Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference ahead of Day 5 of Training Camp on July 31, 2023.
(Opening Statement) – "I'd like to first talk about Zach Thomas. It's so cool to see guys get inducted into the Hall of Fame for me because it's impossible for me not to view it and think about the lifetime achievement that is and what goes into that. Specifically having Zach in the building, able to talk to the team. I feel honored to be a part of an organization that has a player like that. You could tell the players on the field knew what they were looking at and what that is to actually accomplish something like that. Since you guys brought it up, the Hall of Fame, I'd also like to double-down and one of the most influential coaches in my career but probably – there has to be, it's in the teens or low teens, of offenses right now that are heavily influenced directly by Mike Shanahan. Man, it blows my mind that he's out. I know the process and I really hope this next coming year is his year because you can't really look at offensive football currently right now without looking at him as the father and/or grandfather of that offense."
(How many teams would you say are influenced by Mike Shanahan's offense?) – "If you want to go directly from working with Mike Shanahan and that offensive scheme, it's more then 10, approaching half (of the league) when you really look at it. You can do it like an ancestral tree, and I'm sure you could get about 12, 13, 14 (teams). It's pretty amazing. For whatever reason, maybe people have lost sight of that, hopefully they haven't, because that is a monumental influence that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame with Zach.
(Do you have any update on DB Keion Crossen and whether he'll be out long term?) – "Keion is a great guy to report on with regard to injuries because he heals like he runs. Fast. When he's out, thankfully he's never had a major injury, but when he has certain things ailing him, he does everything he can to get back and he is a very fast healer. I think I've been on record that he's one of the fastest healers I've been around."
(So it's not a major thing where he's out for the season?) – "Nope."
(We haven't had the chance to talk to you since CB Jalen Ramsey had his procedure. What were you able to say to him afterwards? It was reported it was a full repair, might have him out until December. What kind of timeline do you have for him now?) – "Talking to Jalen after his surgery was talking to a really drowsy person. (laughter) But he was in good spirits and I think the surgery went about as well as it could have. We're elated about that. In terms of where his mindset is at, he's a self-proclaimed alien. He couldn't have a better mindset with which to attack this process. He's immediately, tell me what the timeline is and I'm going to beat it by a month. What I like about that is thankfully we have a training staff that really does a good job of protecting players from themselves, so I know he won't be rushed. That combination of prudence and the player's aggressiveness for the stuff – I know one thing, when Jalen is back on the field this year, he's going to be 100 percent Jalen Ramsey. I'm fired up about that. As a team, we make sure the team he comes back to does everything they can to be the best version of themselves possible."
(Follow up to that. Did the doctors find any additional knee damage outside of the meniscus when doing surgery?) – "No, we're very thankful and fortunate that there was no other knee damage."
(The three-day practice/break schedule that you have. That seems to be new. I wanted to know what the origin or thought process was behind that. Before you answer that, also I've noticed a rhythm to your practice that when you go 11-on-11, the reserves are the first guys out there, and then your starters.) – "I love both questions. I guess I'll do the latter, I always remember that one best, and then you have to remind me of the first one. In terms of the structure of practice, it won't always be that way but you have the starting quarterback and those who are working with the starters that day. Then you split the rest of the team into two different groups. Well, not all positions have two different groups, so there is overlap in reps between those two groups, so we sandwich the starting quarterback and who's working with him that day in between. From an athletic performance standpoint, from an injury prevention standpoint and just a competitive standpoint, it's not quite fair, depending on where we are at in our progression as we ramp up to get ready for games, it's not fair for a guy to be judged on his sixth rep consecutively out of seven against guys that have four in a row. So it's overall for the team's health so that guys don't have excessive reps that accumulate. It won't always be the case. There's sometimes depending on how the periods are structured, you want the starting quarterback out there to set the tone. But when we do that, it's for that splitting up of reps. Then the first question. With the CBA derived off-days, that we do believe in, during the season, you never practice more than three days in a row. You're practicing three days in a row, then you get your Saturday before the game where you get a little rest, and then you perform on Sunday. You try to model everything after what you're going to be doing all year. So it doesn't really make any sense to practice four days in a row once or twice early in the season when you're never playing four days in a row."
