Buffalo Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott
Saturday, April 29, 2017

Opening Comments: I’m going to start off thanking Terry and Kim Pegula for their support through this process. It’s a long process when you start basically back in February and March and they’re allocating their resources for us to do our job and really, this has been a total team effort since day one with the staff. Doug (Whaley) and his staff and the coaching staff and you don’t stop there. It’s the medical staff, the video department, the marketing department, and this is a total team effort. And I can’t say enough about that. What you saw the last couple of hours was us getting our hands on some good football players. In the fifth round, starting off with Matt Milano, who has played some at safety and then he’s played linebacker as well. So, looking for speed on the field, smart, tough football player, productive, show’s an ability to blitz and effect the quarterback, so we felt good about Matt. And then from there, with the second pick in the fifth round for us, we went with Nathan Peterman, quarterback out of Pitt. We visited with Nathan here, his success speaks for itself at the position in terms of what he’s gone through. Facing adversity early on in his career at Tennessee and showed a tremendous amount of grit and turned that into a positive in terms of his career at Pitt. When you look at his accuracy and the timing of his throws at the position and his ability to work from under center, that was important for us. That’s not something you see very often in a college game. And then finally, with the sixth round pick, Tanner Vallejo, another linebacker out of Boise State. Similar to Matt in terms of the vision and speed at the position and tremendous production around the football, relentless and let’s not forget the value of special teams, as I discussed last night. So, feel good about all three of those young men and again, can’t say enough about the effort in this building.

Q: Did you specifically set out to get really experienced college players?
A: Well, I don’t know that we set out to do that. It’s obviously good to have, the experience and the consistency. It’s nice to have that. We’re going to find good football players, whether they’re third-year guys or four-year guys, whatever that is. That is nice to have.

Q: When it came to Peterman, did you have him rated higher than the fifth round pick and if he wasn’t there, would you still have taken a quarterback?
A: Well you look at it and you evaluate just like every position. I know the importance of the quarterback position and how important that is to win football games. So, you combine that with the fact that we had a good, solid grade on this young man and in the fifth round, where he was – bottom of the fifth – to me, it’s a no-brainer. I’ve been around quarterbacks before in my career that we took at this level of the draft, and sometimes later, and you’re able to do some good things with those quarterbacks. We saw this as an opportunity to take a good football player, who happens to be a quarterback, and all the – one plus one is equal to two and it keeps going from there. So, this was a good spot for us.

Q: What did his game-tape against Clemson last season do to your evaluation of him?
A: Yeah, that’s a great question and a great point. You go down to Clemson – not at home – he went to Clemson and, he didn’t do it by himself, but he led his football team to a win against the eventual National Champions. At Clemson. That’s hard to do. The leadership part of the job, at quarterback, of all positions, that’s important as we evaluate those intangible.

Q: Some reports said that he might be the most pro-ready quarterback in the class. Was having the experience playing in a pro-style offense a big factor in the decision to draft Peterman?
A: It’s part of it. It is part of it. As you evaluate our game versus the college game, they’re different. There’s just a different space in-between the college game and our game. You’re able to evaluate players a little easier in those types of systems in terms of how they would relate to our game. And so, it does make it easier in terms of that. Does that mean that he’s going to be all that much more ready? I don’t know, we’ll see. I feel good about that. I know Coach (Pat) Narduzzi very well down at the University of Pitt and I know what he values and we’re similar in those characteristics in terms of the grit and the leadership and to the earlier point of if you’re wired the right way – something good is happening when you’re going from Pitt and you’re beating Clemson and you’re almost going down to Oklahoma State I believe and knocking them off. Those are god things, right, when you’re playing under center at Pitt.

Q: With all of those characteristics, how does he last until the fifth round? What are some of the reasons?
A: You’d probably have to ask the other teams…

Q: You too. You would have picked him in the third round…
A: Maybe people look at adversity, what he went through at Tennessee, as a detriment. We look at it as a positive, that grit. It’s just a matter of what we value versus the other teams out there. You hear about the arm strength. Some people maybe didn’t like that. I know there’s some pretty darn good quarterbacks out there that have the arm strength where they’re not throwing the ball through the drywall. But they’re deadly accurate and they anticipate and they’re keenly acute in terms of their intelligence and their leadership.

