Read the full transcript from General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022.
(I wanted to ask you about TE Tanner Conner – the thinking in keeping him on the 53, not – I guess you could have stashed him on IR for the year, but the thinking in not doing that, and also will Tanner and S Eric Rowe go on IR after the 53 is set in a few minutes? So it's a two or three-part question.) – "Tanner did a good job here. We went and visited with him on a 30-visit in the spring and got him in here and he improved every day. He worked hard. He is a smart kid. He really wants to improve his craft and really wants to play in the NFL and so it's been fun watching him take to the coaching and he's done a great job. And so for us, he'll be back here shortly. So this is not anything where it's IR with him. It was just we felt that talent-wise, we would have lost him. We had multiple people, other teams, just calling and asking about him. We think he's got a good future here, potentially, so for us, we're excited to have them here. Eric Rowe is fine. He'll be just like anyone – normal bumps and bruises battling through, but he was out there, did a good job today working through stuff. So at the end of the day, both those guys will be on the active roster and not being put down."
(Was QB Skylar Thompson a no-brainer ultimately? Was he that good in preseason where it didn't even require much thought?) – "Yeah. (nods) He played very well. Again, another guy that comes in, he just works every day, won over his teammates through his work ethic, and he went out and balled. Another one where we got calls again, people asking what we were going to do and they're all saying, 'you know, you guys would be stupid to let him go.' And there was no thought about us doing that."
"We're not in the business of being stupid. (laughter)"
(It seemed like there was some optimism that CB Byron Jones would be able to avoid PUP. I'm curious if something changed in putting him on that list.) – "No, it really was just working through the process with him, just letting him take his time, go through the rehab work. Like everything, you have good days and bad days, but he worked hard, did great. It was just, we were being patient and not putting any pressure on him to rush him back. And at the end of the day, we made the decision, talking with him and talking with him today to put him down for the four games because he was still optimistic about hopefully being here in a couple of weeks, but we wanted to be fair and we can't rush him out there with this. We just want to make sure he's ready and right when he comes back."
(On looking for cornerbacks) – "Yeah, like everything we'll be searching the waiver wire here tonight and into tomorrow. But for us, we feel good about the group we have. So for us right now, that's not a position right now we feel is critical for us right now."
(Where do you stand in terms of offensive line? Obviously, you guys kept eight. But you know, how do you feel specifically about tackle depth and possibly adding some options there?) – "Yeah, you need more players than eight. But we feel good about where Greg (Little)'s at and we're excited about that. We're excited about the way that our that our tackles are performing. You guys haven't got the chance to see (Terron) Armstead as often as we have. We feel very good about that and where he's at and really like where Austin (Jackson)'s at. That's just the nature. There's plenty of years that – your roster kind of dictates. It's less of the other guys weren't X, Y or Z. It's more that there were positions of strength that the roster itself kind of steered us towards."
(This is Year 4 of the cycle – 2019 of the tear down to now. Where would you say this roster is and obviously the planning of this would be like when you guys are making a run. Do you feel like you have a championship-caliber roster right now?) – "We feel good about the roster. We were actually talking about that and the guys that have been here — myself Marvin (Allen), Brandon (Shore) and the scouts – we were actually talking about how difficult the cuts were here for us. A couple guys that we were battling on at the end here, we were just trying to make the right decisions for the team. So we feel there's some players that got released who will be on NFL rosters, which is always a good thing. That wasn't the case here for a while, but we felt we've been building it up and we feel good about the roster and we're excited for what it could be in the future."
(What's your opinion of what you personally see from QB Tua Tagovailoa since we last visited?) – "It's being around Mike (McDaniel) and watching them. The other day he was in visiting with Mike for you know, just a couple hours on an off day just coming in, spending time. He was downstairs in the training room for like an hour just hanging out with the trainers just talking and it's just seeing his personality come in, and it's just how he is and with the team and stuff. I think his teammates all see it and feel it. Then you guys here talk to the guys and he's taken steps, and with the offense with Mike and the coaching staff, he's very excited. He likes the offense. He thinks it fits him and the players we added. So it's been good watching his growth and watching him enjoy himself playing football."
