Von Miller wasn’t even two years old the first time the Buffalo Bills made it to the Super Bowl, and by the time he reached kindergarten, they had lost four in a row.
“I didn’t know it was four years back-to-back. That’s tough for any community, to be in and lose like that,” Miller said the other day following practice at St. John Fisher University.
Miller only knew this because, as part of his indoctrination to western New York and his new team, he watched the outstanding ESPN 30-for-30 documentary Four Falls of Buffalo which was released in 2015 and chronicled that incredible time in Bills history.
“Of course I was familiar with Bruce Smith and Andre Reed and Jim Kelly and all those guys, Thurman Thomas,” Miller said. “But I didn’t really know exactly when it happened year to year to year to year.”
This line of dialogue came up because Miller was asked what the Bills were in for this season with so many huge expectations being placed on them as the presumptive Super Bowl favorite.
Miller has been through this few times as he played in two Super Bowls with the Broncos and one with the Rams, so he knows what it’s like to be the hunted.
But he also knows both sides of the emotional sphere, the misery of coming up short (the Broncos lost Super Bowl 48 to Seattle), and the elation of reaching the summit (the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 over Sean McDermott and the Panthers, and the Rams won Super Bowl 55 last year over the Bengals).
The 33-year-old came to Buffalo because he feels the Bills will give him another chance to win a ring, and when he’s not sacking quarterbacks, he is going to impart as much wisdom as he can on his new teammates as they navigate these somewhat uncharted waters, the same waters he has swum in, the same as those early-90s Bills swam in.
“It’s a lot of expectation here and there will always be a lot of expectation here,” Miller said, pointing to the Bills history. “They had a lot of great players, had a lot of Hall of Fame players on those four teams. So it’ll always be high expectations here, man.”
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who won a Super Bowl as a player with the Bears, smiled Monday when he was asked about the influence Miller has already had on the defense.
“We’ve only been together a short period of time, but one of the intangibles that I observed back in the spring was just how he interacted with our guys from a leadership standpoint, around the locker room, on the field,” Frazier said .
“Sometimes when you are so much better than everybody else, things come easy to you, and you may have some disdain for guys who may not get it as quickly as you do. But Von, he’s so open to helping the young guys and giving back and really trying to bring guys along. That’s what you want out of your top players and so that was really encouraging to see and that’s an intangible that I think will help us.”
More:Bill’s training camp opens and a contract extension may be near for a key player
Opinion:Key to Bill’s winning Super Bowl? Putting worst 13 seconds in team history behind them
Is Dawson Knox planting roots in WNY?
The Bills starting tight end is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract signed in 2019 and he’ll be eligible to test free agency in March.
However, given his steady improvement since his arrival, and on the heels of his best season in 2021, he seems a likely target for the bills to lock up with a contract extension, and he’d be all for that. After all, who wouldn’t want to stay in this offense being quarterbacked by Josh Allen?
“I mean, first and foremost, I want to be here,” Knox said, throwing any contract negotiation leverage he has out the window. “I bought a house here a few months ago, not because I want to be gone in a year. So I want to be here as long as I can, but I know a lot of that stuff is out of my hands with salary cap.
“I try not to read into all that too much, but I’ve definitely communicated that I want to be here for an extended amount of time, so whether that’s getting the extension now or later, I definitely hope that happens.”
Knox had been living in a downtown apartment during the season (his offseason home is in Nashville) but now he’s out in Orchard Park, a short drive to work every day.
“I’m very excited to finally be settled down, have a little privacy,” he said. “I was living downtown for a while, which was fun. During COVID it wasn’t very fun, but it’s nice being out in Orchard Park.”
After practice Monday morning, Knox was signing autographs when Allen walked up behind him and signed his own name on Knox’s neck. “I just felt someone writing on my neck as I was signing stuff,” Knox said. “I turned around and Josh was getting after it. I can probably sell my neck for a lot now, huh?”
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Young cornerbacks are getting important reps
Don’t let anyone kid you, Frazier said. Yeah, it’s great for young players like Dane Jackson and 2022 first-round draft pick Kaiir Elam that they’re getting so many of the first-team reps at Fisher with Tre’Davious White still sidelined. But the Bills need White back on the field.
“You’d love to have a healthy Tre’Davious for sure, out there getting his reps,” Frazier. “But short of that … that means there’ll be more opportunities for Kaiir and there’ll be more opportunities for Dane as well, and even some of the guys that are in backup roles like Tim Harris, for example. So they’ll get more reps and we’ll get a chance to take a look at some guys in preseason and that will be good for them.”
But what’s best for the Bills is getting White back in time for the opener against the Rams because starting Jackson and Elam against a Rams offense that features the likes of wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson and Van Jefferson isn’t ideal.
“There’s always just some trepidation when you’re a rookie and potentially having to start,” Frazier said of Elam. “Especially at the corner position where you know early on, people are going to target you and you have to be able to stand up, otherwise they continue it.”
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs was asked what he thought of Elam, and he correctly pointed out that it’s a little early to know.
“It’s only day two, so I feel like we got a lot to build off of just as far as like a team and as a unit,” he said. “Individual, he’s a good player. He was drafted in the first round. Of course they’re going to expect a lot out of him immediately, but I feel like he’s up to the task and hope we can build off it.”
Tyreek Hill poked Jordan Poyer on podcast
The Bills safety made an appearance last week on the podcast of wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the former Kansas City star who has made a habit out of killing the Bills in the postseason, and who will now face them twice a year after he joined the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins in the offseason.
After introducing Poyer as his guest and showering him with some love, the show began as you might expect it would, with Hill saying, “Before we open the show, I just gotta say, man, 13 seconds.”
Poyer just smiled and replied, “Man, you brought that in early” before sharing his thoughts.
“I’ve had this conversation and everyone wants to talk about the coin toss, this, that, but as a defensive player, you gotta make a stop, man,” he said. “In those situations you can tell you guys (the Chiefs) have been in those situations before, you out-executed us and outperformed us. It’s something that I sit back and think about every other night or so, just pissed off that we let it slip away like that. But it definitely fuels me in the offseason and I’m glad we get to see you twice a season.”
Naturally, when Poyer conducted his first session with the local media Sunday since the loss to the Chiefs, he was asked about those fateful 13 seconds and he admitted that game still haunts him.
“I’ve watched it a couple of times and obviously it continues to motivate you in the offseason,” he said. “I was around Tyreek a lot (they worked out together in South Florida), so seeing guys like Tyreek, and just him pissing me off. I was on his podcast – I don’t know if you guys saw – but the first thing he asked me what happened in the 13 seconds, so that stuff definitely motivates you in the offseason.”
More:For the Bills, forgetting about those awful 13 seconds in Kansas City is imperative
Sal Maiorana can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.