ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott said Thursday that he regretted mentioning 9/11 in a 2019 training camp talk with his team and "immediately apologized" to his players.
McDermott emphasized he made the comments "to discuss the importance of communication and being on the same page with the team." He said he "regretted mentioning 9/11 in my message that day and I immediately apologized to the team. Not only was 9/11 a horrific event in our country's history, but a day that I lost a good family friend."
As first reported by Go Long, McDermott told players in a speech to come together and used the terrorists on 9/11 as an example, asking players in the room questions about how the attacks were executed and referencing the hijackers getting on the same page. Multiple players who were with the team at the time confirmed the story to ESPN, while others who were there told ESPN they did not recall it.
Asked why he mentioned 9/11 and whether hijackers were specifically referenced as an example of a group coming together, McDermott said, "It was mentioning 9/11 in the context of the team meeting. The goal of the team meeting was the importance of communication and being on the same page as a team."
McDermott, who spoke to the media for about six minutes in an unscheduled news conference after practice, said he made the reference during the meeting for "awareness around a horrific event more than anything and a situation that I lost, as I mentioned, a family friend, really multiple family friends. That was it."
He said one player at the 2019 meeting made it seem like the coach hadn't made his point clear enough and as soon as he knew that he decided to get back together with the team to address it. Within an hour after it happened at the start of practice, McDermott said he spoke to the team about it.
"I brought everybody together and said this was the goal, this was the intent, and I apologize if anyone whatsoever felt a certain type of way coming out of that meeting," McDermott said. "If anyone misinterpreted or didn't understand my message, I apologize. I didn't do a good enough job of communicating clearly the intent of my message. That was about the importance of communication and that everyone needs to be on the same page, ironically enough. So that was important to me then and still is now."
McDermott said Thursday that he planned to address the team later as he did when it initially happened.
"As I mentioned to the team [in 2019] that I regretted and apologized for me not doing a good job of clearly communicating my point," McDermott said, "I'm going to do the same with the team today when they're done meeting, so that if there's anyone new that they understand how important that is to me and my family because it's an important event, a horrific event, in our history."
McDermott, 49, was hired as the Bills head coach in 2017. Contract extensions were announced in June for McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane that run through 2027.