Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Friday, December 30, 2022.
So obviously we haven't seen QB Tua Tagovailoa, LB Bradley Chubb or FB Alec Ingold all week. Are they out Sunday?
MM: "Tua (Tagovailoa) is. The other two will be gametime decisions, much like most of my life. (laughter)"
And then we saw CB Xavien Howard on the injury report with a knee that surfaced yesterday, also Terron Armstead besides the three other injuries, now has a hip, are they at all in question for Sunday? Or do you think both will play?
MM: "All players kind of fall under that umbrella. I just know that we're going to see Xavien (Howard) actually practicing today."
And with Terron Armstead he's played through everything. Is the hip something that's put him in doubt at all for Sunday?
MM: "It's I think a lot of trickle-down effect. He's a warrior, but that one falls under the same umbrella for him as well, where he's going to push it until game time and see if he can give it a go. He knows that our team is best served when he's out there, but he also knows that he has an obligation to the team because we do have other players that are very much capable that he doesn't need to put himself in harm's way. So that's the balancing act that only he can really determine."
Adversity is opportunity. It's a big mantra. Is this week sort of the biggest case of that? And did you establish that in the offseason for something like this?
MM: "Well, you got to be careful what you wish for apparently. (laughter) No, I think it happens in varying degrees all the time really. It's more acknowledging it that it's not necessarily what you know in the present as what you think would be the worst-case scenario. It's amazing what happens when you look at things in hindsight and how often you can say, 'Wow, because of that, it really led to this.' So we are in the midst of that. It's been that way for what has been the month of December and you find out a lot about people. You find out a lot about your team that you're working with, the players in the locker room, the coaches. Really you find – that's where you can't hide. Your true colors show and I've seen a team that has really diligently attacked the adversity by working through it. We had one of our favorite weeks of practice. The locker room is very tight and pushing forward, so I feel excited about seeing what they can do together on Sunday."
You mentioned before your favorite position is the defensive end or edge position. The Patriots have a couple of really good guys in Patriots LB Matthew Judon who leads the AFC in sacks and Patriots LB Josh Uche, who is having a breakout year. How would you describe their games?
MM: Relentless. I think they have as much disruption as any players that we've seen this year into the play. They are guys that get a lot of production, two-and-a-half, three seconds into pass plays, that just really show how that whole defensive unit plays together. The back end is very sound allowing for one or two extra hitches for the quarterback in which they take advantage of routinely. So they're an impressive group. They're physical, but relentless is the thing that really stands out to me."
Have you had discussions in the past couple of months with your coaches about the idea of maybe putting WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jaylen Waddle back to return kicks with the idea of juicing up the return game a little bit? And if so, why was the decision made to stick with RB Raheem Mostert and WR Cedrick Wilson Jr.?
MM: "I think we feel that we're using two offensive players that have very good dynamic skillsets currently, but all those things are always up for discussion. That's one of the reasons Raheem (Mostert) is back there as the starting running back, is he gives us some breakaway juice that we've tried to play to. How successful that is, is a whole other story, but that's always up for discussion. We've just been, as your team goes during the season, how reliant upon Tyreek and Waddle offensively we are, plays into it and how that's going to affect the next series. So we are constantly debating that and it's still up in the air within each and every game."
Is OL Brandon Shell in question for Sunday? We saw shoulder on the injury report that limited him yesterday.
MM: "I feel pretty good about him. He's a tough guy, man and he had something pop up, but he's been diligent in the training room and feel pretty confident that he'll be there Sunday."
I'm not expecting an answer, in case you wanted to. But if you want to surprise us, will it be OL Liam Eichenberg or OL Rob Jones at left guard?
MM: "It could be one, two, both or neither. Everything? (laughter) No, I feel fortunate to that Rob (Jones) really seized the opportunity that he's had. I think he's put his best NFL tape on display. I think he continued to get better and will continually do what's best for the team in our opinion. And that's for the players to earn."
Do you have any update on QB Tua Tagovailoa? Has he improved? He's still in protocol, I presume?
