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A Conversation with Marcellus Wiley
Southern California Bills Backers visit with Bills DE
by Rose Puskas - So. Cal Bills Backers Pres.
Tuesday April 18, 2000
On Saturday April 15th, Buffalo Bills Defensive End Marcellus Wiley visited the Southern California Bills Backers. He talked for a long time and also answered questions from club members. In appreciation, the Backers were pleased to raise $750.00 for Marcellus's favorite cause, The Los Angeles Jets Track Club. It was a great afternoon. Here is an excerpt from his talk and the question and answer session that followed.
Wiley: "Well it has definitely been a busy off-season this year. We've had a lot of changes up in Buffalo. It's going to be a new identity. What is going to be key for us as players and for you as fans is to be supportive of us because we are still going to establish a great tradition of winning football for Buffalo, so we definitely feel proud with the moves we're making right now!"
"I guess I could take from last season on till now. Basically I have been a fan of Buffalo this whole off-season myself, being on the Internet everyday. It's been pretty weird; you talk to a guy one day and the next day he's on a different team. And he's calling you, telling you all this stuff, so its been weird you know. Coming to this off-season I knew it was going to be my fourth year. A big year for me because it was time to, you know, try to nudge Bruce for that starting position. Like last year I got a chance to play a lot, a lot of repetitions. This year was definitely going to be important. They kinda cleared a pathway for me with the release of the three amigos up there; you know the big dogs! It was tough. Because you know those guys really gave us great leadership in the locker room. Truly they did!"
"I can start with Andre Reed. He was the guy who led the receivers. He is getting a little negative press right now, but don't let one year ruin his fifteen year legacy that he left in Buffalo. He was a great player on and off the field. Definitely!"
"And Thurman. You know, he moved out of his role as a starting tailback with Antowain Smith and Jonathan Linton. And now those guys owe Thurman Thomas a lot because he was a guy who took time with you. Thurman was very critical of himself and also anyone else playing his position. He was the guy who always sat in the back of the airplane. Soon as you got on the plane, Thurman was there and you knew if you didn't have a good game the week before or in the week of practice, you were going to hear it right then and there. It was always tough walking on that plane when you missed that play or that tackle. Because Thurman is going to let you know. He is going to move that over to Miami. And he swears up and down that he is going to bring it to Buffalo like he has never brought it before. But we know his tricks! So it's going to be tough though. We know his lateral moves so we are looking forward to playing Miami definitely this year and going against some of our old teammates."
"To talk about Bruce Smith now. He is a guy who warmed to me. It took him awhile to see that I had the talent it took to be on the level that he feels is needed. I had to gain his respect. And you know that was something I wanted to do. I grew up loving Bruce Smith. I loved Eric Dickerson. He was my favorite player growing up. Because I was a running back. And I just knew I was going to be a running back in the NFL one day! But God, my family…you know, feeding me a lot and I kept growing and lost a step or two there! So I ended up being a Defensive End."
"I remember in high school, my eleventh grade year. Bruce Smith had these Nike shoes that came out with a commercial with Dennis Hopper. Ya, I was in eleventh grade! And the shoes at time were like $70 bucks. And that's like $200 now! So I asked my mother and father if I could have $79 for the shoes. And of course you know the answer was no. And of course, everyday I went to school and somebody different had the Bruce Smith shoes. And I was just sitting there empty! And it was weird the first day up in Buffalo. Here I am looking at Bruce. And his locker was two stalls away from me. So we were separated by Sean Moran. So I was there watching Bruce. Just trying to see what Bruce does just a little different from the rest of the guys in here. Because he is such a great player. He was just putting on his equipment like everyone else. And I'm like, okay… He's normal, he's human! And then he walks away. But he walks away and leaves his Bruce Smith shoes right there! New Bruce Smith shoes! And I go over there and I take them! Now Sean Moran just laughs. So I go and I take them and put them in my locker and hide them. And when Bruce comes back, he says…where's my shoes? Where's my shoes? And it was funny because all the guys in the locker room knew what happened! Well, the irony of the situation is this. At one time I couldn't afford Bruce Smith shoes, and now I am actually being asked to replace his shoes! Being asked to refill his shoes! It's going to be tough, but I look forward to it!"
