Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on November 7, 2023.
(I know you're going to give us a OL Robert Jones update, but I was curious, have you and Offensive Line Coach Butch Barry pretty much come to an idea or conclusion about who you want out their left guard – once OL Robert Hunt is healthy and the right guard? You obviously have three options with OL Liam Eichenberg, OL Rob Jones, if he's healthy, and OL Lester Cotton. Do you and Butch pretty much know what you want to do or do you want to open the competition next week? And does OL Isaiah Wynn have a realistic chance of making it back before the end of the year?) –"That's a lot to unpack. I'll go with the already-understood Rob Jones update which is that there is no surgery involved. It will take a little bit of time, but it's more of a week-to-week deal with him so it's not a surgery situation. Like I said before, nothing's changed with Isaiah (Wynn) in terms of I'm not going to tell someone that he can or can't, but it's a long journey and we're just taking it step by step with that. And then it kind of goes back to I think you're starting to see why camp was full of competition, and it was so hard for you to really say, this is what our lineup is going to be, because we have a lot of NFL players at the offensive line position, really, and to sit here and say that – I think that we really have gotten into the groove of worrying about our day-to-day process, and there's only one day that truly exists. So allowing those guys to compete and not putting kind of like an absolute on that position I think benefits us because we have several capable players. So you allow their day-in, day-out work to speak for itself and will allow the players to shape the direction we go at that position when we have everyone at full health."
(Would you consider at all position change for T Kendall Lamm if there was ever a necessity?) –"He has the capability of it. He has played that and sure, there's always – that's the one thing is we have a ton of versatility. There's more often than not, on the offensive line, guys that are playing interior have the capability to play exterior and vice versa. So that's not off the table, but it's not something that we're really entering in now in terms of immediate thought process, but we'll definitely have to cover our bases because you always have to problem solve. Typically you have eight up on game day and when guys are battling through stuff, you have to be able to be versatile because you have to be able to adjust on the fly like we've fortunately and unfortunately had to this season already."
(WR Jaylen Waddle obviously finished the game the other day, but given it was a long flight and so forth, is there any soreness on his part? Is he totally fine?) –"He definitely was sore, which we're going to be measured with our approach with him. He did a great job really battling for his teammates. There was adrenaline and competitiveness that really drove him. It was definitely not ideal to get injured on the second play of the game, but he was – I think we gave him an end-around, it might have been fourth or fifth play of the game, and that was something that he was making it very clear to me on the sidelines to still call, that he wanted the ball. He's in a good spot, however, we're going to make sure that we don't do any harm to him moving forward. He's had to battle injuries unfortunately this season and we'll utilize this bye week to make sure that he's fully healthy and we don't have any setbacks."
(Is WR River Cracraft ready to return from IR? I know that you guys only have one practice this week with the bye before you guys get off, but is he ready to return?) –"He's had a couple of good weeks of practice. He hasn't had any setbacks whatsoever and so he's chomping at the bit now. That will probably show its face here sooner than later."
(I wanted to ask a follow-up on WR Chase Claypool. I know he's been playing a significant amount of snaps lately. Where he is in the offense in terms of learning how to speak Spanish or is it just a situation where he's gaining comfort in the roles that that you guys have kind of…?) –"He's really growing immensely. We had a couple guys battling through stuff during the game, so it's to his credit how he's really jumped in with this group and gone full-tilt to learn as many positions as possible. When he's been up, he's had an important role and done well with that. In this past game, he had to kind of expand on that, so it's to his credit. He's been 100 percent all-in to this team and his teammates have embraced him and he's going to continue to get better the more and more comfortable he is."
(This is a hard-hitting bye week question. Obviously in a serious business, why are you so comfortable with comedy and showing personality when not a lot of people in your world are so comfortable doing that?) –"I just think it's important to be yourself and for me, I think that comes from preparation, and really what I see my obligation to be towards the team. I think for me, as long as I cut no corners on the front end of things, I can really stay true to what this game is about. It's of the utmost importance to everyone, you work your whole life to be in the situations that you're in, whether it's a player or a coach or all of those things. And there is a balance to it, I think, and an art, so to speak, because it's a game that you're trying to get guys to play passionately. So I think people respond best to authenticity, to know that nothing that you say or do is fabricated. So I just try to stay true to my personality and I feel like that's owed to people. You have to give yourself, if you're in a leadership role where you're serving other people, you have to give people yourself and so I just try to pride myself on that and hold nothing back because I feel like that's what people deserve. And hopefully, you guys hold me accountable and make sure I stay true to that path my entire career because it's a pillar of importance to me."
