The Buffalo Bills may or may not take my suggestion to switch from the Shout song to Trololol. IK Enemkpali’s name is pronounced “EP-ic TROLL-ing.” Or maybe I’m giving the Bills grief for a largely routine transaction involving a player who was suddenly available for some mysterious reason. It may be they simply liked a dude on the waiver wire, with needling the Jets serving as a mere side benefit.
Either way, this franchise has shown a willingness to take on reclamation projects. Buffalo tries to get good performances and behavior out of athletes with checkered records. Babysitting is outside the responsibilities of a company that employs adults. Their newest hire is not just here to encourage quarterbacks or guarantee a debt-fee locker room. Non-McCoys with shady reputations will be in position to help win football games if they can conduct themselves properly this time.
The smirking Bills were out to incite a reaction. Or, they wanted a linebacker. Perhaps they just think they get better with IK. After all, Rex Ryan was with the Jets when they drafted him last year, even if that seems like ages ago. And a player who’s frankly been on the margin may not even be a Bill next month. In that case, we’ll always enjoy the memories of outrage along with opportunities handed to headline writers. He almost got a sack on his first preseason snap and was flattened by a crackback on the second, so we’ll see if he can accumulate enough positive plays this month to actually play against the Jets. It’d help if he could imitate Ty Powell or Jarius Wynn.
There’s more to football success than provoking outrage from a former employer and present rival, even if Ryan thrives at mental warfare like a Hitchcock villain. It’s easy to run with the notion that a coach added a player who assaulted the quarterback guilty of steering the last ship he captained into an iceberg. But Ryan won’t get far by focusing on sticking it to his old team instead of trying to win with his new one. Besides, there’s already a mark against Enemkpali for his new club: he hurt the Bills by sidelining Jersey’s worst quarterback option. If he really wanted to ground the Jets, he would’ve bought Geno a massage.
These Bills may not be as wayward as portrayed. The tendency to look for patterns has prompted some assertions that Ryan is a de facto warden. But these inmates don’t seem that riotous. Richie Incognito plucked the petals off a delicate flower. LeSean McCoy gave a lousy tip for what may or may not have been lousy service and wanted ladies at his party. Seantrel Henderson took some time to get his act together in college. Marcell Dareus gets a game off to think about the silly things he did, which won’t stop me from dining at his Chinese restaurant in the old Limelight, because why not? Meanwhile, Karlos Williams and the suspended Aaron Kromer both had charges against them dropped. That of course doesn’t mean they’re innocent, but police reports may not tell a whole story.
Percy Harvin can advise Enemkpali on how to recover from unsightly locker room conduct. There’s enough smoke trailing Buffalo’s novel weapon to indicate he’s started fires. But, as with IK, he may have found a coach who settles him down. Ryan’s endearing boisterousness leads to him naturally respecting his players, who in turn should ideally feel relaxed enough to keep in line. The organization better feel nervous about reversions. But you can keep an eye on former detention hall delinquents to see if they’re acting properly at 4-H meetings.
The search for comparisons with everyday life in sports includes a fascination with tales of redemption. Players leaving conflict behind offer proof that it’s possible to improve, even if it seems statistically unlikely. Second chances establish the difference between bad decisions and people.
Getting angry at a teammate enough to initiate contact between one’s fist and his jaw isn’t what we’d call attractive conduct. Players can’t allow themselves to get that upset even in an emotional profession. A coach who can get his charges to chill out is a valuable asset.
Any franchise’s atmosphere can be conducive to criminality or nobility. What these players do now will define the Bills. They haven’t exactly added Ray Rice. It’s not to excuse bad actions by citing even worse examples but rather to note there’s a cutoff. This is a chance to move forward together. Players perform better when they’re not carrying baggage.