"Now about the draft. I am very interested in all our picks. Now with the first round we got another Defensive End, which is something we definitely need because we lost Sean Moran as well as Bruce Smith. And those are two guys you really can't replace. And it is going to be key that Eric Flowers, myself, Phil Hansen, and we still have Pat Williams, Ted Washington, Sean Price. So we are going to still have a great rotation. Because that was one of the key elements of our defense. Everyone wants to know why we were the number one ranked defense in the NFL. It is simply because we had two levels of defense we felt comfortable with. Especially on the front line. We have great linebackers in Sam Rogers and John Holecek and we still have Sam Cowart. So we still have a lot of players. We still need a safety though. That is my one worry in the organization. Because no one was groomed for the role of Kurt Schultz. We do have Daryl Porter and Keion Carpenter who got to watch from afar. But actually being on the field in rotation like I was with Bruce Smith and Peerless Price was with Andre Reed. We haven't had that in safety position. So I wouldn't be surprised with our second round or third round pick that we go after a Safety or Defensive Back."
"What have I been up to this season? The first month was the hardest month ever after football season. And everyone knows why. It was that loss to Tennessee. Everyone saw interviews with me and my teammates trying to describe the feelings, well it wasn't a feeling you could describe. Just to think you were moving on. Well we took that game play by play. And I think that last play we thought we were in Indianapolis already. And there was one play left and that was the kick-off. And there was a lot of confusion on the sideline. Because there were a lot of different scenarios to play out. Should we kick it short? Deep? Consider it like any other play? After all the huddling up, the guys just ran out on the field. And they were aggressive. Those guys didn't hear anything at all. All they heard was go tackle the guy with the ball. And that's what it looked like for us on the sidelines. They were all pursuing the guy with the ball. You couldn't blame them for that! But at the same time, when we saw Wycheck with the ball something went off in my head. And some of the other guys too. Why is Wycheck running with the ball when the faster guy is behind him? And when that ball went in the air it seemed like the whole Tennessee stands and every guy on the sidelines seemed like they were on the field. Like 25 Tennessee players and only one of our players…Steve Christie out there seemed to have a slight chance to stop him. And then they scored."
"After the game. The funny thing was I talked to Eddie George. He described his feelings before that kick-off. He was actually crying. Knowing his season was over. Going from elation to that. Well then you know they went on and then to the Super Bowl. And lost to St. Louis on the last play. So there is a little irony in that situation! But we didn't wish bad on them after that."
"It's a situation that is going to be a character test for us as a football team. Something we need to build on and learn from. That every play is that much more important. And as a football team that will be important next year. We are going to be a young team. And we like that! Pat Williams and myself are really good friends on the team. We are roommates. And we used to tease Bruce and the older guys for being in front of us, telling us football we didn't know. The old school football. But now the organization gave us a chance this year. They are letting all the young guys go out there and run wild. So you are going to see a lot more energy on the field and a lot of guys who are very hungry to show the whole world what they are about!"
"So right now I am working out. Getting myself prepared and ready. So I won't let myself down, my family, friends or the Buffalo Bills fans. It is going to be a big job for us this year, but we feel confident already in the team and what we have to do. We have a great schedule…it's the hardest schedule in the league! Which is good because we want to play the highest caliber teams! Last year we played one of the toughest schedules and it really helps when you get to the post season."
"So this year we have the Tennessee night game everyone is talking about…The Redemption Game they are calling it. So we look forward to the first game of the year. The first thing is to get out there in Mini Camp. Introduce the new players we get today and tomorrow to our team. Then we move on from there. Its time to be a team again. So you guys definitely need to keep the confidence. And the support for the Buffalo Bills. It might be different faces out there, but we are going to keep the same old winning up!".
"Well I know you have a million questions. The Internet doesn't answer them all for you! So I will basically be your chat room right now! Ask even the most candid questions!"….
Q: "What was the feeling amongst the Bills players about what happened at the end of the season with starting Johnson over Flutie? Were you in favor of it or against it?"
A: "It was different! Before the Indy game we knew Doug was being reserved for the Tennessee game. Then after the game, coach said the same thing, but that Rob played great. Then the next day coach told us that it was better for the team if Rob started. And I thought…oh boy… we are going to hear about this on the Internet. We won't even be able to practice today because we are going to have to talk about this all day. But I didn't hear one comment. You know it was such a short week to prepare for Tennessee. No one was stressing about the quarterback situation because we had such confidence in each. Five and a half million dollars or five million dollars each. Hmmm….I don't think you can go wrong with either! That was the feeling with us. After the game there were comments from both. Rob left the field a winner that day. He left us in a position to move on to Indianapolis. Doug says he would have done the same thing. We have confidence that he could have. As I tell everyone, Rob is a Quarterback...he does nice quarterback things. He throws well and scrambles some. People on TV respect that. But as players we respect Doug Flutie as well. He does those things, but he brings a little extra to the game. We call it the Leprechaun. He brings a little leprechaun to the game. Those are the unknowns. To make that play he did in Baltimore last year. To run around in circles to get that first down. He does those things you can't write down or find in a textbook. But he'll still make the plays and make them all the time. But we can't go wrong. We are great to have a two-quarterback system. We are hearing rumors that we may use both next year. Kinda like what Rob went through at USC. Who knows? Those things will get answered when the season starts."