(Kind of touching on what was asked about the level of roster. Do you feel like – and Mike you can add to this, too – but do you feel this is one of the better rosters you have put together? How confident are you that the improvements in the last few years have been made to get closer to where you want to get?) – "Yeah, I mean, I do. I mean, obviously, when you add players like Tyreek Hill to the roster, and (Terron) Armstead and Cedrick Wilson and the guys, Raheem Mostert, Alec Ingold. I mean, there are some talented players that are good players that are good teammates, too, and guys that know how to win, know what it takes and just being around. We feel like we got a good deep group. It's a good mix, we're still fairly young. Like when (our communications staff) did our presentation with the media, we were joking about that, and asked about how many players have been in an open locker room, you know, and 48 (percent) of them have never been in an open locker room before. And so we're still very young, but we feel good about it. We feel good about the roster, but again, we'll always – like we do – keep looking and improving and trying and get it to where we can compete for championships."
(On CB Kader Kohou earning a spot on the roster) – "He's a competitor man. And that's the one thing that was obvious. It's also obvious to him or to all of us early when the game's not too big for you. Because it's hard. The jump in level of play is real. But he, from the onset, let it be known through his play that this was not too big of a stage for him. So those are always ones that are real pleasant surprises. It'd be a farce to say that you totally expect it in terms of undrafted free agents being able to make that jump so quick, but you know you feel good about them. You're careful not to jump the gun and crown this, that or the other. You've got to just throw them to the fire and see if they don't burn, I guess? Throw them in the water and don't drown? One of those things. (laughter) But he's like the other rookies that we kept. They made it be known to their teammates early and often that they belong. It's why they deserve the roster spots they received."
(What went into the process of keeping RB Salvon Ahmed and RB Myles Gaskin and letting RB Sony Michel walk?) – "That process was brutal. It was a good thing for the Miami Dolphins, but that competition was real. It was just continued opportunities that – there was some game tape involved. (But) involvement was much more than that. It was just the whole progression from the onset. So that room was very, very healthy in terms of how they tried to make each other better. They were competing against each other, but they were also rooting for each other, and Sony (Michel) did not make it easy. But to those guys' credit, one of the things that I was so impressed with was – I mean, shoot, you can remember like it was yesterday. Whenever we were signing running backs in the offseason, Myles (Gaskin) and 'SA' (Salvon Ahmed) in particular, how they handled that was not sulking. It was like clockwork – they were outside on the field with weight vests on working. So we feel very good about the group we were able to assemble. I think it would be shortchanging all those guys to not emphasize that it was the group of them competing but working together that raised those guys' level of play."
(Signing WR Tyreek Hill was probably one of the biggest decisions you've made as a general manager. How have you liked how that decision has panned out over the last month? And what do you like with him on the field standpoint of where he can grow and provide for the team?) – "Obviously, the on the field stuff, we saw it the other night too, what he can do. But it's behind the scenes which has been even better than we thought. We had heard a lot of good things from people and friends and coaches that we know in Kansas City. But being around here, he's got an infectious attitude, he's a competitor, great teammate with the guys. You guys see him out there, and you see him, he's 100 percent, 100 miles an hour in everything he does and always encouraging people and stuff. So it's been really fun watching him behind the scenes, take leadership with the team and help guide the guys in terms of pushing everyone to be great. Because it's easy if you're him. (laughter) You can sit back and you know and coach through this if he wanted to, but that's not him. And that's been fun watching him around. So that's been the biggest surprise from that."
"Yes, you can tell he recognized who – (we) don't really concern ourselves with anything but since he's been here, but one thing I will say is, it was obvious that he recognized the opportunity to where he is – I mean, shoot, he's been a Pro Bowl player every year of his career and (he) came to a very young team. There was an opportunity for him to take his game to another level in terms of leadership and tone-setting and all those things. I'm sure he could feel that his teammates were like, 'Wow, this is Tyreek Hill.' When he doesn't make it an option to go full speed – it is like, if you're on the field, you're full speed. It changes the teammates for the better and I think he's really embracing that. Like Chris (Grier) said, it's been really cool. That's been the most fun part with all of it."
