sparano:"You'd have to ask [General Manager] Reggie [McKenzie] that question."

Q: In terms of all the rookie receivers, has this been a special kind of year for those guys coming into the NFL?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, it looks like it. There's some guys here who have posted some pretty good seasons. It looks to me like they've had really good seasons. That was a good group. It was a deep group. You can find players – I remember thinking that we could find players later, even in the later rounds at that position that were really good players. When you look around at some of these guys that are having the kind of years that they're having right now, you would say that that was true." 

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