PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WIVB) — Nearing the end of training camp at St. John Fisher University, the Bills are preparing to open the preseason Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
Physicality in practice has ramped up, requiring a few players to be held out of Monday’s on-field session. The Bills also have devoted time at training camp to getting in the right frame of mind to play a football game for the first time since the disheartening loss in the divisional playoffs over six months ago.
“We talked this morning about training the mental part of the performer,” coach Sean McDermott said before Monday’s practice. “So that you can get to a place of elite performance.”
Buffalo’s mental fitness was stressed last season in several ways, most notably Damar Hamlin’s collapse on the field in Cincinnati. Some questioned whether that emotional toll contributed to the Bills’ lackluster performance in the playoff rematch with the Bengals.
Micah Hyde, who missed most of the 2022 season recovering from neck surgery but remained mentally engaged with Buffalo’s weekly practice and preparation, said the Bills “ran out of gas,” by season’s end.
Building mental strength for the rigors of a full season begins early on, McDermott said.
“That takes time. That takes work mentally,” he said. “The mental part of the equation, in terms of the training that it takes, we don’t take that lightly. And I think that is a big part of it. You’ve got to be in a good spot mentally.”
And while the Bills won’t begin game-planning for their Sept. 11 regular season on Monday Night Football for a few more weeks, the mental fitness training for peak performance has already started.
“That doesn’t happen the week of the Jets game,” McDermott said. “That happens weeks before. We encourage all of our players to subscribe to that as well.”
As for physical health, six players did not participate in Monday’s practice, including two that were on the field the day before. Defensive back Cam Lewis injured his groin when falling hard on Sunday. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver is being held out with back soreness, along with fullback Reggie Gilliam (groin) and receiver Isaiah Colter (knee). Star pass rusher Von Miller (knee) and special teams performer Tyler Matakevitch (calf) are still on the physically unable-to-perform list.
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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.