Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, January 4, 2023.
(Opening Statement) – "Good morning. I'd feel foolish if you guys had to ask me what's been going on all of our minds, really, for the immediate present and since Monday night, the tragedy that happened on Monday Night Football to Damar (Hamlin) and his teammates and his family and everything. It's hard for me to just see all that hurt, all that – I don't pretend to know exactly what it feels like because I wasn't there and that would be insulting. But I attempt to be empathetic and my heart just breaks for everyone involved. I think the wake of that is long and strong and ever-pervasive. My heart aches for, like I said, the whole Bills organization, specifically Damar's family and himself, but also everybody that chooses to play football and the things that that those emotions can elicit. I wish I could do something about it. Unfortunately, I can't. I do try to – I don't know, in moments like this, the only slight minute comfort that I do find is there is a there seems to be a pervasive theme when tragedy occurs; for whatever reason, you end up seeing glimmers of the best face of humanity. So I think there has been examples of that, of people really aiding and supporting each other, and that is a slight solace to an otherwise terrible event."
(The NFL talked about providing mental health resources to all 32 clubs. Can you give us some examples of just kind of the ways that you guys are supporting your players right now?) – "Well, you want to be careful to assume anything. With the team, the challenge today when I was seeing them for the first time since it occurred is to pretend that I know what's going on in their heads. We started out with a team meeting to address this specific thing and to set the standard that like, 'Hey, listen. There's no way that you should feel. How you feel is how you feel and it can affect people in totally different ways. But be there to support each other because you don't how your teammates are feeling. You may not know who's been affected, who's been directly affected, who's been a teammate of Damar (Hamlin).' You just don't know how people are quite affected, so you have to set the standard that there's no way right, wrong or indifferent how to feel. (We) had them get together and be able to just have a smaller circle open forum to talk about things and then gave them information through our training staff and really resources through our own team of people to talk to whose jobs are to be experts at talking to people about emotions and such. You just try to support. You just try to not fix but listen and adjust as people need and really encourage everyone to utilize it. Part of the reason you get into the sport is to be a part of a team. I know that's what the same thing is every former player ever has to say about the hardships of retiring and moving past the game. So really rely on that, on each other and embrace all feelings that aren't exactly yours either way, just because it's not one of those things that there is a right answer. It's not one of the things that there's a pamphlet on. I just think you have to – in times where human beings are vulnerable to being just that – human beings – it's important for people to collectively be human beings."
(This is something that the NFL obviously hasn't dealt with before and it happened on national TV near the end of the season with two of the best teams in the league. Logistically, who knows what's going to happen the next two weeks. How do you prepare beyond the four days that you have in front of you to what might happen with the schedule and what's going to come?) – "Shoot, I would short circuit if I was chasing ghosts. I think you address and adjust to whatever is in front of you. I can't speak on – really, a lot of that's conjecture. I think sometimes people make the mistake just because they have resource of a microphone to impose thoughts that are out of their paygrade so to speak. I think it's kind of irresponsible for me to talk about anything but really how we adjust with today. Forecasting for next week or all of those things doesn't help the people in the organization that I was employed to service."
(Were you watching the game when the incident occurred? I can't imagine how wrenching it must have been if you were.) – "No, I was asleep actually, but my wife woke me up. Do you guys remember – I think it was the World Cup a couple years ago where (Christian) Eriksen (collapsed)? That messed me up all day when that happened, because it was like 6 (o'clock) in the morning west coast or whatever. I was brought right back to that in different circumstances – you see non-zoomed-in copies and you kind of piece together what's going on and you're just immersed with unknown. It's hard for me – the families, that's where it gets me. It's tough because you know that – I don't want to speak for anyone, but most people, the competition to get to that stage, to get to an NFL team, to be able to perform, the competition is so, so immense that generally you're safe to say that it's someone's dream, because there's so much stuff goes on that you have to decide to push through. And it's a very conflicting, odd feeling when someone experiences that kind of event. In that very morning, they're waking up to do what they're dreaming of. Again, I can't necessarily speak exactly nor do I – I've just played against him. I don't know him in that way. But that's where my brain goes. You're so invested. What people don't understand that you see firsthand when you're in the game long enough and you see people retire, the game is their identity. And I don't think people truly understand what – you might be able to forecast it in your life, for sure, but when you have an identity for such a long time, you're talking about guys playing the game (since they were) five or six (years old), you've invested so much into that game and when the game brings forth something like that – I think that's one of the countless number of reasons that people really struggle with knowing how to feel, because the game gives us so much. Then when something that, whether it's a freak accident or not, it's just hard to kind of digest."
