Head Coach Brian Daboll
January 4, 2023
Daboll: So, I’ll just start out on behalf of our organization, myself, (general manager) Joe (Schoen), the players, some of the coaches, some of the staff members – a lot of us have been around (Bills safety) Damar (Hamlin). We offer our prayers to him, his family, to the people in that organization. They’ve been through a lot, and this is tragic. It’s tragic to see. I feel for Damar most importantly, his family, but all the players and coaches that are around him every day. He’s a tremendous young man, and just pray for recovery. That was tough.
Q: How did you address that with your team today?
A: I try not to get too much into what we do in the team meetings, but I had the medical people talk. And I had our team psychologist, Dr. Lani (Lawrence), speak. And then I had our team chaplain, Gian Paul (Gonzalez), speak and say a prayer. So, that’s how we started before any football. That’s how we started.
Q: In terms of the fragility of life and the danger of the game, how do you reconcile what has happened here? And how do you share your thoughts with your team?
A: Really just what I said. I’ll leave what we said private. But that was tough.
Q: Is it difficult to go back to work today?
A: It’s been difficult the last couple days. This is a relationship business, and when something like that happens to people that mean a lot to you – or even if you don’t know them, you have just a great amount of respect for (them) – it really doesn’t matter what job you do. But having been around the young man, I know him. I know the type of person he is. Yeah, it’s tough.
Q: You were there for one year together with him. You were an offensive coordinator. He was a rookie defensive back. How well do you feel you know him? What kind of sense do you have with him?
A: I know him. I wouldn’t say I was, obviously, as close with him as some of the offensive guys. But certainly know him on the look team. Just he’s a good young man.
Q: Were you watching the game on Monday? And if not, how did you hear about it? What were your emotions, either having seen it or when you get the text?
A: I’d say about how they are. It’s terrible.
Q: What was the purpose of having your medical people talk to the players? What did you want them to relay to the team?
A: I just think when a situation like that occurs, it probably weighs heavy on everybody’s hearts and minds. I just kind of let the medical – again, I’m not going to go into what was talked about in the meeting. I hope you guys can respect that. But I just thought that was important for those three individuals to speak.
Q: How worried are you about your guys, especially the ones who know him?
A: I think you’re always concerned about your guys. And then when something like this happens, you’re always concerned about them. But that’s why I have confidence in the people in our building. That’s what we’re all here for. We’re here for the players. Support staff, coaches, trainers, medical – everybody’s here to help the player in any way we can.
Q: Did you give your guys a chance to talk or ask questions or share in that meeting?
A: Again, I’m not going to get into it, but yeah. It was a good – I just thought that was the right thing to do for our team.
Q: In the times that you were around Damar or just observing him in any capacity, what was it about him that at such a young age, he seemed to have such a responsibility for a very young brother and also for his community in McKees Rocks (Pa.) where that toy drive started with frankly humble beginnings. It’s obviously grown to something, but that was important to him to do as a very young man.
A: I would just say that he’s a good young man. I don’t want to get too much into that out of privacy and respect for, number one, him and the rest of the Buffalo Bills organization. I’d defer to them. So, I’d just leave it at that.
Q: A member of this NFL family, what’s been your reaction when you see the outpouring of love and support and also the donations on the Go Fund Me page?
A: Yeah, amazing. Just the support for that young man has been incredible. And that’s a testament to everybody around the country that watched it, or maybe heard about it or saw it.
Q: Obviously, the dangers of the sport are ever-present. There are a lot of reminders, this one perhaps more serious and stark than most. How do you work through that with players who might sort of be grappling with that this week or even yourself?
A: I think that’s why we had the meeting that we had. Again, one meeting is never just going to do it. But I think you hire a bunch of competent people that are there for the players and any support system that they need. And that’s our job, and that’s why we hire who we hire.
Q: I know this isn’t foremost, but you supposedly have a game to play this week. How difficult is it for somebody who’s very structured and in a very structured business to not know what lies ahead this week?
A: I just think we go about our business and have a normal week. But again, I’d be remiss, that was heavy on my heart, and I thought it was the right thing to do for our players and for our organization. I’d say Joe was on the same page with that. So, that was what was most important this morning.
Q: Do you believe it might be appropriate for the league to push games back?
A: I’m not going to get into that. I know the questions; I understand the questions. But really what I said about that whole situation, I’m going to really leave it at that.
Q: You played the game at the high school and college level and coached it for 25 years. How have you balanced your love of football with the dangers and risks involved?
