Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.
(In your view, how is TE Hunter Long playing and the camp he's had so far?) – "Hunter is a player that we had on our radar when I was on another team. He's a young player that fits what we do, so we've been very excited with him. This whole process, especially for tight ends, is difficult because of the scheme we run on both sides of the ball. The tight end position in general is a work in progress because we're undoing a bunch of technique that they've been used to their whole football lives. Hunter specifically, he started out really, really strong. He grasped all of it super fast. It's to the credit of the mind that he has and his investment. Now he's going through the second stage, which is honing skills, honing technique and attacking each and every day. I know he gives the defense their own issues each day with how he competes and how he attacks the process."
(You have to undo the technique they've learned previously and learn new technique?) – "It's more like … From a starting point, typically tight ends are coached – it's not bad or good but it's just a commitment to – typically they're coached to not get beat as opposed to attacking with known help. So for us, a lot of it starts with running off the ball. We're not playing it safe at that position. If you talk about a nine-technique, especially in this league, whether that's a standup 'backer or a defensive end, that can be an imposing situation that you want to make sure your guy doesn't immediately tackle somebody. So you play inside and you have some board footwork that you're kind of plotting off the ball and you don't displace as much. We don't do that. We say we're going to go after the guy. Here, on these plays, you will have help. Here, you won't. It's really a completely different mindset. It's almost like every time he blocks, he's running a route. You're coming off the ball with that same mindset. So it's an adjustment that I think does take people, especially ones like Hunter (Long) who have really been deliberate in how they've gone about their business their whole life, it takes them a second. It's very similar to the adjustment that the line has to make. There's just more space between them and the defender."
(Your running back room, do you have a vision of how you may want to split touches?) – "For me to sit here and say every practice is important and every rep is important and it's a constant competition, the only way that I can really follow through with those words is I have to consciously – which I do – refrain from doing that because I don't want to limit an opportunity by having a preconceived notion. There's guys that really got our running scheme early. Maybe they had more history in it. But you don't short-change the process of learning, nor do you really allow yourself to get ahead and predict the future. We have a huge practice today followed by a couple of huge practices against Tampa before the first preseason game. My mindset is really just to coach guys and see what they do with it. And when the opportunities start to minimize, after people have earned the right in front of their teammates of who gets to play and who doesn't, then I'll kind of settle in on that. But right now, I'm very, very happy with that room. It's one of my favorite rooms that I have been around. The competition is fierce but they're bringing the best out of each other. They get along and they're really – just watch. If your eyes can go fast enough, if there's a good run, take your eyes and find Eric Studesville, the running backs coach, and find the running backs and they're all fist-pumping and cheering. It's awesome. They really root for each other and understand that they want to win the job. They don't want to be given it at the expense of somebody else."
(Obviously you wouldn't have picked him in the fourth round if you didn't think that he was going to be good, but did you expect WR Erik Ezukanma to catch on so quickly?) – "Again, that's why I try not to get ahead of myself because he came in and I've been very happy with him the entire time. He's made more plays now that he knows what he's doing. I've been more concerned with like how is he approaching the process and is he making the same mistake twice? He's kind of – it doesn't surprise me and it's going to be a curve like that for him where it will continue to get better and better. There are a lot of things he still needs to work on but you could tell from the minute that you started working with him that this guy was a driven dude and he takes it very serious, and the best football is in front of him because when he plays fast and knows what he's doing – you're starting to see some of the stuff that he does. He's a big, strong dude that can make plays on the ball. His college tape, one of the things that we loved about him was that he was very, very hard to tackle. Those things, you're starting to see a little bit more of because it's the natural process. It's a new language and they're learning something incredibly different. Half of their world, they have to align on a field that the dimensions are new to them. You're saying two yards inside the numbers and they're like, 'What?' He just needs to continue to work and I think you'll continue to see him make some plays. Then all of his teammates are encouraging him and pushing him so that he can be relied upon on a down-in and down-out basis. With all that goes on with that position, that isn't just running routes. It's also blocking."
(Have you decided how you plan to approach joint practices? For some of the veteran guys who have kind of been on the maintenance program, is your approach rather to have them increase their workload for the joint practices and then not participate in the preseason [game] or do you want to keep them on this path that they've been on?) – "The answer is kind of annoying but it's honest. It is quite literally case-by-case. There are a couple of veterans where for them to be able to practice with the known intensity that comes with practicing against an opponent for the first time since January, there are some guys that we kind of have to monitor and we're resting on the front end of it. Then there are other guys that we'll just have to, for us to get through the whole practice and for them to get the work they need, they may sit out individual. I put a lot of pressure on the position coaches, the coordinators, the training staff, that I do not want just a flat-line of this is what we do. I don't think that's fair to the individual. Every person's body is different. We have to monitor the load and what we don't want to do is have a situation where we don't have a player because of our lack of detail to that individual. I very much cater to it and it's very case-by-case, but there are a couple of veterans that will need to chill out today so that we can get the reps against a different offense, a different defense, different pass plays, run plays, coverages and fronts than we've seen in our camp."