(I know it's tough to shift gears here. You guys signed QB Mike Glennon. What do you like about Mike? Does that make a statement about QB Teddy Bridgewater's availability?) – "Well, it was just his first name. I thought there was some good there, and he reminded me a lot of myself in his physical appearance. (laughter) I've gone up against him numerous times. He's a quarterback through and through. He's been through multiple systems (and) understands what it takes for him to be able to speak the language in a fast amount of time. I think he plays the position aggressively with toughness that I really respect, so felt fortunate to get him. I can't really forecast Teddy's (Bridgewater) availability, so as a result, (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and I thought that this was the best course. What I do know is Teddy is – nothing is more important to him right now than making himself available for the team. Right now, he will be doing some ball-handling things, but he can't throw a football yet. So it's tough to know anything until he can throw football. I know he's going to do everything in his power. And if I was a betting man, I wouldn't bet because that's against my contract. (laughter)"
(When QB Teddy Bridgewater was in concussion protocol, even though he was cleared late in the week, you sat him because he wasn't able to participate in practice. Is this a similar situation where he needs to be able to throw or physically partake in practice before you're comfortable playing him in any capacity?) – "I've been pretty consistent with my thoughts on that, specifically to the quarterback position. But I don't think Coach (Robert) Saleh reads or listens to all my press conferences. I think his availability is a primary concern because he just wants to be available. Even if he didn't start the game, history has shown this year that we haven't had a game yet that wasn't started by Tua (Tagovailoa) that was finished by the same quarterback. I don't think he's really concerned with that. I think he's just trying to control what he can control and get to a point where he can feel confident throwing the football while doing all the work that it takes to digest and master the gameplan."
(Has QB Tua Tagovailoa advanced to the part of the concussion protocol where he can be on the field at all?) – "Today, he will not be on the field. And as we know, today's the only day that I know. So, forecasting anything outside of that would be irresponsible to what has been communicated to me by medical professionals."
(CB Xavien Howard, T Terron Armstead and LB Bradley Chubb, those three – I know that Terron hasn't practiced on Wednesdays anyway. Are those three ready to practice? Are they still in the same spot they were Saturday, Sunday morning?) – "I wouldn't say the same exact spot. I think they've progressed. Regardless of how much they progressed, my plan wasn't to have them practice today anyway just for confidence reasons and just for bottom line health. When you're banged up as a veteran fighting through injuries, it's not smart on a Wednesday. So I don't think that really necessarily gives any indication of what they'll be on Sunday. As we know, we have some guys that really do everything they can to be on that football field, so we'll see how that progresses. Each day is vitally important for sure."
(Knowing that your postseason hopes also is dependent on another game, during your game will you want to be privy to the outcome of the other game?) – "Absolutely not. Any focus on something that you can't control I don't think helps render the desired result, on top of the fact that – yes, we all know there's an outcome that as Miami Dolphins, as members of Miami Dolphins organization, as fans, as maybe media members, we know the result of another game that we'd like. But at the same time, my first and foremost priority is trying to get this team through some tough times and feel a win again. Most of our players are doing stuff with each other on a player day off, but let's just be conservative and say you work six days a week for five weeks in a row, guys deserve to feel a win, the organization, the fan base. So that's my primary concern. And hopefully things work our way outside of that, but I'm not really concerned about it at all."
(QB Skylar Thompson, what have you seen regarding these two areas – mobility/athleticism and poise?) – "For a rookie quarterback, I've seen very strong examples of both. I think Skylar does his best, like most quarterbacks, especially young in your career and in Year 1 of the system, he does best when he has practice reps. I think we saw a taste of that against Minnesota until he got injured. He's starting to really get a feel. And I think he has an athletic component to his game that sneaks up on people because he does most of his work in the pocket. That's typically what people term it – sneaky athletic. The bottom line is you have to be fairly athletic to be able to stand on a football field regardless in the National Football League. But he does have a knack of how to use his athleticism to extend a play and the dude is fearless. When he feels out of sorts or out of rhythm within a play, it's because of his process that he's able to correct. But there's not a mechanism that he gets panicky or whatever. He likes to play confident with deliberate nature and when he isn't, that annoys him but it generally renders good results."
(When you drafted QB Skylar Thompson, obviously you were on board with him. But how involved were you in a seventh-round? How involved were you in saying 'okay, I like this guy?') – "Well, I think part of the way that Chris (Grier) and I do things is you take the responsibility of everything as though it's all on you, and it's not. It's a shared responsibility of people working together for a common goal. But I look at every everything that we do as though it's my sole decision because I can at least influence anybody in the organization with an intent and knowledge. So it was trust in Chris and his staff, and trust in who I hired in 'Bev' (Darrell Bevell). The reasons they really liked him were the things that resonated with me that I really look for in quarterback play. We felt fortunate to be able to snag him in the seventh like we did and have been happy with the results."
(Did you talk to him or is it because of where he is…) – "So, you end up talking to guys from this seat if you find an issue with all the information. You basically feel like you know each player's social security number because you are debriefed by multiple voices at length about each and every thing. So when there's something that maybe there's something an inconsistency with something that you see or feel in a description, generally you follow up with those players. Then you have all the guys at the Combine you end up having formal interviews with. There's certain times you feel like you need to and there's certain times you don't. There are certain times that through all the work of the scouts and the coaches that you feel like you know the person. I felt like I knew Skylar piecing together all the little dots. But it's different with every prospect and you just try to do your best to navigate a boatload of information."
(Assuming QB Skylar Thompson is the guy, what is your level of confidence that he can get the job done on Sunday? And why do you have that confidence?) – "If he is the guy, I'm very confident because I base my opinions on what I see. And what I see is a guy that can play NFL-caliber football whose teammates believe in him. And a formula for successful offensive play is a quarterback that's willing to do whatever it takes and a bunch of teammates that fully believe in what he has to offer. And so I see both. This is a team game. It has a lot to do with Skylar, but it also has to do with his collective teammates on the offensive side of the ball as well as the defense side of the ball and special teams. His job is to play a part and I know his part, if directed in the right way and it's his best effort, is plenty good enough to get done what needs to get done."