A: Good question. I just think you deal with things as they come. Again, this situation is pretty unique. So, probably need more time to reflect and sit down and think about that one.
Q: Have you considered giving a day off? Or do any of the guys that have a relationship with Damar need an extra day or have one?
A: I think we have our support system in place. If somebody needed that, I certainly would consider it – absolutely. Again, we’re here for the players. Our staff is here for the players. And that’s the best I can give you.
Q: How much did you consult with your leaders? I know you talk to your leaders in that leadership group that you talk to. How much did you consult with them and sort of make a decision on how you were going to proceed here?
A: On that one, not – no, I didn’t. They had Monday and Tuesday. Obviously, you see guys walking through the building; they’re working out. Joe and I talked about it. We thought that that was an appropriate thing.
Q: Can this be an escape? Coming out here and being with your teammates and coaches to get away from it, just the thoughts of it. Can it be helpful and therapeutic?
A: I think you’d have to probably ask each individual.
Q: What about from your standpoint?
A: Something like that is always on your mind after it happens.
Q: Have you made a decision on whether to rest people?
A: No, like I said on Monday – we’ll go through the whole week. We’ll talk about that Friday evening probably.
Q: I think that this kind of team, as far as playing players in a game that maybe doesn’t have any meaning, obviously it worked out pretty well for them back in 2007 with the Super Bowl run, that game against the Patriots. Is there, in your opinion, something to momentum and generating momentum late to potentially carry it through the postseason?
A: I’d say the same thing I said on Monday: we’re going to do what we think is best for our team. What happened in ’07 or five years (ago) – we’re going to do what we think is right for our team.
Q: Did any members of your organization go to Cincinnati or any type of outreach that would be worthwhile sharing?
A: I don’t know that answer. In terms of players, I don’t know.
Q: You and Joe, obviously, (were) so recently in Buffalo. Have the two of you reached out to folks up there?
A: Yeah, I’ve talked to, I would say, a number of people. I talked to – I’m not going to get into everybody I talked to – but I’ve talked to a lot of people there. Just offered my support, not that I can do much. Those people, I’d say, mean a lot. I don’t want to speak for Joe, but I know it does. They mean a lot to both of us. I know there’s a lot of people in the building, the players, the staff, the trainers – thank God for them – you build relationships. Being there for four years, I have a ton of respect for the people in that building. Just really a call for support.
Q: You said that, obviously, you offered support. But there’s really not much else that you can do. Is that a little bit of a helpless feeling in that situation?
A: I think, again, not having been through a situation like this, you try to do the best you can to be there as a friend, as a mentor, as a former coach. Just be there for them.
Q: Has anybody come up to you and said, a player saying, “I don’t know if I want to play this weekend?”
Q: Were you watching when it happened?
A: Yeah, I saw it.
Q: What was the immediacy after that? I know a lot of people took to social media. You’re not necessarily a social media guy. Was your phone buzzing, or do you kind of turn away and try to be with your family a little bit more?
A: Yeah, probably a lot like all of you. Just praying for him.
Q: Does this make you appreciate more just being a part of the football community that you’re in? The overall group.
A: Yeah, I mean it’s a close-knit community, obviously. But I would just say in particular for guys like myself, Joe (Schoen), (quarterbacks coach) Shea (Tierney), (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson), LY (director of coaching operations Laura Young), (running back Matt) Breida, (cornerback Nick) McCloud, (wide receiver) Isaiah (Hodgins), (center Jon) Feliciano – I’m probably leaving somebody out right now – (safety Jason) Pinnock. I really don’t know what else to say, guys, honestly. I just hope everything goes okay.
Q: In terms of your guys, is anyone not going to practice?
A: Yeah, so Leo (defensive lineman Leonard Williams) won’t practice today. (Outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) won’t practice today. And Feliciano won’t practice today. Then we’ll give Dex (defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence II) his usual vet day off on Wednesday.
Q: (Cornerback) Adoree’ (Jackson)?
A: Yeah, he’ll do something. He’ll do a little bit more than he did last week.
Q: Azeez only had seven snaps on Sunday. Did it affect him? Did the ankle bother him?
A: He toughed it out. He went; he played. We took him out of there after those reps. Hopefully we can get him healthy as we can here the next couple of weeks.
Q: With Feliciano is that –?
A: Back. Yeah, back.
Q: How did (safety) Xavier (McKinney) come through with the hand and everything?