MM: "Yeah, he's still in protocol and I just go day by day as instructed. I would say that he's better than the day before, but I'm also trying to get a team ready to play this game and it really doesn't do anybody any service to overtalk in this scenario where he's got to be focused on his health and nothing else. So a lot of times in conversation with Miami Dolphins football players, Miami Dolphins football comes up with me, so we're trying to stay away from that. And besides talking about MacGruber we're keeping our topics minimal. (laughter)"
The league wires said to you all worked out Jack Coan and Kyle Lauletta yesterday. Was either signed to the practice squad?
MM: "Not as of yet. These are things – one of the reasons that I'm so happy, confident and love this working relationship that I have with Chris Grier and the personnel staff, is they make sure that they stay ahead of things and so there hasn't been a signing. That doesn't mean there won't be."
QB Tua Tagovailoa's brother talked at his bowl game yesterday about a lot of things but probably the two big takeaways were that everybody's got an opinion and nobody, not even he, knows the specifics of everything that's going on and happened in the lab and whatever. I know you're focused on the week and getting your team ready, but how do you block out the noise when something like this – Tua's brother is right – everybody does have an opinion. Everybody does have a 'this should have happened' or 'what if' or 'this must happen now' or 'this should have happened then.' How do you block out all that?
MM: "Diligently and relentlessly by I haven't read or talked or had anything outside of doing my job with the people that I work with. So I have no idea what's going on in the world. I think that's the only way you have to kind of do it – absolutely – to do it the right way. And I think from an integrity standpoint, it's very important for me to do everything for the right reasons and not have influences either way with whatever the situation is. So I've blocked it out by the best way that I know to do that. Absolutely. I haven't been on the internet in a while now. So I have no idea what you're writing about me. And nor will I. (laughter)"
After all the adversity that you guys have faced in the last month, why do you think the guys were able to have such a good week of practice? Does it come down to leadership within the group? Coaching staff? What is it?
MM: "I think it's the locker room leadership, how much they've invested and how much they recognize that even on a specific team, locker rooms change every single year. This one is special to them. So I think they're trying to do right by each other, because these relationships are real, and they feel convicted to fight for this team. So I would say it's locker room driven wholeheartedly, and it's very impressive from top down, leadership captains, leadership council down to really everyone contributing."
Tonight is the Orange Bowl. You have a few guys on the roster who played in that game a few years back, particularly DT Christian Wilkins. From his point back then participating at Clemson to now, how do you see his progression?
MM: "He's taken a jump this year as a player, really recognizing how people look at him. Receiving that captain 'C' was a big deal, and you can really see how much that means to him each and every week. He is super professional, routine-oriented and is as consistent of a contributor as we have on this team. I think that's a credit to him recognizing his opportunity within his career, what he's capable of doing and how he refuses to be satisfied."
I don't think we ever followed up on TE Cethan Carter and his health. Has he been OK? And him being on IR, was that just a roster spot decision?
MM: "That was something that doctors and Cethan (Carter) really decided that it was best served for his health to do so. So that was something that it was much less of me deciding anything rather than him and medical professionals choosing that being the best path for him."
What is your opinion on rivalries in the NFL? Your last two games are big games for the fans historically for the Patriots and Jets. What is your opinion? Do you think they are still relevant? Or do you see them as any other games? Are they special for you?
MM: "I think division games will always hold that common special place, because fan bases feel it firsthand. You play someone twice a year – that added familiarity gives just that much extra on top of all the history that I'm sure if you're a 40-year-old Miami Dolphins fan, you have at least 30, if not more, years of bones to pick and vice versa. So I definitely value them, not just because of the energy and familiarity, but because winning your division is so important. Division games are so important. If you're ever trying to (get) where you're trying to go, it's always through your division. So you have to stand tall in those games, and you know that where you're trying to go, you have to have a good amount of success in those games for all your dreams to be realized."
In order to activate OL Liam Eichenberg, you had to put RB Myles Gaskin on IR. He was listed with an illness. Was it that? Was it something else or just a roster spot?
MM: "It wasn't just a roster spot, he had something with his shoulder. But beyond that greyness of detail, I wouldn't really be able to elaborate on. It was something that best served really Myles (Gaskin) to get on that road to recovery because it was something that was kind of plaguing him for a minute."