Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.
(With the players coming back and the coaches coming back, can you describe the energy you feel in the building today and this week going into the first day of practice?) – "There's always energy in the National Football League collectively. Your lifestyle adjusts so much in the break, so there's always energy. This group in particular, I was very excited about how they came back in terms of the mission-oriented, day-to-day operation and getting better, but a thirst and a competitiveness. They're fully understanding how much they owe their teammates, the organization, the fans and they're owning it. I can feel the energy. It should be good today."
(With CB Byron Jones on PUP and DB Elijah Campbell, we know they won't be out here. A – do you expect Byron to be ready for the start of the regular season? B – anyone you think will be fairly limited for the first few days of camp, whether it's T Terron Armstead or WR Cedrick Wilson Jr. or anybody else?) – "Similar to Raheem Mostert, Byron (Jones) is kind of approaching it the same way where he's fully expecting to get himself ready for Week 1. We have to be very cognizant of competitors and making sure that they don't do harm to themselves and the team by rushing anything. I've been very happy since I've been here and in this organization with a lot of things. One of those things being our training staff and how diligent they are, how they personalize things and they try to get players ready at the pace that's best for themselves, which is the best thing for the Dolphins. So, we shall wait and see."
(Anyone limited, like T Terron Armstead?) – "As it relates to veterans, I think it's very important that you just don't make an abstract, 'OK, we're just going to limit this guy,' or whatever. There's a handful of guys that will be practicing for a portion of practice. The two you just named (Byron Jones and Elijah Campbell) are the only two who are not practicing. But the veterans that we have different reasons for monitoring will be involved in practice in different portions of the practice that best suits what they need to work on and what they need to protect themselves from. We're fortunate to have – there was a lot of hard work that went into that, and we're going to have all of our guys out there. We will adjust every player's rep count on a case-by-case basis, day-in and day-out."
(What do you envision your version of a training camp to look like, day-in and day-out, the way things operate?) – 'Sorry, I didn't quite digest and now I've digested. (laughter) I think it's something that there's a common denominator. I've talked to the team about it. There's a common denominator with teams that I've been on that have been very successful. It's not that things don't get hard. It's not that there's not adversity. It's not that everything goes well. It's a diligent approach to each and every day and teammates recognizing, invariably, Day 1 – juiced, Day 2 – juiced. They're evolving. What organically evolves within the team is that peer – I don't want to say pressure but more like accountability – where there are going to be some guys that don't have the juice on next Tuesday. The vision that I have for the Dolphins and the team that we're building through the summer and into the preseason is that teammates take responsibility for the energy. When somebody is down, the standard and the demand to bring them up is very present. So, that – it's a long process, but the good teams embrace that. It's pretty masochistic, but it's fun. It's what we do, and it wouldn't be worth as much as it is if it wasn't very difficult."
(Can you give us an example of that? Like what you've experienced in the past?) – "An example would be I remember our second year in Atlanta, we had high expectations. We started the season 5-0 and ended 8-8. We actually signed Mohamed Sanu (Sr.) in the offseason and we were fired up for the season. We had a great OTAs and then we went into training camp, and I think it was preseason (Game) 3, back when there were four games, and we had, collectively as a team, a disastrous game. We were down. It refocused us to the point that we utilized that adversity, a staple of every successful team and players, you utilize that adversity to your benefit, because you know it's coming. I'm not sure if we were 4-0, but we started out pretty good after that. But if you just would have sat there and been like, 'Well, all this hard work and we have this?' As a matter of fact, it was here in Miami. 'We have this garbage game that we played and just kind of got embarrassed. What's all that work for?' That's where people are faced with a decision. Do they say, 'F this. This is too hard. I'm not getting the immediate results?' Or do they bow up? That's what really every practice, within every period, that's what I'm looking for, is not if adversity happens but when it does, how do people respond."
(What's your philosophy when it comes to the intensity of training camp and practice length. Are you a guy that wants them out there hitting non-stop?) – "Well, I'm not sure if you guys know this, but reps help in life. The problem is that you can't – you have to be – your job is to maximize the athlete at his craft. So my personal philosophy, the one that we're imploring here, is that we have full speed, effort and intensity on all the plays in practice. To do that, we don't do as many reps as maybe – practice wont be as long as maybe you've been around previously. But it's all because it's built towards there's no such thing as just going through the motions. When we practice, we want to practice with an intent and a purpose and a speed and a veracity that separates ourselves from the rest of the league. That is hard to do. There's a lot of people working (and) there's a lot of talent. So the one thing that this team, we built a standard in OTAs, and my expectation in training camp is that this team, their standard is to practice hard and they're trusting me that I don't overload them. I need to challenge them. They don't need to be comfortable, but I'm not in the business of making players worse. So, it's that fine line that you try to decide, and you adjust as you go, doing your best to do the best for them."