Q: "Do you think it will be better switching quarterbacks or having consistency at the quarterback position?"
A: "I know as a Defensive End, to rotate hurts your game because if you think about it in real time, you may go in for one play or a series, then you sit there for ten minutes. Then they say go in and play again. The body doesn't necessarily work that way; you like to work into a flow, know a guy's rhythm, where he stars to get weak at. And also you want to keep yourself warm. In Buffalo it gets pretty cold out there! I don't know how it's going to work for them. I've seen it very successful before because they have the rested arm strength. And you get two different dimensions. You have to change your whole defensive scheme between Rob and Doug. Because with Doug you have to bring guys up because you have to stop the run and the pass. While with Rob you have to keep back because he could go up top on you. So it can work both ways. The important thing is to win!"
Q: "One thing talked about around here is that maybe there was some injury to Doug Flutie. He didn't seem to have that zip on the ball in the last couple games. Was he just wore down or was there an injury?"
A: "No injury to my knowledge. He had great success. He went from the CFL, to the NFL, to 10-10-21 commercials everyday in one year! It is kinda hard to equal that success no matter how great you are. Maybe his first year he got an A+. The second year an A-. Some people see that as a big drop off. But Doug still went out there and won eleven games for us. I don't see many other quarterbacks doing the same thing. So he is a guy we still have great respect for. I don't think he played like the Doug Flutie of 1998, but I don't think he'll ever be that again."
Q: "Doug got a lot of credit this year, but I think the defense won a lot of those games! My question is two days after the Tennessee game Bruce DeHaven is fired. I have to believe it was more than the one play that caused it. There must have been an accumulation of things. It had to have been in the back of their minds. Do you agree?"
A: "Ya, I have to believe there was something on the minds of Wade, John Butler and Ralph Wilson. That play wasn't just blamed on him, but maybe was a part of a culmination. He was a great Special Teams coach and we can't forget that. When I got to the league in 1997, he was the best. To have that on your record. I mean he had four or five other teams beating down his door the next day. And he finally agreed on San Francisco. It is like anything we have to remember football is a business. Once you get from the college level, it is a business. With Bruce, Thurman and Andre it is a business. They had more gas in the tank and had to move on. It's the same with Bruce DeHaven. Someday it may be the same with Marcellus Wiley. I am sad to say. You realize that and that is why you put so much energy on the field into every play."
Q: "What is your feeling on the 4-3?"
A: "Ah, it's a Defensive End's dream because you're a little wider. You get to show a lot more ability on the edge, you always get the pursuit. A lot of times with a sack, the first step is very crucial in you getting that sack. It is not so much the move; it's just the fact of getting that Guard backpedaling on his stance, getting him off balance. A 4-3 gives you that opportunity up the field every play regardless of their play. In the 3-4 we move a little laterally. We go forward, but not with the same aggression as the 4-3. The 4-3 would be nice because we have a lot of Defensive Ends we could get on the field more. But we were the number one defense with the 3-4 and you always have to look at that. Why change something that is not broken? Right now we are a 3-4 team."
Q: "You've been in Buffalo awhile now. Are you a hockey fan yet?"
A: " Yeah, a lot of guys go to watch the Sabres. I have met a few of the players. I met Michael Peca the captain. Ya, he's the captain so I was looking forward to meeting him! And then I looked. And they said Michael Peca's here. I finally had to look down! I didn't know they were that little! They're really small! But the Sabres are in the play-offs. Everybody thought they were bad all season, but now they're in. It's an all new season now. Anything can happen!"
Q: "The Bills had the number one defense, but no Pro Bowlers. And then with all the coaching vacancies, no offers for Ted Cottrell. Your thoughts?"
A: "I think he did get an offer from the CFL. But he is a great coach. We are happy to have him. He is the reason I went to the Buffalo Bills! He was the guy in the draft room fighting for me! He brought Bruce Smith in. The team really respects him and not just as a coach. But in regards to job offers, there is a fraternity among coaches that is hard to break even when you are successful. I know he looks forward to being a head coach someday and if he has the number one defense again, they'll be knocking at his door!"
Q: "What was your thinking process in deciding to go to Columbia and what do you plan to do after football?"
