Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference ahead of the first team practice on July 26, 2023.
(The four guys starting on Active/PUP, if you wouldn't mind anything that you can share on those four? With the particular question about whether you expect all four CB Nik Needham, T Terron Armstead, T Isaiah Wynn, TE Tanner Conner to be back by the regular season.) – "Hmm. Well, so fool me once. I tried predicting the future last year and failed miserably, if you guys recall. Having said that, I think if I would order where the guys are at, I'm expecting sooner with Armstead and Wynn, then Nik, then Tanner. As far as when that is, like I said, I've kind of learned my lesson on that. But we feel pretty good about each and every one of them in terms of where they're at, where they need to be and where they're going. We'll keep you posted."
(It was reported that T Terron Armstead had a knee scope. Is that accurate?) – "He had some cleanup work done. I'm not sure the technical term. But yeah, that was part of his offseason."
(Did T Isaiah Wynn hurt himself off the football field, or was it like a spring thing?) – "This is something that – it's athletic football that he was playing. So he was training. It was light. But it was football activity, training to get ready and he's diligently working himself there."
(How does that impact what you want to see from your offensive line? I know T Isaiah Wynn was going to be in that mix in terms of competing for a starting spot, maybe filling in for T Terron Armstead.) – "I think in our particular situation, we have some competition that I'd be a fool to try to crown X, Y or Z. So, on one hand, the time that you miss is unfortunate to not seeing certain players. But wow is it an opportunity to grasp and gain some momentum for some other guys. So as long as the timeline isn't too drastic, as you know, we'll let time tell. As long as it's not too drastic, there can be some benefit in that in terms of you can get a little more clarity or make sure that everyone gets their full due in that important competition."
(The OL Connor Williams situation, how nice is it that he's here to start training camp and in your conversation with him, what kind of feel did you get from where he's at right now?) – "As a head coach, I think one of the things that I try to value the most to do my job up to my own expectation is being connected and having empathy for every player we have. So, whatever a player is going through and however they conduct themselves, I try to first see their issues and their plight. The business of football is tough. So, the biggest thing for me and Connor is being able to communicate the "why's". The whole time, I have lost zero relationship with him really at all. I feel very good about us working through that, really pumped to have him, think that he can put together a good year for himself, and I know he's pumped to be back. So these are things that come up, will continue to come up as long as people keep paying tickets to watch football players, and it's something that we work through. But the biggest thing to me is that you have to have a relationship with each and every one of your players because the business is real. Too often business can affect relationships. (General Manager) Chris Grier is the bad guy. I'm the good guy. (laughter)"
(How much more comfortable are you here because it's year two, you've established your culture, your coaching style, as you head into day one of camp?) – "Comfortable? I think there's some confidence that comes with knowing exactly what to expect. As I've talked about before, I did not take this job lightly and my work up until coming here, I tried to do my best to know what the job was. That being said, you don't know what the feelings that are going to be produced when you're doing it. So for this year, I think that each and every year of my career that I can remember, my sole focus has always been to be better than the previous year. That's a lot easier when you know exactly what you're getting better at. So that's exciting. But the level of – it's not anything like oh, yeah, I got anything ever. I think it's so important for me to never get comfortable or complacent because the second I do that, how am I not going to expect everybody else, player, coach alike, to do the same. It is cool knowing what to expect, but the energy and the focus, I wouldn't say I'm more comfortable. But it's exciting that you guys have me back. (laughter)"
(What's one thing you think you're better at in year two?) – "Smiling. (laughter) I have to smile a lot. In year two – I think one thing that just going into last year, I would have told you that my core principles and just my foundation of what I believe in, you could never get me to waver. I think I learned in real time how important that is simply by the rollercoaster of the NFL season and how you can't deviate that. I kind of got empowered to some things, I think, that I thought before, which is really, players respond to genuine, consistent, authentic intent and that was a really cool part of last year. You find out that although losing five games in a row is pretty miserable, there's nowhere to hide in that process. I think this year's team, the players that were a part of that, I think we're closer because of it. You have to go through things to have the type of bond that is necessary to do great things in the National Football League with the parity and just with all the pressure on everyone. So my favorite part, really, of last year was going through that with them because there's a lot of scars that people have from their past. It's a heck of a responsibility that I take super serious and you gain belief in each other when you see what it looks like when everything's not going your way."
(The term "opportunity cost" has been one of the most common ones you've used around us in these press conferences. I was curious when and why that started to become important to you and is there any kind of message you impart on the team to start a season?) – "Yeah, hmm opportunity cost. It's one of my favorites. I think that really started to generate, you know, the obsessiveness that I had with it, probably when I became sober. Only because, in that, you kind of realize when you're doing one thing, when you're not addressing an emotion, for me, in my experience, whereas using alcohol and not addressing stuff, that opportunity cost of doing that instead of addressing it manifests itself throughout your life. That example, and then you start thinking about introspectively, hey, every time that I'm worried about something that I can't control, I just made myself worse at whatever I care about being. So, if I'm worrying about the fact that I'm not ascending in the coaching profession in the speed with whatever made up thing that I made up in my head, me worrying about that just made the whole process even worse. The time that I was really going through all that, it, I didn't have anywhere to turn but my work. Then all of a sudden, I realized, hey, I'm doing better work and I let go of stuff that I can't control. In that time, that opportunity I used to worry about what I can control. All of a sudden, my product as a human being, as a husband, as a coach, was a completely better product. I think those lessons really, in the time of my life, sealed the deal for me in terms of that. So I say it a lot because everything is an opportunity cost. If I'm doing one thing, I'm not doing another."
