HS coaches get up-close look at Buffalo Bills OTA
What does the “process” look like, up close and personal, over the summer for Sean McDermott’s team? High school coaches from Western New York got an exclusive glimpse last week.
McDermott, approaching his second season as the Buffalo Bills’ head coach, invited Section 6 and Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association coaches to watch his team’s organized team activity (OTA) session Thursday. So a group of more than 50 coaches, The Buffalo News reported, watched rookies like Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds practicing with a full team as the Bills geared up for training camp with an outdoor workout for in the second week of OTAs.
That group included Franklinville/Ellicottville’s Chad Bartoszek and Cattaraugus-Little Valley’s Tim Miller, and Salamanca assistant Jerry Parisi.
Preston Teague, senior director of community relations and youth football for the Bills, contacted Section 6 football federation chairman Ken Stoldt, who emailed all the section’s head coaches to extend the information to them or an assistant.
“Paul (Haley) couldn't make it because of work so I said, 'Sure, I'd love to go,'” Parisi said.
Parisi compared the session to attending Bills training camps and Jets training camps at Hofstra, growing up on Long Island, but the exclusivity of the OTA set this apart.
“It was a similar kind of experience to going to a training camp where you are able to watch practices from different vantage points,” he said, “but what was unique about this is OTAs, nobody else is allowed to go to these things. They only let the press in one day of the week of their three practices, so for them to take people who are not press people and allow us in was really kind of the unique experience behind it.”
The prep coaches saw a two-hour session including position breakdowns, special teams drill work, scrimmage sessions and offense and defense group work, according to Miller.
“The value I took from the session was seeing the obvious planning and organization a professional team puts into its practice time,” Miller said. “There was not a wasted minute in the two-hour session. Additionally, I got to pick up a few drills that would be applicable at any level of football.”
Parisi said he noticed the size of the players.
“At first glance, the first thing you notice is the size and the speed of a pro player. Some of the guys are absolutely huge, and then you have some other guys where you're like, 'Oh, that guy isn't necessarily as big ... maybe my kid has a shot in terms of the height department.'”
He also, like Miller, marveled at the punctuality of the Bills’ drills.
“The organization of the practice is so scripted and punctual,” Parisi said, “and they have a five-minute period to do a certain drill or a certain whatever and the whistle goes off in five minutes, they're hustling over to the next activity, the next drill, whether they're going from individuals to 7-on-7 to special teams to groups, they're just hustling around, popping here to there, they all know where they're going.
“There didn't seem to be much wasted time, so in terms of walking away as a coach, at least for practice organization and the efficiency of it, was kind of impressive to me.”
That ethos of little wasted time lent to few, if any, interactions between the high school coaches and the Bills’ staff and players. But McDermott spoke to them after the OTA session and expressed a desire to work with the high school football community and watch Friday night games when he has a chance.
“The Bills staff was very hospitable and a couple of them took a minute to welcome us to the session and introduce themselves,” Miller said. “We weren’t able to interact with the staff during the session as the nature of the way they organize practice did not allow for it … every second was scheduled and they stuck to that schedule.
“At the end of the session, Coach McDermott addressed us, thanked us for coming out, and asked us not to hesitate to reach out to the Bills for assistance. All in all, it was a fantastic opportunity to witness, up close, the way the big boys get things done. I was very impressed.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at email@example.com)