A: "Well I saw a lot of guys at the big schools, even the All-Americans, sitting on the bench. I knew Columbia would be a drop-off, playing for an Ivy League school, but a great education mattered to me too. The schools I dreamed of going to were Michigan State and Stanford. But they never called. Columbia was the best opportunity. A lot of big schools came calling, but when I said Columbia, eyes would light up. Because they knew after football it would be very beneficial to me. On the football field it was tough. I had to learn a lot when I got to Buffalo. I let my technique slip at Columbia because I had a little more ability than those I played with and against. Buffalo schooled me on that. After football... I hope to do what I enjoy best, just hanging out with kids. Helping those that come to a fork in the road pick the right path. Maybe coaching. Helping kids in life make the best possible decisions."
Q: "What is your favorite place to eat in Buffalo and do you like Chicken Wings?"
A: "The Shogun-Japanese House. I love Chicken Wings, but Rusty Jones hates them! He breaks then down gram by gram…like 900 fat grams. If he sees us eating them, we just have to run that much longer in practice. They are great, but if you want us to succeed and make the play-offs and win the Super Bowl, we have to keep them out of our mouths!"
Q: "About the change of training camp to Rochester. Is that just a PR move, or is the facility really better?"
A: "I am excited. The population is ten times bigger than Fredonia and we are expecting crowds of 5000 minimum. It means a lot more people, a lot more revenue and a lot more excitement. In Fredonia it was a long walk to the lunchroom, then the training room, to the dorms. If it is a closer walk to things, then it will be better for me. In Fredonia we had to trek everywhere. I want a closer proximity to things."
Q: "What was your favorite game last season"?
A: "Washington. There was so much hype. Their number one offense against our number one defense. That game our offense and defense was clicking on all cylinders. It was just an all around great game."
Q: "There were tons of Bills fans at the AZ game. Do you feed off of that on road games? Do you notice it?
A: "At the AZ game we heard the loud roars when our team was announced. Our crowd was louder than theirs. Thank you guys so much! The 12th man from Buffalo is very intense. Everyone respects Buffalo, coming to play in Buffalo because of that. You guys really make it difficult for the other team to come in and get a victory."
Q: "How is Gabe Northern doing?"
A: "Football is a business and you learn that. You befriend someone you know might not always be there. Gabe understands that. He is unhappy not to be with Buffalo now, but there are 30 other teams he could offer his services to. It is the same with me after this year. I either re-sign or go somewhere else. I want to stay in Buffalo though and I'll tell them that! Gabe's spirits are still high though."
Q: "Comment on Wade's coaching style. Also comment on time out decisions…when taken. Example…the Giants Game, the Titans Game."
A: "Wade is very laid back. But he gets it done! It is funny to see the struggle between Ted and Wade because defense is in Wade's blood. He is always over in our huddle. We joke with him to go over to the offense more! He expects 100% though. And for you to be accountable for yourself. After a win or a loss, he talks to every guy the same way. He looks at your strengths and weaknesses. He stays on an even keel. As for time outs, you all have the best view and reviews in the world. It is much tougher to make these decisions in real time! It is always easier to second guess. Wade makes a lot of great decisions so we don't second-guess him at all. He is human too."
Q: "You, Rob Johnson and Sheldon Jackson seem so different even though you're all CA boys…."
A: "Ya were different! I grew up watching Rob. He is a good guy. But a real health nut. We are always teasing him to eat some meat, eat some real food! For breakfast he has like 12 egg whites and a couple pieces of celery. Then the same for lunch! Sheldon is different. He bought a house an hour away. 90% of us live in Orchard Park. He moved so far away. He likes freedom and space…trees. He is a real nice guy!"
Q: "Do you like living in Buffalo now?"
A: "Oh yeah. I grew up in LA and went to school in Manhattan. So I needed to down shift! I needed to slow down! I like the peace there. Plus, LA has different fans. They are fickle. In Buffalo the fans love the Buffalo Bills. And we love them back. They live and breathe the Bills. It is a great situation to be in!"
Q: "Any repercussions from your speech after the Tennessee game?"
A: "No, no fines. But I was sweating a little! Actually I didn't want to speak that long. They asked me how I felt and 30 minutes later I was still talking! The best part was the next day. The guys in the locker room came up to me and told me I said what they wanted to."
Q: "Why didn't the official review the Peerless Price catch from the Titans game?"
A: "All I know is the refs have the decisions to make the replay calls in the last two minutes of a half. So… but we don't get into that too much. It can cause you to lose focus. If you concentrate on the refs or the crowd noise, you lose focus. At the time you are upset about the play not being reviewed, but you move on. By the next play you forget about it."
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