Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on August 16, 2023.
(What do you expect DT Christian Wilkins to do today in terms of participation and how much has he missed by not being part of team drills the past couple days?) – "Christian is such a good player, such an important person in the locker room, who has made it clear that he feels that his play is deserving of a contract. We would agree, as the Miami Dolphins organization, henceforth we are in negotiations. As a result, he's hasn't been participating in team (drills). When he next participates, that will be up to him."
(Are you comfortable with what that plan is?) – "Every player is like a snowflake, I would say – unique to itself. So I'm comfortable with the situation as it stands. Christian and I are in constant communication, and this is part of the business that a lot of teams are dealing with."
(How much do you look at the opportunity to get out here and get the guys together for a week away from their lives in South Florida and come together?) – "That's an overlooked part of joint practices that I hold with high regard and high esteem because it's about a team coming together. And this offers an opportunity for guys. The unique situation that we have in Miami Gardens is a lot of guys live all over the place. People have lives and you want teams to come together and you want guys to spend time together. Well, here we are locked up in a hotel together, so there's nowhere to hide. Even if they don't want to see me, they have to run into me. But we specifically try to orchestrate the whole joint practice session and the travel times around that – coming out here before the player day off so that guys can really invest into each other. And I think they really have between position dinners and various things. Rookies are preparing a skit for the veterans to be entertained with on Thursday night. So there's a lot of good things going on, and happy to be here in Houston."
(Are CB Cam Smith, WR Jaylen Waddle, or CB Kader Kohou ready for competitive reps here or probably not?) – "Specifically with Cam and Kader, they are both dealing with stuff that you don't really know what day it is, or it's day to day as you progress as tolerated, really. So I didn't expect Cam to be in stretch and the position drills the other day. But sure enough, he was on a mission to prove something to his teammates. I'm not really looking for them to. But I wouldn't be surprised if they appear scattered along. And we're holding Jaylen against himself. He's a Houston native and it's hard to believe the information we're receiving when he's telling us he's good. That's one of the things you love about Jaylen, and it's our job to protect him for himself."
(You've talked about guys protecting from themselves. CB Cam Smith got hurt the play before and stayed in and didn't come out. What does that tell you?)– "There's so much that you just learn about each other as teammates, all of us. There's no way any of his teammates on the Miami Dolphins would know that about him. But when you do something like that, it definitely sends a statement to your teammates that is well received. There's being hurt or being injured. And sometimes when guys are fighting through something, they think they're hurt, then they find out they're injured. But that tough-minded nature and that will to compete is not lost on any of us, coaches and players alike."
(What do you think it's going to be like to see Houston Texans HC DeMeco Ryans again and going against his defense?) – "Well, it will be very much like a lot of the years I know DeMeco, where I'm standing over here and he's over there. What's funny about it though is I think the first practice that I've ever had a coach that I was paid, was DeMeco's first practice as a player in the National Football League in 2006. So it is really cool to see him where he's at. It doesn't surprise me in the least. I mean, shoot that day where our journeys were beginning, so to speak, he was with the first group as a starting Mike linebacker as a second-round draft pick. He's one of the best coaches I have been around and one of my favorite people. I'm really excited to see his team take on his personality, which I know is the mindset of a winner, the mindset of a competitor. And he's all about maximizing player's talent, which is something that that I firmly believe in, and we hold in step."
(One of the things DeMeco Ryans said he remembered about you during your time in San Francisco was you'd be the first guy in the building. What are some things that you remember about DeMeco when he first started his career?) – "So it worked. Little did anyone know that I was doing that to impress DeMeco the entire time. And for the longest, I didn't know he noticed. (laughter) But some of the things about DeMeco that are inspiring, just as a human being, he has that classic balance of he's such a well-intentioned, nice, really a guy that you gravitate towards, on a personal level. But then has a fire that I think players can really, really relate to and respond to. He's had leadership in his blood from the day we saw him as a 22-year-old, and then to watch him progress in the coaching field right alongside him. It didn't surprise me, but it was so impressive that I'd be at a loss to say I expected it. I think he's exceeded expectations in everything he's done. And I think the Houston Texans are very lucky to have him."
(How important was this place for your professional development?) – "It's a huge part of the journey. The days of watching – there's invaluable lessons of every step that you take in the National Football League, but to be a part of Gary Kubiak's staff and watch how it was to come to a place and make a culture – really a reflection of what you want the team to be and who you are. To get my first taste of working in a position group, the receiver room, to have Andre Johnson as a 25-year-old – I had to quickly learn something to offer him as far as value of coaching. I had to know what I was talking about really quick because you choose your words wisely and if you don't have anything to offer Andre Johnson, stop wasting his time. So that got my start real fast and it will always have a place in my heart. It's the first place that I lived right after college. And that journey has highs and lows, but it's always rooted in the place where you started, which is where this place is, and this field with a new scoreboard."
(You've mentioned the Andre Johnson story a couple of times to us. Have you been able to reconnect with him since coming back?) – "Yeah, we've exchanges texts, which is a slow process with me. I think I'm number one in the league in terrible phone habits. But we have talked and I was hoping to see him down here. I think there's a chance that that might happen. But if he doesn't end up showing up, we have Roger Clemens, so we're good."
(RB Dalvin Cook signed with the New York Jets. What are your thoughts on that and what role did the running backs that you have on the roster play in him not ending up here?) – "I'm very happy with our running back group. There's been a ton of development since camp started for already talented guys that I very much believe in. So overall, I'm really pumped with the running back group. As far as other team's transactions, really, I haven't even paid that much attention other than to what is today? Today is practice. The 16th of August. And I'm very happy with the crew that we're going to compete with and pumped to compete against this unit too."