(Have you had a chance to get with Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles yet about anything that you'd each specifically like to do in joint practices, especially if there is anything that's not extremely common?) – "I haven't gotten with him in person. He's got this – apparently he has to coach his team. (laughter) But we've communicated and that's something that – you hit on something that is interesting, that you'd only know as a coach where it's not something where you just go into these things off a whim. The coordinators are communicating. You're going through practice structures. You're going through players with non-contact jerseys. You're really talking through everything, so I have a very, very good comfort level. I talked to him – I mean this was months ago – because I'm so on it with planning. (laughter) This was months ago we talked originally and we've been in constant communication ever since, and we'll talk a couple more times before practice starts so that we're all on the same page and abiding by the same rules on the practice field."
(I wanted to ask you about WR Tyreek Hill. We know what he brings to the field from an athletic and a player standpoint, but listening to him speak yesterday, he's so confident. Have you ever worked with player like that before and I guess what benefit is that from locker room standpoint?) – "Him in particular, his personality, he's one of one. And I think it speaks to how he plays the game. He's a shorter player that doesn't play small and that is his edge. I've had players that have been similar in that manner, just not to that level. But the thing that people really don't realize that is so cool about him, is he's also very, very accountable. He's one of the first people that I can show in team meetings and say, 'hey, this isn't to our standard,' or 'this isn't right,' because 10 times out of 10, ever since we started with him here, when I do that, the next day in the team meeting, I get to show him correcting the mistake. And it kind of sets the tone that you're conditioned as an athlete to want to be – I mean everybody wants to be good at something – but you're conditioned that a coaching point, 'dang it, he had to correct me.' And that's not the case. The coaching point is like, hey, the player and the coach getting together to communicate something to make you better and he really, from the beginning, helped me set that tone with the players because I could say, 'hey, this isn't good enough, this is awesome,' and either way, I have their best interest at heart when I'm trying to communicate something. So he does that with his assignments and he's the guy that I can be hard on on his route depths and he's the guy I can be hard on blocking. And every single time he puts it on tape that he not only heard the coaching point, but it was important enough to fix it immediately, which is an example that is huge for all players, young and veterans alike."
(Housekeeping question. We've seen in the past couple days we've seen guys like RB Sony Michel, S Sheldrick Redwine, S Clayton Fejedelem, even P Thomas Morstead out for undisclosed injuries. Do you have an update on any of those guys and whether there's a long-term concern with any of them?) – "We're fortunate enough right now that every bump and bruise and slight issue is not long-term. That is something that doesn't always happen, but right now we feel very fortuitous in that regard and I couldn't be happier with the training staff and really the commitment by every player right now that does have a ding, that they are working through it with the utmost urgency and I'm not concerned about really anybody long-term right now which is (knocks on wood), something we hope to continue moving forward."
(I got a kick out of listening to WR Tyreek Hill and QB Tua Tagovailoa both talk about how when they came to this organization, the first time they saw Dan Marino, they kind of stopped in their tracks. I think Tua even said he couldn't believe it, that Dan Marino knew his name, which is just funny. I'm just kind of curious for you, kind of post-ball boy career, have you had that moment? And with whom and did you try…) – "Yeah, Dan Marino. (laughter) The same thing happened to me. It's something I've witnessed from afar, so I was kind of prepared, but you're never prepared for it. But as a head coach, people randomly come across your path a little bit more, which is an extremely humbling experience and emotionally very confusing because like, Dan Marino, I was born in '83, so I grew up and I really liked him, really respected his game. His sack record blows my mind, but he was also passing for 5,000 when that would be like today's 6,000. But him in particular, I was a Broncos fan so my whole childhood I was saying (John) Elway was better than Dan Marino. Now magically, I've reversed course. (laughter) But it's part of the territory and you just do your best to try to live up to their expectations and not fumble words out of your mouth and be coherent."
(With RB Chase Edmonds it seems like every practice he gets a little bit better and we get a chance to talk to him and it's really apparent that his cerebral approach to the game is pretty strong. I was curious just to get your take on how he's kind of come in here and your thoughts about how he approaches the game?) – "That's a good one. I think the team realizes it because the way that we go through film together, but this is – the scheme that we run is a little different than he was used to which we knew going into because we were evaluating him and we kind of projected it. What's been really, really awesome to see is his feel for the game. His cerebral approach is real. Sometimes guys – that cerebral approach means they just know all the assignments, which uniquely he does. He knows every receiver assignment and he's understanding of the blocking schemes and all that. But more so, he has a combination of feel to apply abstract coaching points. We want him to press the line of scrimmage and he's working on that daily. He's diligent with his tracks. He's really getting a feel for the protection, so it's been cool to watch him really to digest and start to get – you can see it on the field – his productivity is obvious. He's doing a great job and really, really getting a feel and coming into his own for the position."