ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The decision by Bills veteran cornerback Vontae Davis to abruptly quit the team and retire at halftime of Buffalo's 31-20 loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Chargers will likely become the defining moment of his 10-year NFL career.
However, the bizarre choice by Davis seemed to have come with little fanfare. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said he did not find out about Davis leaving until early in the third quarter, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams was not filled in about the move until after the game.
Davis was in uniform in the locker room and did not discuss his impending departure with teammates at halftime, and coach Sean McDermott did not inform the team when he learned about it. McDermott said Monday that he felt "no need" to address it at all and insisted, "This is not going to become a distraction for us."
Before the Bills (0-2) attempt to turn the page to Sunday's game at Minnesota, ESPN sat down with Bills safety Micah Hyde to learn more about one of the most unique stories in recent NFL history:
What was your reaction to Davis’ retirement?
Hyde: “I was getting more details [Monday]. I think [Sunday], just with the loss, I don’t want to say I didn’t care, but I was more worried about how the game ended than what that situation was. I was thinking more about the team and the guys that were here rather than that whole story. But hearing more details [Monday], it’s not ideal. I love Vontae as a person and what he’s brought to this team from OTAs until [Sunday]. But I don’t agree with the decision he made of leaving during halftime -- if he left, I really don’t know. Whatever the situation was, I don’t agree with it. I feel like it kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth, for sure.”
When did you find out?
Hyde: “I found out in the third quarter. Right before the third quarter. It felt like a high school rumor going around for a second. Then once we got out there [on the field], I realized he wasn’t out there. I was like, ‘Oh, must be true.’ We went out there and played lights out in the second half. Came back to the locker room [after the game] to realize it was true. Like I said, I’ve never seen that -- maybe when I was little playing soccer. One kid being a sore loser and just going home because he didn’t want to play soccer. I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Was he in the locker room at halftime?
Hyde: “I remember him being in the locker room. I remember him sitting down with us. And then we broke the huddle in the locker room and went out, and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, he’s really not coming out.’”
So he was still in uniform at halftime?
Hyde: “Yeah, he was still in uniform.”
There were no signs from him?
Hyde: “No. I had no idea. I did my halftime routine. Went to the bathroom real quick, rehydrated. I usually lay down for a second and get my legs up in the air. So I was kind of focused on myself. Like I said, it was like a high school rumor going around. Like I said, when I went out there in he third quarter, it was true.”
What about the past couple weeks?
Hyde: “There was nothing like that. I think that he has been in the league for a while. Obviously, wear and tear on his body. He was hurt last year. I don’t think it was ideal for him to come into a team -- we have high expectations for this secondary, for this defense. Him coming in, not dressing Week 1, kind of threw a wrench into what he wanted to do for this team. I think maybe going into this week and all of the -- the NFL is mental as much as it is physical. Losing an NFL game, thanks to you [reporters], it’s like the world is ending. So we lost against Baltimore. Nobody played well. Nobody did good. I think the stress that the coaches put on the players, which that’s their job. They have a job to do and that’s to see their players perform at a high level. I think once that happened, his mindset kind of came closer to, ‘This is it for me.’”
Did McDermott say anything about it during or after the game?
Hyde: “No. We’re moving on, man. We realize that we lost that game. We can take some good things out of it. We played well in the second half. We’re trying to build off that. Everybody that is in the locker room right now is all we’re worried about. That’s all the guys I care about. I’m still going to do everything we can to get those guys ready to play and get myself ready to play. If guys want to leave this team, then more power to them. At the end of the day, we want to win and we understand it’s a process. It’s Week 2, going into Week 3. There’s plenty of teams in the history of the NFL that have bounced back from two straight losses at the beginning of the season."
Was it addressed in a meeting at all Monday?
Hyde: “We watched the film as a group, as a defense. To be honest, no. I think everybody kind of realized what’s going on now. I don’t think there’s a need to have a team meeting about it and address it because everybody understands what happened. Everyone knows the situation. We were all talking in the locker room earlier and you see all of the memes and stuff on social media, and all that stuff. We all know what’s going on. It’s not like we’re going to keep talking about it."
What have you heard from Vontae since Sunday?
Hyde: “Basically that he’s at peace with it, man. He made a decision and he’s at peace with it. He’s ready to move on, just like we are. It will take some time, but I think he made a decision best for his career, best for his body and from there, you can’t really tell somebody that we need you out here when somebody’s not feeling physically and mentally ready to play.”
So you talked to him?
Hyde: “I’m not going to go into detail with that. It is what it is and like I said, we all understand what’s going on.”
In his statement, he said he didn’t want to embrace the ‘warrior mentality’ and sacrifice his body. As a player, what is your reaction to that and how you put your body on the line?
Hyde: “I think that nobody can talk about a person and how they’re feeling and kind of judge somebody on that. Because obviously, all of these funny memes are coming out and all of that stuff but nobody is really going through what he’s going through and how he feels. Nobody really knows. So if he doesn’t feel like he’s ready to play mentally and physically, at the end of the day, we didn’t like that he did it at halftime, but if he’s not feeling up and ready to play, then it’s kind of hurting us, at the end of the day. So like I said, he made a decision and I don’t agree with the halftime thing, but I do agree that if he’s not physically and mentally ready to go, then he had to do what he had to do.”
Would it be different if he had waited until Monday to retire?
Hyde: “In my opinion, I think so. But also, you can kind of say the same thing, if we were up 28-6 at that time and he decided to do it, it wouldn’t be a problem right now. I think the fact that we were losing by 22 points was kind of the issue and made it seem like he was leaving all of his teammates hanging out to dry.”