Q: How close were the comparisons to Peterman and say Patrick Mahomes on your board?
A: How close is the comparison? They’re up there. Both those guys are up there. They’re good quarterbacks. That said, they’re different quarterbacks and each has his own strength and abilities. To compare them, you look at them in their own silo so to speak and you do compare them. You look at it that way. I love the fact that Nathan, again, came up out of Tennessee and he’s learned some valuable lessons early on in his young life. You’re talking about a guy who transferred schools, went into a new situation, basically earned the respect of his teammates and then goes and takes his team and wins some big-time football games. In addition to that, you look at the intelligence. Graduated and then has an MBA. You look at the academic background as well and these are traits you look for in a quarterback. So, we felt good about it, again.

Q: You touched about this a few times, saying you know the importance of the quarterback position. The fact that this team is still looking for one might mean that you’re not sure if you have one yet. Is that a fair statement when it comes to assessing your quarterback depth chart?
A: I feel good about it. I feel good about our quarterbacks. I do. I’ve really enjoyed watching them work, and that goes back to where we started with Tyrod (Taylor) and going through that situation and the opportunity to evaluate Tyrod when I came in the building, watch him work, his work ethic. We’re getting that position right and we’re working, just like all the positions on this football team. We’re going to continue to add players, whether it’s the quarterback position, or other positions – we just added two linebackers. So, we’re going to continue to add good football players that will compete, and that’s what you do in terms of getting this thing pointed in the right direction.

Q: How realistic is it for Peterman and Cardale Jones to both make this team with TJ Yates on the roster?
A: They’re going to come in and compete just like the rest of them. Nothing’s promised to anyone and this is where it starts, with this guy right here (points to himself). We’re going to compete every day. I’ve got to earn my spot and you guys have heard me say that before, and I’m sticking with that. These guys are going to have to compete and competition, if you’re wired the right way, brings out the best in people. I don’t care if it’s sports or business. It’s all the same. If you’re wired the right way and ‘this’ guy over here is challenging ‘this’ guy, iron sharpens iron, as it says. This is a good thing.

Q: Would that competition extend to the starting job?
A: Competition is there. You earn the right to start on this football team.

Q: The fact that you did not match Mike Gillislee and not draft a running back, does that speak to your confidence in Jonathan Williams?
A: Good, young football player. Good, young football player. He’s got an opportunity right now to step up and show us what he can do and that’s where the competition comes in. Hey, compete. I want everyone to compete and Jonathan, no different. He’s had a good camp, he had a good camp last week, so he’s working his tail off right now and earning the right of his teammates and earning the trust of the coaching staff.

Q: It’s been perceived outside that safety, tight end and maybe even running back have been a weakness of this team. As you went through this entire draft, how much consideration did you give to those positions?
A: A ton. Absolutely a ton, and we’re not finished. The draft is still going on upstairs and then we have the priority free agent period, which I’m a big believer in, in getting priority free agents in to help this team. So, there’s a lot of opportunities yet and look, if we had 20 picks, I’d love it. We’ve got 20 needs, right? So we’re going to keep adding to this football team the best we can. Maybe at this point, not with a draft pick, realistically, but whether it’s priority free agency or the waiver wire or what’s out there still in terms of some UFAs. We’re going to keep this thing going here.

Q: It’s somewhat different that we’re hearing you speak about the draft these three days. Do you anticipate being that spokesperson for the team in future drafts moving forward?
A: As long as I’m the head coach, I do. We’re going with that one-voice approach and streamlined and aligned on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. I believe in that, we believe in that and that’s an organizational decision at this time.

Q: Both of the linebackers you took today have special teams experience. How important is that for you?
A: Yeah, it is. I’ve been around some good special teams coached in John Harbaugh and Dave Toub and a number of others in my career and I know the importance of special teams and it’s got to be stressed from the head coach’s chair, and I believe in it. We’re going to stress that and special teams is going to win you, or lose you, a couple of games each year. Whether it’s linebacker or other positions, we’re going to find guys that are willing and want to play special teams for the Buffalo Bills. Part of your identity comes from special teams in terms of the toughness, how relentless you are on special teams. There’s a lot to be gained from that.

Q: What did you learn from this draft as a head coach?
A: I learned a lot. Trying to learn every day and I’ve got a number of things written down upstairs on a card that I’ll add to after tonight when it’s over and I’ll probably think of some more in my sleep like we all do. You think of some thoughts and you wake up and you write it down. There’s just a number of things, whether it’s just my preparation, communication, order of things, there’s a lot there that I can do better at.

Q: Was it imperative for you to come out of this draft with a quarterback?
A: Not necessarily. Not necessarily. Again, good football player at the right time. That’s what we were looking at. When you look at every position, that’s what you’re looking to do and we felt good about it in this case with the quarterback.

