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ORCHARD PARK, NY – At this point Bills fans are used to questioning the work ethic and character of DT Marcell Dareus. But they’re not necessarily used to hearing it questioned by first-year head coach Sean McDermott. That is until this past Sunday.

Hours before the Bills Week 3 meeting with the Denver Broncos kicked off, a story by NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero shared McDermott’s incriminating remarks concerning Dareus’ urgency.

“At times. I’m going to be very honest about it — at times. At other times, not really,” McDermott told Pelissero. “This bus is moving and at the end of this year, we’re going to have a pretty good feel for who’s on the bus and who’s not, and everyone knows that, I would hope. So, I would hope they’ve seen that from the moves we’ve made and the direction we’re heading, the mindset we’re embracing and the devoted mindset you need to have to win in this league. We’re going in a certain direction for a certain reason, and we play and do things with a purpose. People that have that common purpose and want to share that common purpose, they’ll be here.”

Dareus didn’t play on Sunday, dealing with an ankle injury. One day later – following Buffalo’s inspiring 26-16 win in his absence – the Bills head coach attempted to reconcile his comments, now directing that message at the entire team.

“Just generally speaking, like our entire football team, there’s things that we’re doing well, like I mentioned with the defense, there are things that we can improve on,” he explained. “I would say the same thing again, with respect to Marcell, same thing with myself. There’s things that I feel like I did well yesterday, there’s some things I could improve on. If you take the right approach, take the right mindset, you continue to get better every day, every week and every game, that’s the goal, short and long-term. That’s how you sustain success and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

There’s some irony in McDermott’s use of a “bus” as symbolism. Back on August 26, Dareus was sent home before the Bills third preseason game against the Ravens for reportedly missing the team bus. Naturally, the incident raised plenty of questions about how much monger the former No. 3 overall pick will wear a Bills uniform.

While this isn’t the first time McDermott has made an example of Dareus, it is the first time he has ever specifically called out a player through the media and was left backtracking to soften the blow. Later on, he took it one step further, offering up a compliment for Dareus.

“I worry about all of our players, and that we continue to grow, continue to get better,” McDermott stated. “That’s my job as head coach of this football team, is to lead, and continue to try and put our best foot forward. There’s a lot of work that goes into working with all of our players and I enjoy it. Marcell is a big-time, [big] part of this football team, and we look forward to getting Marcell back on the field as soon as possible.”

Perhaps the biggest reason Dareus remains a major part of the team is due to his albatross of a contract, which prohibits the Bills from moving on from the defensive tackle without taking on a massive dead cap figure. If Buffalo were to cut him this year that number would be nearly $40 million. In 2018 that figure drops to just over $20 million, and in 2019, a much more manageable $7.8 million. Trading Dareus is always an option as well, but of course that requires finding a team willing to absorb the nearly $50 million remaining over the final four years of his contract. Going that route would also leave Buffalo paying $14.2 million even though he’d no longer be on the roster.

Based on McDermott’s curious comments to Pelissero, those financial implications may be the only reason Dareus is still a member of the Buffalo Bills. At the very least it appears the two have gotten off on the wrong foot.

It’s unclear at this time if Dareus will practice this week or play in Atlanta on Sunday.  More should be revealed about his status when the team returns to practice on Wednesday.

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