Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, January 9, 2023.
(As far as QB Tua Tagovailoa goes, has he reached the point yet where he can do non-contact practice stuff, such as throwing? Has he been cleared for that level yet?) – "So he has not been cleared for that level yet. I'm hoping to – with all three active roster quarterbacks, they all have injury-related concerns. I'm hoping to have some clarity on Wednesday. But as of right now, it's literally the same, if not more vague, than when I just saw most of you guys last."
(Then one more thing on QB Tua Tagovailoa, even though obviously you don't have clarity on whether he's advanced in protocol. But is he even at the level where he can do aerobic exercises?) – "I don't know exactly what goes on. I do know there's – I've seen him post-whatever that time is called and he's sweating, so two and two together. I try to stay in my level of expertise, because again, the primary concern is that we lean on medical professionals for this, these medical opinions, and I don't want to influence by over asking or trying to micromanage what the process is. When he's ready to – when he's medically cleared to practice, he'll practice. Until then I'm not doing anything."
(You've been taking it one day at a time with him. How did today go?) – "Today was a high-five level. (laughter) He was (in) good spirits through the weekend, and there were no setbacks or concerns with regard to today. But he's feeling good, and we'll see what tomorrow brings."
(Talking about clarity on Wednesday, you mentioned all quarterbacks. So do they all fall under the category of clarity on Wednesday and what are the injuries? Obviously, we know QB Teddy Bridgewater's…) – "It's just because we're just getting – (we) had some bumps and bruises with Skylar (Thompson) as well. We saw him – I'm sure you caught him trying to pull out of a tackle. He was a little banged up from the game. And then seeing – I thought Teddy (Bridgewater) was good enough to get us out of the game, which was the whole goal, which was to his credit. He really worked, really, day and night endlessly, to be in a position where he could play for us if something happened to Skylar. So you kind of have to see the residuals of that and see where he's at before making sound judgment on Wednesday. So I really don't know. I'll be preparing for everybody that we have. I don't have any clarity. We're hoping to have better clarity on Wednesday."
(Last Monday, you told us you were going to do gameplans, you and Offensive Coordinator Frank Smith, for either QB Teddy Bridgewater or QB Skylar Thompson. Do you guys tomorrow prepare gameplans for those two and QB Tua Tagovailoa, all three?) – "I didn't even know you listened to me."
(I listen to you at least 98 percent of the time.) – "98 (percent)? At least 57 (percent). (laughter) Yeah, I think that's the – you're playing a divisional opponent who you're pretty familiar with who you just played a couple weeks ago. That gives you a little liberty to have some variance in your plan for each particular quarterback, and then when you get concrete clarity, you have one direction for your entire team to kind of go by and that's what you stick with."
(I'm sure you saw that Damar Hamlin was discharged from the hospital heading back to Buffalo. We're going to talk all week about the atmosphere going into Buffalo and a playoff situation, but that team obviously is playing for something so much bigger than football. Is that going to be kind of on your minds this week as you prepare going into that environment and what this aspect adds to it?) – "Well, the two prongs – so the environment in general is as exciting of a place to play that exists by itself. Just because speaking to a couple guys that this was a primetime game just a couple of weeks ago, and some guys that I have experience with in the playoffs in the NFC and how that environment in Buffalo supersedes what you see in the in the NFC. It was just a really cool place. You can tell the football fans love the game for the right reasons, are 100 percent loyal and let you know how much they dislike you, which I kind of like. I appreciate it coming from a fan's perspective. Now on top of that, I think that is something where it's uncharted, but I feel very, very confident that our whole team will be cheering for Damar (Hamlin) like he was a Miami Dolphin. That's a shared experience that you really, anytime – there's very few moments, really, realistically that you can say, 'Yeah, I remember where I was when,' and when you go through that and then you don't know the outcome, you feel like you just get so invested in the miraculous recovery and all the people that it takes for that to even occur. I think we're all going to feel very blessed to be a part of that celebration and as much as anyone could possibly feel like we're cheering for a Miami Dolphin, for sure."
(What can you tell us about RB Raheem Mostert?) – "He will not be engaging in any competitive games of thumb war because he broke his thumb. So what is that? That right now, it's a serious injury. It's hard to know if he'll be able to play this week. I never put anything past Raheem Mostert, I've learned that over time. But it was a significant break of his thumb and he'll be addressing that this week."
(Will he need surgery? And as a secondary thing, I can't help but ask you, how do you have so many guys in your backfield with hand injuries at the same time?) – "Well, you're either coaching it or you're allowing it to happen. (laughter) No, I think there's some extenuating circumstances in the game of football. Sometimes when it rains, it pours. I believe – you can't really hold me to it, but I believe he'll be getting surgery. But again, I know that – I believe his surgery was going to be today. But although they are both hand or thumb injuries, they are very different – Alec (Ingold) and Raheem (Mostert) – so they're not exactly comparable. If you want me to elaborate on that, I'm just going to be a bumbling buffoon, because there's a lot of scientific stuff that just went right over my head when I was debriefed."
