Rah-rah talk and stepping lively take you only so far.
Having not made the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, however, the Buffalo Bills aren’t wading cautiously into their first offseason under coach Doug Marrone.
The Bills were an energetic bunch during Thursday morning’s voluntary workout, the first one open for media observation. The pace was quick. The mood was enthusiastic. Competition was borderline edgy at times despite there being no pads or tackling.
Players described a similar atmosphere in Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions inside the field house.
“We came out doing special teams, and I thought the roof was falling in, the way we were yelling,” Bills pass-rusher Mario Williams said of Wednesday’s practice. “It was crazy.
“But that’s what we need. We need change, and we need to see something different and hear something different and be exposed to different things.”
For a passing drill early in Thursday’s workout, Marrone turned his visor backward and sent shotgun snaps through his legs. With about 10 minutes left, he enthusiastically reminded his players not to walk around the field in between plays.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett gave leaping hip bumps to players after successful 11-on-11 plays.
“I love it. I think it’s better,” Bills running back Fred Jackson said. “I love playing for guys like that.
“I think I can speak for everybody on this team when I say ‘We can all feed off of that.’ When the coaches are excited when you make a play, you want to get everybody on that sideline cheering.”
Previous head coaches Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey preferred to operate in controlled, businesslike settings.
Jackson, who has witnessed coaching turnover before, insisted the atmosphere was not about trying to make a good first impression on Marrone or a young coaching staff trying to overhype the players.
“There’s a huge difference,” Jackson said. “You don’t want to take anything away from that coaching staff last year, but these coaches want us to be excited.
“You sometimes get coaches who don’t want that. They want you to act like you’ve been there before. This coaching staff is about loving to play this game and want our guys to have fun. We only get to play this game for so long in our lives. You should enjoy it.”
Enthusiasm and a quick pace merely are the building blocks of Marrone’s philosophy.
In addition to championship banners – two for the AFL, four for the conference titles that sent them to their Super Bowls – that have been hung on the walls behind each end zone of the field house, Marrone had a message painted underneath them:
“Don’t confuse effort with results.”
“The No. 1 word we hear from [Marrone] is ‘accountability,’ ” Jackson said. “We all have to be accountable to each other. We can all go out here and run around and make plays and have fun, but are you being accountable? Are you putting in the work to get better?
“Don’t hoot and holler and say, ‘I got better.’ You have to work at your craft. That’s when the results will get there.”
Jackson and Williams expressed optimism the approach will carry over through the summer and onto Sundays in the fall.
“Everything has changed,” Williams said, “not just from coaches and all that, but the whole mind-set. This is definitely different.
“Just the way you see us out here running around, being positive and getting after it, getting into the playbook has definitely opened our eyes to the possibilities of what is in front of us, especially on my side on the defense, with the capabilities that he’s putting out there for us.”