(Chris, we haven't had a chance to talk to you since the NFL punishment. What was your reaction to the first-round pick being lost in the findings of the report?) – "At the end of the day – I appreciate the question. But for us, it really doesn't affect how we do business around here. We're just focused on the team right now and moving forward. The league did their investigation, but at the end of the day, this team is not affected by it and everyone is just moving forward and focused on trying to win as many games as we can this season."
(You had a look at a number of edge and outside linebacker guys, and then you end up signing LB Trey Flowers yesterday. What went into that decision and what do you expect him to bring to this team?) – "I think Trey's familiarity with our system and scheme helps, even with New England, (Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer), obviously, 'E-Rob' (Elandon Roberts) and those guys. So he knows guys here on the roster. We were kind of looking for someone with his skill set, a guy that can play all along the line of scrimmage. With his time in New England, he could do some rush inside as well, too, which will help. So I think his versatility in what he's done, he's still 28 years old. We understand that he's had some bad luck with injuries a couple years but here, he's not asked to come in here and be a star for us. It's come here, just be a good player and help us like he is. He's a great teammate, a good person. Everything we've heard about him was from people in New England and Detroit about what kind of character and person he was. So (I'm) excited to add him here. Just us being around him just for a few days, (he's a) really, really good dude. I'm excited for him and looking forward to see how he fits in this scheme here with our guys."
(I think one reason why TE Mike Gesicki's name has been bandied about by media and fans is because obviously, he's adjusting to a slightly different position on a one-year contract with a franchise tag. So I was going to ask you, A – was there any trade offer you received that was tempting that you guys discussed? And B – is that still a fluid thing? Or have you all decided both of you decided, "We are better with Mike Gesicki. He is on the team for all of 2022?") – "For us, we did not make any calls on Mike (Gesicki). We had calls from two teams that reached out to us about Mike. We never made any phone calls about him. We were always – Mike was going to be here. I think everyone made a big deal about him being on the field, but Mike's a competitive kid. He has been challenged to do some things he hadn't been asked to do before and he stepped up. We were talking about the other day how the last couple of weeks he's made some great strides in that area. So for us, it was never about moving him or us trying to. Teams called asking because he's a good player. And so for us, you guys have heard me say it for years, I'll always listen. (laughter) It doesn't mean we'll do anything. I think it's negligent if we don't (answer the phone), because you never know what kind of deal someone's going to offer you on someone."
"The coolest thing too is there was noise that he is alluding to, and one of the cooler parts of training camp for me in general, I made a point to the team the other day, was that do you know what Mike (Gesicki) worried about in all that? About getting better at blocking and catching. Each and every day, he's doing one or two things better to his standard of the way he wants his football to look. And that's all you can ask for. That's a guy that teammates and coaches and everyone respect – the ones that can ignore the noise and just try to get better."
(I heard what you said about QB Skylar Thompson, "It's a no brainer, and you're not in the business of being stupid." Putting him on the 53 (-man roster), you could get somebody who could perhaps contribute on special teams right now. So do you keep QB Skylar Thompson because he can help you now? Or do you think you can develop him and he can help you in the future?) – "No, I think that – I haven't heard of a good football team that their problem was they had too many good quarterbacks. They touched the ball every play. So it's not about – you can go (through) a lot of draft classes over a long period of time, and if you're holding your breath for a player out of the seventh round to play like he did in the preseason, you're going to pass out. That's why – it's just because you don't just scoff and look the other way when you have a player playing well at that position. Those are things that if you let those slip through your fingers, you'll end up regretting that forever."
"I just want to say I appreciate all the stuff you guys said about Jason (Jenkins). I'm glad you guys didn't ask me earlier because I thought if I got going, I probably would have broke down and left here. But I appreciate it. He was such a good dude and I'm glad that he impacted all of your lives. I miss him here. I appreciate you guys just being good to Elizabeth and his family. So thank you."