By Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills aren't in a bubble of obliviousness.
They hear the analysts rave about their offseason. They talk to excited fans. And with a few workouts under their belts, they're getting a little worked up themselves.
"It's hard not to get giddy," Bills safety Jairus Byrd told the team's website.
Bills captain George Wilson spoke about that with me Tuesday afternoon.
"There's a lot of hype around our team right now," Wilson said. "All we want to do is live up to our own expectations of ourselves and really start to build that team chemistry."
The Bills haven't reached the postseason since 1999 and haven't won a playoff game since 1995. They've had one winning season in their past dozen.
Fans and pundits believe a winning record and the playoffs are within their reach this year. Most players on the roster have never dealt with this kind of pressure at the NFL level.
Rosters with little exposure to winning must learn how to balance the benefits of high expectations (how they buoy a team's locker-room culture, for instance) with the toxicity of overconfidence.
"Anybody who's been around here the past few years, there's been optimism going into the seasons and, unfortunately, the seasons haven't ended with the same level of optimism," Wilson said. "It's up to the veterans and the leaders in the locker room to make sure we keep everybody even-keel, keep them very humble.
"We can't buy into the hype. Everybody has fantasy teams right now. Everybody expects to win. Ultimately, we have to transition from paper to the playing field.
"You have to put the time in to make sure that everybody knows the proper technique within the scheme, that everybody knows the communication words so everybody is on the same page at the snap of the ball and we can make plays when the opportunities present themselves on opening day in New York."