(To go along with adversity, before you were talking about – can you talk about how open you are to share stories about your journey and personal adversity through the coaching ranks with players, especially at this time of year when they may not make the team or they're fighting for a job?) – "As a head coach, I don't think you have nearly the access to individuals. It's funny, you get in the business because of your passion for football and your love for helping individuals. But then you're kind of spread thin in terms of personal time with each individual, so I think it's important, for connection purposes, for me to share things so they can get to know me and we can have that experience. There's some vulnerability in that, that I think players respect. But for them to do what they do and for them to lay it on the line the way they do – you guys are great people, but guess what, if a guy plays bad, you're going to say some disparaging things. They have to wear that, that pressure. All of that is so much, and I hold it in such high regard that it's just a little thing, that's what – rabbit pellets? – just telling my story. But I think that's something they deserve and I have no problem doing."
(What's the message for QB Tua Tagovailoa in regards to how you want him to specifically approach camp practices?) – "I think it's deliberate intent on each play. The quarterback's job is exhausting, in terms of you have to know a lot of things. He recognized that in OTAs and put in more time this offseason than I think he has with football in that regard. So what I really want to see from him is that Tua (Tagovailoa) is super hard on himself, which is a good thing, but anything in excess isn't the best thing either. He's very – he holds himself at a high standard, so I don't want that to impede when things don't go the way he wants. I don't want that to impede the next play. So I'm looking – I said it about the whole team, but specifically with the quarterback, he has such a natural football presence on the football field that who cares if there's one read this way or that way. Again, like every quarterback, it's not if but when. So those short-term memories, that's what I think you can really work on in the training camp right now and moving forward as the leader of our team."
(What kind of opportunity is this for CB Noah Igbinoghene with CB Byron Jones and DB Elijah Campbell out?) – "Oh, it's a tremendous opportunity. That's what the team needs to be the team that we all want it to be, which is that people recognize each and every rep as an opportunity, and you utilize it to your best advantage. More reps against Tyreek Hill hasn't hurt anybody unless they have confidence issues. (laughter) Those types of things – you're on an island as a corner. You have to have a short memory, and it is – you're not facing the direction that the offense is trying to go. You're trying to guard an elite athlete. It is difficult, but this opportunity is only going to help him moving forward, so I'm excited for that."
(Who did you consult with when you were designing your training camp plan? Did you consult with other coaches who have done it before? Maybe some of your mentors or was it mostly Kyle Shanahan?) – "That's one of those fortunate things about my process and my journey is that I was afforded the opportunity to be in-step with Kyle Shanahan in so many different spots, and we were bouncing around all over the place so this is my, I think, sixth time doing this process. So I was pretty familiar with the process, but I was also pretty convicted in how to approach it from the starting point where the foundation to build that doesn't constrain you and allows you to grow in whatever way that your team is able to and whatever things that we're able to do against the defenses that we play against. Having the versatility to become whatever is best to threaten defenses. That's what's important to me – a foundation. At practice, you'll see the foundational stuff that we're working on and that's important and you will see that during the season, but there will also be a lot of other stuff that if we do it the right way, we can grow into and evolve to our skillsets."
(Has anything surprised you about being the guy steering the ship, running the show? Anything surprised you?) – "I think I've said it before, but no one ever really gave it – either I was a bad listener or they didn't give it due justice – how all of a sudden you're in this position that you've worked your whole life for and a lot of times against all odds to a degree; and then you get there and it's like, 'all right, now it's time to depend on everyone else.' That's something that I think no head coach is able to have success without an immense amount, an immense amount, of people that you're depending on that it's really just a gigantic trust fall in that regard. So I think how many people I depend on and how many people it takes to do the job of winning football games; I don't think I could do it justice with how meaningful and interesting and – I don't know, there's some humility in that, too, where you're just a part of the people all together trying to do one thing."
(How and when do you decide on captains and how do you use them as a vehicle to connect with the team?) – "It's interesting. I've been waiting for somebody to ask me about a captain. I don't decide the captains. I think the point of a captain is to be a leader on the field for the other players. I appreciate democracy in general and I think that the players are the best ones to tell you who they want representing them, and we'll do that after we decide the 53 (man roster)."
