Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Friday, December 23, 2022.
(So will OL Liam Eichenberg be activated for Sunday?) – "There's some moving parts in that. I think if he is to be, that affects our roster. So you learn about yourself over the course of an NFL season. I've learned to expect the unexpected, so that's what I'm expecting. We're still talking about it."
(And then the calf injuries for WR River Cracraft and T Eric Fisher – would those injuries put them in jeopardy of IR, missing the rest of the season?) – "No, it was an ambitious game of calf raise max outs. (laughter) Just kidding. No, they're both not – they are not extremely serious, but it has put their ability to play in this particular game in question."
(WR Jaylen Waddle, how has he been able to avoid the sophomore slump this year with WR Tyreek Hill breaking single-season records?) – "I think first and foremost, Jaylen Waddle is taking responsibility in that. It is a thing. The reason why that's a saying is because that does happen. I think it also has to do with his position coach who passionately stays after him in Wes Welker. I think it has a lot to do with Tyreek (Hill) in general, that greatness raises the standard of everyone. But again, first and foremost, one of my favorite players that I've been around and coached, and it's like a salt of the earth throwback super athlete, is the way I look at Jaylen. So to his credit, he has not been satisfied with really anything that has come his way thus far in his young career. In the offseason, as I said before, he had the biggest jump from the time away from OTAs to training camp. He really came through and stepped his game up. And then what's been the best part of the entire process is how he's developed within the season. He's learning from things, he's being accountable. He is leading by example in a different way where he's the young guy but he's showing the responsibility that needs to be taken when the team counts on you to produce each and every week. So I'm really, really fortunate to coach him."
(Got a game plan question for you and obviously not asking directly about strategy, but Green Bay's run defense is I believe 29th in the league. When you see that, do you think there's an opportunity or does it have to match up with something that you guys do well, kind of going to your strength?) – "Yeah, I think sometimes the numbers can be misleading. I think they've had a couple of games that have inflated that. I think they're also extremely, extremely good at pass defense. So they sometimes are vulnerable when they're choosing to do that. I think they play hard and they present a lot of problems and I do think they will take advantage of you if you are not prepared for how they play. To me, they're a classic example of a team overall that has a lot of experience in big games. They're in an unusual situation. I mean, shoot, I think Matt LaFleur had the greatest win percentage in the history of the National Football League going into the season. So having more losses than wins is very, very foreign to them and they're used to playing playoff football and they have their backs against the wall but are also riding a win streak. So if you take that lightly at all, you will be wishing what you don't want into existence. So I expect them to be the best version of themselves. Their rankings are an accumulation of an entire season, but right now they are coming into their very best football as the results have most recently presented themselves. So a good challenge for us to have to really compete against."
(You mentioned Matt LaFleur. Obviously you guys are friends. What do you think he is best at?) – "Styling his hair. It's really good. Brushing his teeth, too. He's got very, very white teeth. (laughter) I think he's best at, he has humility that really allows him to I think never really get complacent. Like a lot of people, he's been through his fair share of things, but I think his honest intent and really ignoring the noise and staying true to himself is really, really underrated in terms of the perception of him. I think he's handled everything about his job with class, whether that's winning a lot or having any sort of turmoil. He's one of the reasons they've been so successful. It is a different ballgame when you're the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. You're in a place where you are front and center, the main ticket, the big ticket, in that town and everything is combed and there's high expectations. I think he gracefully manages a lot of things in a way that I really appreciate and has definitely rubbed off on me in my short journey as a head coach, so he's a great person, a great football mind, hard worker and I think he'd probably be in the top three most attractive head coaches in the history National Football League. (laughter)"
(TE Hunter Long, we saw he played about a half dozen snaps last week. Where is he do you think in his career? What does he do well at this point?) – "He's in a cool place where he's starting to realize how his skillset can fit within this particular offense. I think he has done a good job with really going after it and I think he's also done a good job of recognizing there's another level to his game that he can really attack. I think it's about, so often with tight ends in particular, how they're being able to contribute to the team has so many variables involved, and there's a lot of roster decisions too that dictate whether or not he's able to be up. But when he is up, we definitely like utilizing his skill set, and are very, very happy to have him on the team."
(You had to be happy as I'm sure seeing how RB Raheem Mostert ran last week, how he came back from the injury last year. Did you, General Manager Chris Grier and the medical staff do much research in February about guys who've had that injury, especially at that position, the difficulties of coming back? I imagine that's something you weighed. And how satisfying has it been to see him make it all the way back?) – "I try to stay in my lane. But we had great conversations about hey, this is how I feel about this player. This is how I know him to be, and I know how many – he is different. He's unique. He has, I think the fastest recorded times since they've been tracking that stuff, or some of the fastest, and he was doing it after being like 28, 29 years old. He one of those guys that as far as my experience is concerned, there's been very few athletes that maintain and hold elite speed through their late 20s, early 30s. The first one that comes to mind is WR Joey Galloway. He's in that breadth of just rare human being, rare athletic skillset. I was all in and aware that my conviction and my belief in the human being might lead us astray at some point. So they did their due diligence and fortunately, it matched up with my hope and expectations. It was really cool for the team to get a taste of Raheem in that way where he recognized a game that the team could really benefit from him taking his game to the next level. He had the look in his eye that was very familiar, and it was awesome to see him exhibit for the 1,900th time, 'Hey, I can do this, even though some people think I can't.' He's cut of a different cloth. He's been counted out since he gotten in the league. And he'll continue to exceed other people's expectations because of his mindset, determination, and really, internal gifts."
(This team has been pretty streaky, winning three, losing three, winning five … at this rate, if this trend continues, we'll say like seven game winning streak that'll put you at the Super Bowl. Have you all thought about those things and just trying to stay streaky?) – "No, the irony is, if you're trying to go on a winning streak, the most important thing is to start a streak. I think guys have learned through experience and really we've been through some stuff this year, how you can't get ahead of yourself. I think our team is embracing that. I honestly believe that our team is not taking winning for granted, especially in the eyes of a three-game losing streak. I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of the entire locker room and the coaching staff when I say that it's a one game season. That cliché, you can figure out a different way to say it, but there's one team on our schedule. Nothing matters beyond that. I don't care about scenarios. I don't care. The point is, is that you have to win a game to get in the playoffs. I know that much. We have to win. But you don't want to get in the playoffs trying to pull yourself out of a slump. This game is the most important because it's next but it's also we need to strain to win a football game, and we need to be playing our best football in January, which has been the objective the whole time. So this game, whatever it leads to, if we win, we'll think about next week. But we're solely focused on the Green Bay Packers, their tremendous franchise and their Hall of Fame quarterback, etc."
(As a fellow father of a two-year old girl, I'm curious, your game plan to crushing Christmas?) – "I think Christmas has already been crushed for me in terms of it's really awesome when you have – my wife does such a good job with my daughter of building up 'Dada' time, and my daughter is such a good human spirit that just being around is unbelievable. It crushes in that way. And she just likes having me around. She definitely doesn't take it for granted because a lot of times, it's past her bedtime when we hang out. It's been during the season that going into it, she could speak one word. Now she's answering questions and stringing some stuff together and got a lot of demands. And I'll crush Christmas because I will adhere to any and every of those demands. She's got me around her finger. She knows it. I know it. And we're all happy about it because it's truly a blessing that I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be a father, let alone to a daughter like Ayla. I feel very proud."