(So much has been talked about the heat this year all over the country, especially down here. Do you approach it differently, coaching in this climate as opposed to other climates, when you're when you're out there? And just how aware and are you more aware of watching that because of it?) – "It's a substantial difference and I think it would be silly not to not to account for that. That's why you always see me in long sleeves at practice is because I'm not running around but I'm trying to be aware of how hot it is. I'm not sure if scientifically it's the same but whether it's placebo or fact, that's kind of what I do. Because you try to take accountability for things that, on our side, we can prevent. The sun exposure is real. But it's also something that, it's not like you want to avoid it because if you get used to that type of heat, you can have a competitive advantage when you play in the heat, which we play in a lot. You have to be very mindful. The certain amount of reps that I was used to per practice in San Francisco can't be the same exact intensity and reps. You have to be a little creative, you have to be mindful, you have to build up to things. People don't understand how accumulation of soft tissue injuries, what that does to an entire team. Not only is that person out, but then you stress the other players within that position group. And then all of a sudden you have a skeleton of what your team started like. So I have to be very mindful. And I take that seriously. We have a great training and performance staff that gives me the information that can put our best foot forward because I don't want to put players in harm's way that way."
(What role do you envision for CB Eli Apple?) – "I think more often than not, my vision for players is to give them as many competitive opportunities and let them tell me who they are. Otherwise, why are we having all these practices? And I think players in this organization specifically, and in the way that the combination of myself and (General Manager) Chris (Grier) work, they know that if they outperform someone, they will get a job. And so you allow people to compete and allow the competition, and everything that makes them who they are, you allow that to speak for itself. And you try not to get too many preconceived notions. I was pumped to be able to add him, just because competition makes everyone better. He started out, as far as I know, there's been no negative tweets to Tyreek (Hill). And no, it's been great. He was able to get involved yesterday even before he had a nameplate on his jersey. He was ready to start the process to try to be on this team. All of his teammates welcomed him with open arms."
(The pads are coming on today. What does that tell you about the o-Line? What have you seen so far?) – "One of the arts of good teams are they are able to find the skill with which to practice without pads. That's very beneficial for the majority of the season. However, it is a game that is played with leverage and pads. You feel like you have a complete assessment of how someone plays. There are certain players at certain positions that you still have to see it with pads on because it does change to a degree. That doesn't make those other practices less significant. It's more that you're looking for any sort of alteration from a certain guy in his play when the pads come on, expecting it to be similar, but you know it's not going to be exactly similar. Football is a padded game that you wear shoulder pads in. So the ideal way to evaluate football players playing football is in pads like they're going to be on game days."
(You talked a little bit this offseason on how much QB Tua Tagovailoa has done to prepare himself. When he got into martial arts, was that his idea, was that your idea, was that collaborative? How did that process really play out?) – "It kind of makes me happy that I can't really give credit to one person's idea. I think the culture around here, as it best can, is about getting to the right answer, not whose answer it was. But I really can't remember for the life of me. I know that it was an idea that we all came together and spoke about and approached Tua with and he immediately was, 'Yeah, I'll check it out,' and then got great feedback because with (Head Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Dave) Puloka and (Head Athletic Trainer) Kyle Johnston and how they vetted whoever the master of jiu-jitsu would be. Those parties did all of their homework, really tracked every single health-related issue that he's that he's had from falling, and concretely attacked the problem. I think it was really cool from an organizational standpoint and from Tua's standpoint, and I feel great about the results. We've only had one time in camp so far in live action that, it was in OTAs actually – in OTAs I think he got stepped on and he fell down backwards and completed a backwards somersault. It was pretty sweet."
(That was my next question. You're not playing real football right now. The quarterbacks are not going to get hit. How much can you know until games start in September?) – "That was something that was an unintended consequence of the whole offseason was we found that there are certain drills that we can apply to all the quarterbacks because you're right, it was something that really talking to Teddy Bridgewater last year, randomly, he was like, 'Yeah, it's so irritating. Like, we go zero to 60.' And it's like, okay, well, that is true. What a wild existence. We've done our best to come up with some drills so that they can fall over. A lot of which is just me pushing them. It's not. (laughter)"
(Last year this time, you mentioned WR Jaylen Waddle was guy that you felt made a big jump from OTA's to training camp. I'm curious if there's a player or two you might feel the same about this year?) – "I think the byproduct of being here a second year. I think there is a lot more consistency. People knew what to expect in OTAs, so their best foot forward and what the expectation was. I don't see as much distinction between OTAs and training camp, specifically with individuals. What I do see is people more so than last year, utilized the offseason training, and built upon that in training camp, which is something that you're kind of always worried about. There are certain guys – we spoke about (Andrew) Van Ginkel's versatility. Well, he's utilized what he learned in OTAs and has been able to do some really cool stuff in training camp. I think there's a lot of defensive players that are developing at a really cool rate, and really flourishing within the system. I see young guys going after it like Cameron Goode, who is trying to get on the field as best as you can. Guys that have had some roles that they want expanded, like Elijah Campbell. The list goes on and on. Just because I see guys getting coached at a high level and guys wanting to be coached and guys responding to it."