(How do use them as a vehicle to connect with the team?) – "Well, I try not to 'use' anybody. (laughter) I think especially on a team when there's so many young hungry committed players that who they decide – like I'm not really that worried about who they decide, who they vote to be the captain. But I'll know this – that to get votes on this team, you have to be extremely hard-working. You have to set a standard and demand a standard around you. And in that way, I think that captains are vessels. They're examples. When you're dealing with a captain, you can set the tone with how things you want to operate. As a coach, we end up saying a lot of negative things – that can be perceived negative. So a lot of times people don't want to hear – they want to hear 'I did awesome.' So captains specifically are great to utilize where no, our job is to coach. Quite literally we'd be doing you an injustice if we didn't bring up negativity. Embrace the coaching because generally coaches don't waste time coaching players that they don't believe in. So it's a privilege and by that way and whoever our team votes, I'll be very, very confident that I can lean on them in that way. Otherwise they wouldn't have been voted by (their teammates). There's a lot of possibilities. There's a lot of guys. I could see it going different ways, so I know the cream will rise to the top in that regard."
(If T Terron Armstead is going to be out for a certain amount of time, how do you see your left tackle and right tackle positions kind of working out in training camp?) – "Like I said, he's practicing today. And when he's not doing a period or two because of our scientific approach to making sure that he's at his best Week 1, it's just more opportunities for our plethora of athletic young linemen across the board. And I wouldn't really even say it's just who's the left tackle. Whoever is playing left tackle, that means they're not playing another position – maybe right tackle, maybe right guard. So it opens – that's an opportunity for everyone to take advantage of when he's not holding it down on the left side."
(With the addition of WR Mohamed Sanu Sr., I guess why now? What is he bringing to the offense and does he maybe face less of a learning curve just given that he's kind of been with you at two other stops?) – "I think its not about what necessarily we needed as much as it was about an opportunity to add a veteran that I know from this being my third stop. I think it is one of, it's like almost a coaching sin to get ahead of yourself and think, at least in my opinion, I think you owe it to players and the team to compete. So what does that manifest moving forward? I can't really say in that regard. What I do know is that we have a very, very young team. I'm not sure if you can stamp this, but I believe I, at one point in the offseason, I read that we were about 60 percent Year 3 or less. So a guy that knows how to do it, that can set the tone, who's a physical player, who has passion for the game, I think that just adds value to the team regardless of the position."
(It seems like QB Tua Tagovailoa has his own personal hype man in WR Tyreek Hill. This past week he said he is the most accurate quarterback in the NFL. I'm not going to ask your thoughts on that. I'm just going to ask your broadly your thoughts on Tyreek being so out there, outspoken, about Tua's ability?) – "Yeah, I think as a coach, you really appreciate when people believe in each other, and you guys will get to know Tyreek more and more as we progress. But one thing that I didn't know before having the opportunity to work with him is you're looking at probably if not the No. 1, he's right up there as one of the most competitive players I've ever been around in my life. And part of how Tyreek has become who he is, is because he is brash, extremely convicted and competitive and that's his driving force. And if Tyreek is saying it, it's because he believes it. So all that led me – I do have some wherewithal. I understand that that's an aggressive statement, but I can promise you that Tyreek didn't get to where he is by thinking that he was an average receiver. It's because that's how he thinks and they're developing a great, great relationship and rapport. So we all know – I know what you guys know – is that Tyreek believes in his quarterback, and that's a good thing, and they moving forward will continue to work together to make that relationship as good as it could possibly be."
(In your experience installing wide-zone blocking scheme, how long do you expect for it to take for the o-line in particular to grasp, fully grasp?) – "It's not as much 'grasping.' It's applying techniques and points of emphasis on every play. So you get flashes of it. Generally our expectation is that we can communicate it in a way where they can understand the vision, how it's different and the point of emphasis. Now doing that and applying that to all sorts of different structures and players, that's another thing. So you can have three or four good reps, but to run the ball effectively, you can't have a weak link and if you have a false step against a good defense like we go against every day, they make you pay if you're off a hair. So it's more ingraining, logging all those deliberate reps so that you become really as consistent as possible because that's the way you, in this league with all the athletic talent and lack of space, the way you run the ball well is that everyone is tied together including the running back and the quarterback to the run game and that people are more consistent than the people defending them."