ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — Sunday morning, it seemed the Bills had a big problem on their hands. Six people in the organization had received positive COVID-19 tests.
However, much like during a game itself, the Bills did not panic. They stayed calm, got more information, and it turns out nothing was wrong.
The Bills were one of 11 teams around the league to receive false-positive tests from a lab in New Jersey.
But while the test results weren’t positive, the learning experience was.
“I give the players and the staff a lot of credit. They were very positive with their approach and they went out and were resilient in terms of their mindset yesterday,” says head coach Sean McDermott. “What appeared to be a potentially very negative situation on the surface, the way we handled it, the way our players handled it in particular, to me was a positive in terms of a growth opportunity for us as a team.”
“An opportunity for us to move forward as a team. To look at guys who we would have not had the chance to look in other situations,” McDermott added. “We had the chance to look at and have Matt [Barkley] have the reins. This could happen during the season so to have Matt take the reins on short notice, in particular, was a great opportunity for our football team.”
Backup quarterback Matt Barkley was able to take the reins because Josh Allen was one of the four players that had to sit out of practice after receiving a false-positive.
“I get a call at six in the morning saying that I’ve tested positive. Obviously, it’s nothing that you want to hear. And I’m sitting here like I feel fine, there’s nothing wrong,” says Allen. “I had to get tested, I went through the test that was right here, it gets you results in 15 minutes. That came back negative. Obviously, I was super frustrated that I wasn’t here yesterday.”
Allen agreed with his coach that it was good for the team to have to go through a day of adversity.
The league has not yet created a concrete plan if something like this were to happen on a game day. GM Brandon Beane said Sunday that it was a good fire drill for if something like this were to happen in the season. McDermott says that’s something that they have to prepare for.
“It’s a reminder more than anything. Just overall, to myself, to our football team that this can happen in a hurry. It can take a big chunk out of your football team or your staff. There were not only players involved, there were staff as well. It was a great reminder and a great lesson for us,” says McDermott. “We were able to get some things done in a constructive way in terms of seeing what our football team looks like and how we would have handled it, too. Because it could very well happen during the season. We don’t want it to happen, but it could happen and that’s the reality of our situation.”
Safety Micah Hyde said that he knew going into the season there would be hiccups and things wouldn’t be perfect. He had a conversation with his wife about the dangers of playing this season, especially with a newborn at home. That’s why Hyde appreciates what his head coach did for them on Sunday.
“The leader of this building, Sean, he came to us. He told us all the facts that were going on. He always has the best interest of his players and our families,” says safety Micah Hyde. “He told us, he said, ‘Hey this is what’s going on. There are some false positives that came out of the lab. I understand if you don’t feel comfortable practicing.’ He told us ‘You guys don’t feel comfortable then you don’t have to. You can leave. But I feel like with what happened you guys are safe in this building.’”
McDermott said that he wants the building to be a safe place not only medically, but emotionally.
“There will be more challenges whether it’s related to lab testing or other things that go on. That’s how seasons work. That’s how the journey is,” says McDermott. “The teams that can persevere through those moments and grow closer and stick together are the teams that are going to give themselves the best chance to win.”
What those challenges will be, nobody knows. However, it seems like the Bills are confident that they have resiliency and leadership to get through anything.