(When you're sprinting from a camera man or something like that, how long does it take you to realize you're kind of a walking viral moment?) –"To be honest, I don't really look at it that way. It's easy not to get caught up in virality if you spend little no time on the interwebs. For me, I have so many people that I would feel very guilty if I wasn't completely and utterly present for them. And it snowballs into my personal life. The second I leave the office, I'm already behind the eight-ball with my daughter and my wife in my eyes, so there's no real room for that. I'm not trying to do anything. I still haven't mastered the art of acting like a camera isn't there. So when I see a camera, I feel super awkward to pretend that I don't know it's there already. If it's running away from it or it's just something I'm doing in the moment, hopefully that isn't what I'm known for ultimately, when my tenure is done whenever that time is. I'd hope that it would be my concrete dedication to every person that's involved and every person that I'm responsible for. I'm hopefully in the process of however things unfold, that I leave people better off with having me then not having me. That's kind of how I look at it and all the other stuff, it's easy to not get caught up in viral moments when you have to be told that you went viral and you don't really experience it yourself."
(I want to ask about LB Bradley Chubb and how you've seen him become more comfortable with this team?) – "I can't say enough about – I think Bradley Chubb represents something that I think is very, very important in professional sports. You have salary caps, so you want to pay everyone but there's certain players that garner a large chunk of your salary cap by percentage. Those people, you're entrusting a lot to. I think Bradley Chubb represents everything that I believe in in terms of this is a guy since the second he's been here, he's felt the responsibility to the organization to make right of our investment into him. I think as he's found his niche and his role within the defense, he's been able to exercise some of the pressure demons that he self-imposes because it's really important to him that he does right by the organization. I think you can feel that when he talks. I think he talked in Germany about he's the one coming up to me reminding me that it's a year anniversary since he was traded. All that stuff means something to him. And I think you have a chance as an organization when the people that you select to pay a good portion of your salary cap to, that they take that for what it is and it's a responsibility heavy is the crown. And he's in a really cool spot now, because he's allowing the game to come to him and understanding that all this team needs from him is his 100 percent commitment each and every day, which he exercises on the daily."
(You're in first place in the division even with the loss. Going into the bye week, what are some things that you've learned that you're going to take into now a tough second half of the season? And also how is your mind going to work now with this bye week? What are the things you're going to think of in order to continue accomplishing your goals?) – "Yeah, I've learned a lot about this team. You learn the most when people really put themselves out there by committing themselves to the process and seeing what happens as a result. I've learned that this team has grown from last year. I've learned that this team, one of the huge things that you have to do in any major league sports season, is you have to be able to invest, deal with things that maybe you come up short from and not blink and press forward, putting more in and human nature is the tap. That's not this team. I've learned that through experience and I've learned that if we bring it collectively as a coaching staff to each and every day, that our team will respond. I think we've really gotten better in the midst of wins and losses. That's a huge important piece because besides maybe this organization's 1972 year, there's always bumps in the road on the journey for every single team, even the ones that finish the season with a win. I can't say it enough. It's the daily input. You're going to have highs and lows. You're going to have successes and failures. It's learning how to take those and move forward for the eventual, inevitable elimination games. Those will always occur, whether you're playing yourself into the playoffs or in the playoffs. Ultimately, if you're in the fabric of the equation of the end of the season, you're going to face elimination games, and that's when you're going to have to be your best. So, you better take every opportunity to learn. And I think our team is doing that. For me, I don't score touchdowns. I don't defend them. I am a coach. For this bye week, for me, reflecting on schemes is always inherent. It's hard not to, especially in the middle of the season. But I think really getting myself to the pillar of health for the rest of the season, just to know what's coming, to know how much people are going to count on me and spending time with my family, which is a huge extension of who I am as a person. Those are things that I'll be focused on so I can give the organization and the team my very best throughout the home stretch, because it'll be an important one."