Q: Where do you envision Matt Milano starting out, a linebacker or safety?
A: Fair question. At linebacker.

Q: As the voice of the organization, are you prepared to give a vote of confidence to Doug Whaley and his scouts because the rumors persist that they’re going to get fired before long?
A: Right now, I’m focused on this draft. Honestly. I’m going to focus on this draft and what we have in front of us going on right now with this priority free agent market right now. I will say that Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job. I will say that.

Q: That’s not a vote of confidence though.
A: Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job, okay. This is about the draft. Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job and we are focused on finishing this draft and looking at the priority free agents right now.

Q: You talk about Doug doing a phenomenal job. What was your relationship like with Doug when it came to conflict in the draft room and how did you work through that?
A: Nothing’s changed from what I’ve said all along. Doug and his staff have done a nice job. We’ve had great conversation, to your question, the entire time in terms of healthy meetings and productive meetings. Those have all worked, as you see with the draft at this point. I think that’s all good.

Q: There’s a report that the club will not pick up Sammy Watkins’ fifth-year option. Have you made the decision and not announced it or are you still working through that?
A: Still working through that.

LB Matt Milano

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Q: I know you got experience playing a couple different positions in college. How do you think that kind of helps you translate here to the NFL?
A: Yeah. I think it helps a lot, just knowing different positions and different aspects of that position and what it takes to be successful there. I think it helps all around and kind of rounds you for the linebacker position that I’m going to be playing at Buffalo. I think during my high school and college years, those positions have definitely helped me.

Q: Did you have a good sense that the Bills were pretty interested?
A: A little bit. I got a call from the head coach a couple days ago, so I kind of knew they were interested in me.

Q: What did he say in that call?
A: Just letting me know that – kind of like every other call I’ve been getting – they’re interested in me, they like me as a player, they like what I do on the field. So it was in that realm.

Q: Have you met Luke Kuechly? Obviously he had a lot of success under the coach that you’re going to be playing for now. Do you have any relationship with him?
A: Not really a personal relationship. I’ve met him a couple of times around [Boston College]. Yeah, I mean, he’s a great linebacker who played under Coach [Sean McDermott] so I’m excited to get working.

Q: A lot of rookies in your position may have to start on special teams first. Just, your attitude towards that and are you willing to do that?
A: Absolutely. I’ve been playing special teams all of college. It’s something I love doing. I love running down on a kickoff. I love kickoff returns. I love all the aspects of special teams – everything. So I’m definitely looking forward to getting started there on special teams.

Q: Matt, how much contact did you have with the Bills ahead of the past couple of days – in the whole pre-draft process?
A: Not much. I just talked to them once or twice but it was – I wasn’t really surprised, I guess you can say that, but I had a good feeling that they were interested in me.

QB Nathan Peterman

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Q: I know a broken hand cost you your job at Tennessee, how did you deal with that when you couldn’t get back on the field?
A: Yeah I think during that time especially while I was injured kind of taught me a lot. It was helpful for me to take a step back and see the game through different eyes, coaches’ eyes or anything like that. I think it has really helped me moving forward that, that is how I think about the game. You know analyze a lot of the smaller details. So I think it helps me, just the player I am today.

Q: How helpful was it the last two years to play in a pro style offense at Pitt?
A: I think it has been really helpful. Just to have that opportunity to get exposed to some of the things I have seen in the Senior Bowl, I have seen on visits with teams. To have some familiarity with that I think is going to help me a lot in Buffalo. Yeah excited to get started on the playbook.

Q: McDermott mentioned you had a pre-draft visit here and what other contact did you have with the Bills?
A: It was great. I know I met Coach (David) Culley at the combine but I think that was about it and the visit. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed meeting all the people there and I have always said people make the place and it definitely seems like there are some great people there. Coach Culley, Coach (Rick) Dennison and Coach (Sean) McDermott as well, Doug Whaley too being a Pitt guy and getting to talk about that a little was cool. I am really excited to just get up there and be part of the team.

Q: Were you starting to wonder what was going on as it got late in the fifth round?
A: Yeah I mean I think, honestly yeah it was a little surprising but it is really just about getting in the league for me. All I am looking for is an opportunity. Just so grateful to the Bills organization to give me that and believe in me. I am ready to get up there and go to work.

Q: On your visit did they put you on the board and run you through some of their offense? If so what was your early impression of their offense?
A: Yeah they did. It was cool to kind of watch the cut ups of the guys that they have had in the past and learn from those as well as the guys they have there now. So, just like I said before, I am really excited to get started on that playbook because it seems like I should be able to learn it pretty quickly and I know it will be a lot of work. Just ready to get started.