(What's the outlook of your two tackles – T Terron Armstead who missed the last two games, and T Brandon Shell who went out the last game?) – "It's just YOLO. That's what we're doing these days. We got injuries. The one thing I will say is it's been really cool to see a team, you never want to see that for individuals you don't want to see. It's a real thing when guys get hurt. It's not like 'oops, I'm missing.' Like Armstead, every time he doesn't go, he went through a war to try to go. And so I don't make light on the situation at all. But it has been pretty awesome to see at this juncture in the season, how the team's mindset of next-man-up is about as real as I've ever been around. They are unflappable with regard to who is available, just fully knowing that we have a lot of guys that can make plays. And when certain people go down, other people have to step up. That type of philosophy has really risen to a true level belief, because we haven't really had any options. We've gone through several stretches of the season and our lineup has changed in an aggressive way week by week. I don't know those statuses. Both of those guys have exceeded expectations, actually this year, with regard to their timelines, so they will be more of that late week fun. I promise you guys, I would love to just give you concrete information. I would love it. But I don't know."
(If you'd love to, then both receivers – Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle – both had ankle injuries. Tyreek was able to go back into the game, but Jaylen, if the game were to go longer, would he have returned?) – "I think. I don't know. He'll be treating it every day. He's one of the toughest guys. I'd be very surprised if he wasn't able to get himself in a position to be able to play Sunday. I'd be very surprised. But he will be going into treatment and working through that as the week progresses, for sure."
(Most of your roster just hasn't played in a playoff game. What's the biggest difference between a regular season game and a postseason game?) – "I think the team gained a bunch of valuable experience with this end of the season stretch. A lot of the team hadn't been exposed to significant primetime games so they had not only a lot of exposure, but they had failed expectations, which is tough. And then the biggest thing is win or go home, that you feel in the playoffs. And that's definitely what they felt yesterday. They knew that was the case. So those were the biggest mountains that I was worried about. Outside of that, it's going to be important for those guys that haven't played in a playoff game, to remind them of the most obvious thing in the world, that is probably the thing that comes up the strong, especially with young teams and playoffs, is that it's a football game. So you prepare for it, to give your best effort, but you don't have to do things outside of yourself for the outcome that you want to exist. So you have to make sure that guys don't press, I would have been a lot more nervous had we not had a play-in game just last Sunday for at least a taste, because it is different."
(What's the key to getting the players to stick to knowing that it's just a football game, as opposed to trying to do too much?) – "It's a day-by-day process that starts with focusing on working on the gameplan as it relates to your position on Wednesday and nothing else. It's like handling things day-by-day with a whole team. You don't even worry about the game until Sunday. Every other day of prep is its own entity and that's what you're focused on because when you're not focused on that, everything's an opportunity cost. So if you start to think about what X, Y or Z is going to be like on Sunday, you are not present in the moment thinking about how to really maximize your ownership of your assignment, which you'll have to display on Sunday anyway. So it's just that day-by-day process, moment-by-moment, being present and deliberate in your preparation so that you can play fast on a regular football Sunday that happens to be win or go home."
(You mentioned the mindset of your team. Earlier, six weeks ago, this team was flying high. Things obviously change. Now it seems like outside this building, no one gives this team a chance in Buffalo. How do you think that impacts the players? And what do you say to them about the expectations where things have gone and how to kind of approach this game?) – "Yeah, I think you learn that it's cool when it's favorable. It's not as cool when it's not favorable. I think you learn that none of it matters. You have control over the narrative and it is generally retroactive. The narrative can be controlled by your actions on the field and you just worry about your actions on the field. I would again be more worried about, either way, had we not gone through the huge highs and lows. I think there is a positive in that, in that you really get to feel what it's like to possibly – I'm not saying anyone did, but like your guard is down when people are singing your praises. And it gets old when people are telling you how bad you are. Both things are very natural consequences of black and white results. It will always be that way. You'll be praised when you win, and people will be critical when you lose. Why? Because people care. And you know what's even more maddening when you're winning or losing games? It is when you really care about something and can't control it. So, henceforth, there's always going to be a reaction either way. And I think that the more people live through that, the better they can circumvent that and not make it any part of the equation, when there's a job to do, and they only have each other to rely on to do that job."
(Did you notice your team got back in the win column with the removal of the ping pong table from the locker room?) – "No. I really don't know what goes on in the locker room anymore. The locker room is (for) the players. I had my ear to the street, so to speak, a little more when I was trying to navigate from their locker room procedures from the past. They used to not have anything in there so I wanted it to be their space and I had to get my hands dirty a little bit. Now I'm out of the loop and have no idea. I think somebody mentioned something to me maybe the end of last week or maybe yesterday. I can't even remember. It was like, 'hey, the ping pong table is gone.' I was like, oh, really? Where's the ping pong table? That's what I want to know. Who stole the ping pong table? Was it a thievery?"