ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - First, Doug Marrone began introducing his personal musical playlist during practice - from Johnny Cash to Iggy Azalea.
Now it’s airsoft, a game much like paintball, but featuring soft, plastic pellets as ammunition.
The Buffalo Bills coach isn’t missing any beats when it comes to keeping his players loose as the team wound down a three-week series of voluntary minicamps.
“Oh yeah, I got shot right in the chin,” Marrone said following the team’s final session Thursday, and a day after canceling practice to take the team to a nearby indoor airsoft facility.
“It was bad. Right underneath my mask,” he said with a laugh, pointing to a barely visible spot on his jaw, where linebacker Kiko Alonso got him.
And Marrone gave back, too.
“Me? Yeah, I got my share,” he said, noting the teams were mixed with defensive and offensive players and coaches.
Marrone called the break from practice an opportunity for the Bills to bond in a competitive setting, but away from the routine of on-field drills. And he’s doing it during a condensed offseason in Buffalo.
After wrapping up a three-day mandatory minicamp next week, the Bills will have only a month off before reporting for training camp on July 18. That’s earlier than normal, because Buffalo will open the preseason playing the New York Giants in the annual Hall of Fame game, Aug. 3.
Entering his second season in Buffalo, Marrone is also keeping the mood of practice upbeat by pumping up the volume to motivate his players and add an element of crowd noise which the offense struggled with on the road last season.
Marrone isn’t the first coach to play music or use extra-curricular activities as team-building methods.
He is intent on devising new ways to develop chemistry and leadership on a team attempting to end a 14-season playoff drought - the NFL’s longest active streak.
“I do see a team that is coming together and is getting to know each other better,” Marrone said. “We became actually a part of a team yesterday.”
The players are buying in.
They enjoyed the break from practice on Wednesday.