Q: McDermott talked about your journey and your character, how helpful was that to you in switching schools?
A:  Oh very helpful. I think the NFL it seems like that’s a different game. I mean right now I am going through transition where I get to go to a new team. I think that transition I have already gone through something like that. Obviously it is a lot different from college to the NFL. To already have gone through something like that I think it is going to help me with the lessons I learned there and then just to go in and help as much as I can.

Q: McDermott is a big preacher of character, is there anything from your meeting with him that you might have taken away?
A: I think it was just really cool. You can tell he is a great guy. We were talking there in the cafeteria, talked to him for a little bit. To be around him, I am looking forward to getting to know him more.

Q: The transfer to Pitt and getting up to speed, how might that help getting up to speed here?
A: Right you said it right there, I think it is going to help a lot. I just have to go in there and put my head down and work basically. That is kind of what I did at Pitt and that is what I am looking to do up there in Buffalo.

Q: What do you expect as far as your role this season?
A:  I don’t really know what to expect. I am going to try and help the team as much as I can. I know in college I learned quickly that you just take your opportunities when they come and you never know when it will be. I am going to go and try and just help the room out as much as I can and just be part of a great organization.

Q: This is a crowded quarterback room. How do you feel about competing with Cardale Jones who they just picked a year ago?
A: Excited for any opportunity that comes my way and I think you are always made better through competition. So just excited to get started.

Q: How familiar are you with the quarterback situation in Buffalo for the last decade?
A: A little familiar but not overly, I guess. (I have) not studied the details. I couldn’t answer too many questions about that.

Q: You are celebrating a one year anniversary with your wife did you set that date so it would be after the draft this year?
A: We did not. Last year I think it helped last year that it would but it was just a Saturday that worked for us last year. It is pretty cool that it has worked out like this. I think God’s timing is pretty awesome. Something I have been able to see throughout my years and then today as well. Just pretty humbled and blessed to have the opportunity I do.

Q: The last quarterback drafted in the fifth round to make the Pro Bowl was Mark Brunell, how much did you watch him growing up in the 904?
A: Yeah that is awesome. Definitely watched him a lot. Got to talk to him at the combine a little bit which is pretty awesome. I think that is a great goal to have. Obviously I want to be the best player I can be and help the team as much as I can. But to look up to a guy like that is pretty cool.

LB Tanner Vallejo

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Q: Tanner, how are you feeling, physically, after your season ended the way it did?
A: Well, it’s just hard to put into words how I’m feeling right now. I’m just thrilled with excitement to get up to New York and get to work, really, and try to earn my way to making this team and be a part of the Bills Mafia.

Q: So you’re familiar with the Bills Mafia already?
A: Oh, yeah. I met with a scout, Matt Hand, before my pro day and he was explaining the whole culture around there and the fans – how crazy they are. I’m excited to experience it myself.

Q: You had a decent feeling that the Bills were relatively interested?
A: Yeah, I had a pretty good meeting with them at the Combine with Coach [Bob] Babich, and then just stayed in touch throughout the entire process. That was always one of the teams that was looking out at me.

Q: The bio that the Bills gave us on you mentions that you play for your younger brother who has gone through a health scare. What can you tell us about that?
A: Yeah, so he was young – seven months old he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He had a 10 percent chance to live and he beat it. [He’s] been in remission ever since now. He’s 17, going on 18. But with all the hardware and tubes that ran through his head and neck, he can’t play football so I just carry a huge chip on my shoulder and feel like when I’m playing, he’s with me playing.

Q: When you got picked, was he with you?
A: Yeah. A bunch of people were with me. He was there – he’s already posted a couple of pictures of me on Instagram so he’s just as excited, if not more, than me.

Q: Tanner, how tough was it going through this pre-draft process after you had all of those injuries and knowing that you weren’t able, physically, to put your best tape out there?
A: I don’t think of it as tough. More so, it was a long process but I enjoyed it. I have a couple of friends that are already playing in the league and they just told me to enjoy it because you only go through it one time. I just enjoyed it and then rehabbing my wrist, and now that I’m fully cleared, just getting into tip-top shape so I can come in and contribute to the Bills.

Q: Sean McDermott spoke a couple of minutes ago and mentioned your special teams ability right off the bat. Is that something that you pride yourself on?
A: Yeah. I want to come in and do whatever I can to help this team win and win some championships and just earn the respect of my teammates. Whatever my role is, I’ll accept it and go all out at it.

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