Bills receiver Watkins voices his support of coach Rex Ryan
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Sammy Watkins has coach Rex Ryan’s back.
The Bills receiver strongly voiced his support for Ryan by saying he has no interest in seeing the team change coaches for the second time in Watkins’ three years in Buffalo.
“I don’t want to keep going through all this craziness,” Watkins said at his locker following practice Wednesday. “That kills a player and a team and an organization. I’m trying to move forward and trying to work on what I need to work on. I feel like with the coaches that we got, we can do it.”
Watkins raised his concerns at a time when Ryan’s future is in question less than 23 months since taking over after Doug Marrone abruptly opted out of his contract following a 9-7 finish in 2014. Watkins noted he’s already playing under his third offensive coordinator after Greg Roman was fired two weeks into this season and replaced by Anthony Lynn.
Saying it’s his intention to stay in Buffalo “forever,” Watkins said his sole objective is for the Bills to win their final three games and convince management to retain Ryan.
The one thing Watkins doesn’t want is to have Buffalo enter into yet another rebuilding process such as what the Bills’ next opponent, the winless Cleveland Browns (0-13), are going through.
“That’s kind of hard,” he said. “It’s about trying to build on what we’ve already got and moving forward.”
Buffalo (6-7) is coming off two losses and in jeopardy of extending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 seasons.
Watkins’ voice carries some weight. Before Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula approved Ryan’s request to fire Roman, they first consulted with several players, including Watkins.
Watkins said he’s not had any contact with the Pegulas regarding Ryan.
“All I know is we’re all on the hot seat. We’ve got to win out,” he said. “We’ve just got to go out and fight for what we have. We know if we lose, something crazy might happen immediately.”
Questions regarding Ryan’s long-term status arose last weekend following a 27-20 loss to Pittsburgh , during which Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell scored three touchdowns and had 236 yards rushing. Bell’s total was a Steelers franchise best and also the most Buffalo has surrendered to one player.
The loss came on the heels of a 38-24 loss at Oakland , during which Buffalo squandered a 24-9 lead in the third quarter.
On Wednesday, Ryan reiterated he was caught by surprise by questions regarding his job security.
“There’s only two people’s opinion that really matters, and that’s Terry and Kim Pegula. That’s it,” Ryan said. “Now you might say, ‘Do you worry about it?’ Well, maybe I worry about it, but my thing is it’s not going to help me. I have to prepare this team, and it’s business as usual and let’s go get this victory.”
A coaching switch would be a considerable change of course for the Pegulas, who purchased the team from the estate of late Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson in October 2014.
Following Marrone’s departure, the Pegulas placed an emphasis on continuity, noting that had been lacking during the team’s playoff drought.
Ryan, who has three years left on his contract, is Buffalo’s seventh coach since 2000. Over the same span, the team is on its sixth general manager in Doug Whaley, who signed a three-year contract extension in January.
The Pegulas have not commented on Bills matters since Roman was fired amid questions whether the decision was made by Ryan alone.
In a text to The Associated Press, Terry Pegula backed Ryan by saying: “We do things together like any well run org would. Head coach runs the team and staff.”
Guard Richie Incognito dismissed the speculation over Ryan by calling it media generated.
“You guys have to write articles and have to sell newspapers. You guys manufacture stuff like that to get attention,” Incognito said. “That stuff happens in your world. We don’t see that in our locker room. That doesn’t affect us. We’re just trying to get three wins.”
NOTES: DT Kyle Williams (back) did not practice, but Ryan is hopeful the starter will return after missing one game. ... Ryan said S James Ihedigbo continued playing against Pittsburgh despite a broken leg. Ihedigbo was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. ... Buffalo signed DE Greg Townsend Jr. to its practice squad.
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