(I wanted to ask you about OL Liam Eichenberg. We saw him on the bikes not practicing in the last practice in Miami. Is that a medical thing, a rest thing?) – "That would be a medical thing. He's dealing with a nagging injury. Every time that he's had a ding, he proves to his teammates and everyone that's looking how much he loves ball, because he's tirelessly trying to grit through stuff that a lot of players would find maybe too painful to perform. He's gritting his teeth and doing his best. And we'll be conscious of that and make sure we don't rush the process."
(So is OL Liam Eichenberg going to participate in these joint practices?) – "The plan is for him to participate to a degree, but managed within practice and probably minimized in team drills, if at all."
(What was your relationship like with Houston Texans Offensive Coordinator Bobby Slowik? He had some pretty good things to say about you the other day.)– "It's long. I wasn't sure if you guys realized but you came to the first Slowik Bowl. The Slowik family has been near and dear to my heart. Ryan is our outside linebackers coach and he was part of the Denver staff my first year as an intern. Then I got the chance to work with Bobby Slowik in Washington, where he started, like we all do, on the ground floor and worked his way up to work with outside linebackers. Then I got a chance to work with him again in San Francisco and then was part of the crew with myself and Coach Shanahan and (Mike) LaFleur, training him when he came to offense. I got to red-pen his run drawings, which he probably loves me for. By loving, he does not like that at all. They were always late at night and in red and aggressive with exclamation points. (laughter) But he's a true coach, a true student of the game. I think it's incredibly advantageous that he spent time working on the (defensive) side of the ball. That really helps shape your mind in how to be an offensive coordinator. I'm excited to see what SPF he's wearing out in this Houston sun."
(It's got to be high.) – "Yeah. We've got to be 75-plus. (laughter)"
(You can't say "f", marry, kill anymore. But hang out with, ghost, and go on vacation – Houston Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans, Gary Kubiak and Houston Texans Offensive Coordinator Bobby Slowik.)– "I'm ghosting (Bobby) Slowik because he'd get over it the quickest. What were the two other options?"
(Vacation with and just a one-night hangout. Houston Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans and Gary Kubiak) – "Two elite guys to hang out with. Pick your poison on either one, because I think there's merit to both. I'd probably just have them both to dinner and then vacation with them both and not answer your question concretely."
(I wanted to ask you your thought process for, I know joint practices, it's elevated how important they are in the new preseason. But there's always a week where you guys want to game plan and want to go over film work. Do you do that?) – "You're bringing it today. That's a great question because you can get lost. I've been very clear with the team that this is such an opportunity for technique work, with some very variants on both sides, specifically for the offense, in terms of the defensive structure that you're going against. It's about our technique and developing it. I think it's hugely important that we utilize the opportunity to work on our craft. It's quite the opposite of the X's and O's. What's cool about this joint practice is both sides of the ball, the best part of their functionality is their inherent technique obsession. I know that through working with Bobby Slowik and I know that working right alongside DeMeco Ryans and I know that to be the case on both sides of the ball for our team. So it is about players developing their technique and really at a critical juncture for the roster decisions that come. How do guys take failures or successes and move forward? This is going to be a great opportunity to see that with a fully digested playbook at their disposal."
(So next week is kind of the dry run?) – "I kind of see with a three-game preseason and a two-week break, it's kind of a mix-and-match that both weeks are incredible for the development of our team. I see both of them as kind of dry runs to a degree of how players respond to the techniques we're asking them to do when minute things change. So as far as a label, next week or this week being the turn-up week, I see them both. With the shortened preseason, I think it's that much more important to get ready for the regular season as opposed to having the regular season get you ready."
(You have a relationship with Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans from your time in San Francisco. But you also were lucky enough to be here with him when he was a player. Do you have any fun stories about him when he was going through his rookie year that you can tell us?) – "Playing Peyton Manning as a rookie is hard. But I think his rookie year, the last game that Peyton Manning and the Colts lost was here. I remember that being an incredible moment. I remember him, it was funny, as a rookie, as a young rookie, he's such an impressive dude. But you're a rookie. Not to mention, you're the quarterback of the defense. So his internal combustion when he would mess something up, followed by a quick reset to the next play was – I'm not sure if it's funny. It was always unique and stood out to me just in who he was because he would literally implode. Then on to the next and go compete. No news is good news and he's one of those guys that was a veteran the second he walked into the locker room and has really held himself to a high standard. He's held himself to a head coach-type scrutiny and role really his whole career. I can't say enough good things about him. Fired up for him to exhibit his head-coaching skills against the Miami Dolphins."
(What kind of resource has Houston Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans and Texans Offensive Coordinator Bobby Slowik been since they took their jobs, head coach and offensive coordinator? What kind of resource have you been for those guys?) – "Well, I plan on being outstanding after this preseason game, but I've intentionally been terrible leading up to it. (laughter) You know, telling them the wrong amount of practices or wrong amount of reps that I'd suggest to do now. (laughter) They're very deserving of both roles they have. We all aid by our peers, watching them go through their process, especially when you get roles that the people that you've worked alongside get before you. I can relate to that with guys getting head-coaching jobs or offensive coordinator jobs. I think we're all tools for each other. In a way, we helped each other get here, being a part of a coaching staff on a team. We are part of the journey. So we all learn from each other and shoot, I still learn from DeMeco (Ryans) and Bobby (Slowik) from afar. I think we have a cool relationship that way and truly root for each other's success."