(A lot of the offensive players have talked about how the continuity of the scheme will make it easier to pick up in year two. At the quarterback position, what are maybe some nuances into the execution and what you're excited to see with QB Tua Tagovailoa?) – "At the starting point, I would equate it to language. When you're learning a foreign language, you have to translate in your head. Then at some point in time, if you're fluent enough, you can think in terms of that language. Last year Tua was – we put a lot on the quarterbacks in terms of how to communicate and being in charge of everything. He was literally speaking a foreign language and doing it at a pretty high level. This year, he owns the language. What that manifests? Everything. Ask a player what conviction does in a play call within a huddle. These little nuances are a big deal. All of a sudden, your conviction, the quarterback, you're saying the same play, but with authority and ownership. Guys believe in it that much more. All of a sudden, your pre-snap penalties are less as well because you're getting to the line of scrimmage faster. That, in combination with other people doing their part, including myself, gives the potential to have a really cool product. There are so many things we ask Tua to do that was a first for him last year. To his credit, he was able to do a lot of really cool things. Ownership of it and knowing with conviction and confidence exactly why you're doing something so you can self-correct gives you a chance to take your game to another level. He's had a tremendous offseason."
(I wanted to ask you about WR Tyreek Hill. He had that incident a while back. You had a conversation with him, I'm sure. Were you comfortable with that conversation and do you have any concerns he'll have to miss time?) – "Yeah, I communicated with him, communicated with the league. In situations like that, everybody's disappointed in what we're talking about. I think it's important when you're in charge of making decisions to reserve as much judgment as possible until all the information is collected. The league's still looking into it and we're in communication with the league as we've been from the beginning. Outside of that, I'm looking forward to practice and to be continued as information comes our way."
(QB Tua Tagovailoa, T Terron Armstead and DT Christian Wilkins were named to the NFL Top 100 yesterday. Regarding Tua specifically, after the career he's had, the ups and downs, and kind of the whole moment last year with the sideline report talking about 'Do I suck?', that whole thing, the confidence that comes and goes. I'm curious how you feel about his peers rating him that highly in the NFL ranks?) – "Those things are really cool. I think that's awesome. When I talk, Top 100 stuff does come up naturally every year. It means a lot and it means nothing. Respect amongst your peers is a big deal. What does that mean? Is it right and what does it mean for you moving forward? Not that much. But you want to talk about something that you know without a shadow of a doubt, is earned respect. That's what that one tells me, because I looked really hard and I didn't see his name the year before. I think that is something, knowing Tua, he may not even know that it happened, nor would he care, because he's forward focused. But I think deep down, I mean shoot, when you're begging, you're begging for a little positive reinforcement, and you're considering if you suck, I do think that I can officially say if you're on that list, you don't suck."
(You talk about trying to get better every year, specifically to training camp, when you evaluate how training camp went last year, how much self-scouting did you do on that, and what are some specific changes you wanted to make coming into this camp?) – "It's important to always evaluate everything you do. I would actually be self-conscious if I was like no something is good and I'm not going to visit that. In terms of schematically, you're always diving deep into what's best for your players. Any time your players change at all, your scheme should change. It's organic. What's very unique about last year to this year is last year you're putting forth, specifically for offense, a scheme not totally knowing what your players do best. You are projecting what they do best but you're having them learn it and kind of seeing where your offense goes. This offseason you can kind of structure it more, tailor it toward your players, evolve the scheme towards the players, because you know things that they are comfortable with, things they have room to grow in, things that they can make plays and be the best player that they're trying to be. That alone has been so powerful, and even just defensively, we have a new scheme, but knowing players strengths and weaknesses, being able to talk through with Vic (Fangio) and know who you can lean on. All that stuff changes, for me, the most because you know the people, and that's a very cool thing in year two."
(A lot of people are excited for camp this year, specifically seeing WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jaylen Waddle go against CB Jalen Ramsey and CB Xavien Howard. What is your interest in seeing those two receivers and two defensive backs square off against each other in one-on-ones or team?) – "Have you seen their collective paychecks? My interest is high. (laughter) Since most of us aren't elite athletes that excel in a professional sports league, it's hard to kind of relate. But being a good player and getting paid a lot of money has its burdens too. What I'm pumped about is those four guys specifically are competitors that want to win in the worst way and want to be the best version of themselves. So what the gives you a chance to do is dictate the competitiveness of your entire team, but it's also a burden because if you don't come to play one day, it affects a lot of people. Those guys specifically know that their actions can influence a lot of the team and where we're going, even if it has nothing to do with their stats or production. Having those types of guys is invaluable in terms of talented players that want to be great that are willing to work, and I would categorize all four of those guys as that."