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- American football player
It’s never easy for a player to find out they’ve been benched, but how you handle those moments can go a long way.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver/return specialist Isaiah McKenzie found out before the Bills’ Thanksgiving game vs. the New Orleans Saints, that he would be a healthy scratch in favor of rookie Marquez Stevenson.
Stevenson was activated earlier this week, after spending the first 11 weeks on injured reserve with a foot injury that he had suffered in the preseason.
McKenzie had a costly fumble last week against the Indianapolis Colts, that subsequently resulted in an easy touchdown right before the half in a game the Bills (7-4) were desperately trying to keep close.
— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) November 21, 2021
Despite the less than stellar news, and on a holiday no less, McKenzie took the benching as well as you could hope, according to numerous teammates.
“He’s a pro. He’ll bounce back,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said following the Bills 31-6 victory over New Orleans. “You know obviously, whatever happened last game… and him not dressing or whatever this game is… you know we’re all competitors so we want to go out there and try to help this team win ballgames so you know, he’ll be alright.”
While it’s easy to allow a demotion to negatively impact you, McKenzie’s response seems to speak to the overall culture the Bills have built. With as much talent as this rosters possesses, certain guys are just not going to see the field on certain weeks.
“Lot of guys are in his ear and he was out there on the sideline cheering for us and all that,” Hyde continued. “That’s the type of guys we have on this team. Selfless guys and he’s definitely one of them.”
Bills running back Matt Breida, who spent a good chunk of the season as a healthy scratch before earning his way to a larger role, provided some firsthand perspective for McKenzie.
“Don’t worry, your time is gonna come,” Breida said he told McKenzie. “We’ll come back to you.”
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said pulling McKenzie out of the starting lineup wasn’t an easy decision.
“Ya, I mean he’s a competitive guy. And I understand he wants to be out there,” McDermott said during his postgame press conference. “So those emotions are real and I get that.”
McDermott further clarified that there was no injury to McKenzie and it was strictly a lineup decision which was, “my decision,”
When asked to give his take on Stevenson’s fill-in performance, McDermott seemed to emphasize ball security, which as I mentioned earlier, was an issue for McKenzie last game.
“I mean ya… this is his first game, so there’s work to be done there,” McDermott said about Stevenson. “I thought he handled himself fairly well in his first game. More than anything, I thought he came in, having not played in particular for a few months, he handled himself well. So it’s really number one about taking care of the football. That’s number one… that’s the number one thing I’m looking for.”
While McKenzie was inactive in the game itself, he was active on social media, catching some fans by surprise.
In an exchange on Twitter, prior to Thursday night’s game, McKenzie told one Bills fans he was out for the season.
Interesting tweet from Bills WR/KR Isaiah McKenzie today, saying he's out for the season 🧐
He wasn't on the injury report this week. Still listed on the active roster, though inactive tonight. Rookie Marquez Stevenson, fresh off IR, is handling returns in his first NFL game. pic.twitter.com/zYWZsJCByc
— Nick Veronica (@NickVeronica) November 26, 2021
McKenzie also re-shared a tweet that emphasized despite the recent turn of events, he has in fact been reliable with the football.
At the end of the day, the Bills won and that is really all that should matter, but it is good to know that even in moments like this, the players on the team can take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Like Breida said, chances are at some point going forward, the team is going to need McKenzie again and in the interim, being a good teammate goes a long way.
McKenzie and fellow inactive teammate, running back Zack Moss, even got to share some turkey and some dance moves after the victory. A pretty delicious result for Thanksgiving… even if they weren’t directly involved on the field.
Isaiah McKenzke and Zack Moss appear to still be in good spirits after tonight’s game despite being healthy scratches. 🦃 pic.twitter.com/X1N7qRQSlb
— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) November 26, 2021