5 takeaways from Monday’s Eric Wood press conferences
By: Nick Wojton
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills – Eric Wood situation will continue moving forward and there are plenty of questions still to answer.
The offensive lineman abruptly retired from professional football because of a neck injury. His scheduled retirement ceremony did not go according to plan.
For the second offseason in a row after Doug Whaley’s “privy” presser, the Bills had an interesting press conference for Wood on Monday as the man of the hour only made an 86-second statement.
A contractual dispute between Wood and the organization is said to be the reason, per the Associated Press. Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane were left to pick up the pieces and attempt to explain the situation.
After sorting through it all, here are five takeaways from all of Monday’s happenings:
Not the plan: The Bills appeared to roll the red carpet out for their nine-year veteran. The last time the team setup a podium in the field house, it was to announce McDermott’s hiring. After about 30 minutes of waiting, the room got the sense that something was wrong. McDermott is typically late to his press conferences, but not by an hour. Wood, as prior stated, spoke for less than two minutes and that was it. He answered no questions and didn’t take a walk down memory lane with many of his current and former teammates present. Whatever came up prior to the press conference this morning, was unplanned. It’s not close to Whaley’s “privy” comments, but wasn’t a great look for the Bills.
Retired or naw?: Another interesting thing was the usage, or lack thereof, the word retired. Or retire. Or retirement. Wood never said he was retired. In fact, Wood specifically said he’s still on the roster going forward and hopes to help the team in some capacity. McDermott interestingly said he “doesn’t get involved” in those discussions. Which was different because McDermott has had something to do with every decision in the building since his arrival. McDermott and Beane also both did not directly say Wood was retired. The team could be covering their tracks while they workout when to officially put a designation on Wood’s retirement.
What actually happened: The contractual issues have sort of steered things in another direction, but at the end of the day, here’s what actually happened to Wood: For a couple of weeks Wood said he’s known about the situation but continued to play. Even with further treatment, rehab or surgery, a return is not possible for Wood. In Week 5 of the season, Wood suffered his first of a few “stingers” to his neck. He said everything checked out OK then, but at his end of the season physical, via MRI, it did not. Near the C2-C3 vertebrae in his neck (mid-neck) a disc is out of place and as Wood described, the disc is “dangerously close” to his spinal cord. He found out about that a few days before Buffalo’s 10-3 loss in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. Wood still played.
The battle: It’s pretty much Wood vs. the Bills front office over his contract, at this point. According to the Associated Press, NFL teams can ask for a portion of a players signing bonus back if he retires before his contract expires. Beane acknowledged to reporters that there was an issue with the team’s salary cap, not that the team just wanted money back. Wood made it a point to not outright say he’s retired, he also made it a point to say he’s still on the teams roster.
Cap is concerning: Within his discussion, Beane made an alarming comment. In full: “Well, we don’t have any cap room right now.” Beane later added he thinks the two sides will work things out. The team’s cap situation wasn’t any breaking news, but for Beane to openly make sure a statement is telling that he’s not comfortable with it. According to Spotrac, the Bills have approximately $31 million in cap space. With all things considered, Beane is right. The Bills have their own free agents to re-sign, some even high-priced ones such as cornerback EJ Gaines, free agents from other teams to consider signing in March, and the NFL Draft at the end of April. That’s not a lot of room and displays who poorly the cap was handled by former front office employees.