Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.
(The league-owned TV network reported today QB Tua Tagovailoa will throw and I guess my question is with Tua throwing, is there a possibility he might play Sunday? Or do you want to be cautious and rule him out for Sunday and wait another week even if he clears protocol this week?) – "It'll be exciting for today because really in these situations, you are relying on all medical advice and what people can do. And what I've been told as he can go out and throw and do some individual work this week, or today. So that's exciting for everybody, just because really, we just miss his personality. He's a guy that we rely on, not to mention all of his play and all that stuff. Now when talking about this week and playing, I don't see a scenario – I don't see him being active and I'm not going to – I do not plan to have him play at all. It's something that this whole process is a little tricky and today he's just getting back to playing football for the first time in two weeks. He hasn't been on a field playing football in two weeks. So today the focus is – again, I'm not trying to get ahead of myself and think about the 'Z' component. I'm worried about 'A' and 'A' is getting him on the field and having him throw a football and being around his teammates. And that's what today's step is and then moving forward we'll go about 12 to 24 hours, right? But I can say with certainty that he's not going to be playing this Sunday."
(What's the update on QB Teddy Bridgewater?) – "Teddy is currently progressing through the protocol. He feels good. The soreness on his pec is getting better, but in this stage of the protocol, he is unable to do anything football-related with his team. So when you guys are out there, I'm sure you'll see him, but he won't be with the rest of the guys. He will be on the side working with the trainers and trying to progress through this stage of the protocol as deemed."
(So does that automatically mean or likely mean that QB Skylar Thompson is going to be the quarterback Sunday?) – "Really, Teddy's (Bridgewater) whole week is going to be – he's just getting back and able to do work with the trainers today. Tomorrow he'll be able to do a little bit of football in a limited capacity. And as a result, we'll be moving forward with planning on starting Skylar Thompson this week."
(You mentioned QB Teddy Bridgewater will be able to do limited tomorrow. If I'm correct, would that be stage three of where he is in the process?) – "The stages are a foreign language to me. I don't really keep up with them because it's very simple. You're dealing with all these medical professionals that are giving you instructions on what someone's allowed to do. And what I do know is he's allowed to do non-contact football tomorrow in a limited capacity. So that's where we're at. I'm not really sure what stage that is, but the stage as I understand it, is that he can play a little football, but he can't be in any sort of situations where he can engage in contact. And thus, it has to be a very limited role."
(In regards to that, I know that position is different than others because of the prep during the week. If QB Teddy Bridgewater is cleared on Friday or Saturday, what's your comfort on him being able to play without having much full practice?) – "That's a tricky question. As long as everything goes to plan with regard to his protocol procedure, I'm very confident just in Teddy in general, so he'll be active for the game in that scenario and be backing up Skylar (Thompson)."
(With QB Tua Tagovailoa, and that report that was previously described, it said that even if Tua is cleared that he won't play on Sunday. Is that accurate? And if so, what's the threshold between being cleared medically and you being comfortable putting him back at risk?) – "So it is accurate in that there is a definite scenario that he will be cleared before Sunday's game. But in this particular scenario with regard to him, like I just said, he hasn't done a thing on the football field for literally two weeks. That wouldn't be fair to the player. That wouldn't be fair to the team. I think that's something that I don't feel comfortable putting them in that situation. So I guess (whatever those) sources are, they're pretty accurate. I need to find out who your sources are. (laughter)"
(If QB Tua Tagovailoa is not going to play this Sunday, is the target for him to play in the Steelers game?) – "I'm just excited to get him on the football field and see – there's some progressions we have to make in terms of, 'hey, he has to throw a pass.' As far as his exact timeline of when he's going to play, I'll be excited to consider that whenever that comes up. Right now, I'm just really focused on him getting out there and feeling good and being around his teammates, and that those types of decisions aren't in the immediate future right now. I'll handle that when that comes after. Let's just get through this week and see where we're at is basically the way that I look at it."
(And the report said that QB Tua Tagovailoa was evaluated by four independent specialists. I guess the first time the after the Bills game, you were confident in the evaluations that happened. I guess how do you feel now about the evaluations about where Tua is that he can practice today and is cleared to practice?) – "Again, as a football coach, you want to make decisions based upon information, and I'm much more comfortable making decisions in my area of expertise. So that's one of the reasons why we were excited to get some of the best, most renowned people in their field of expertise and get their opinions on it, so that I'll be relying on those exclusively because I do not fashion myself as a brain expert. That's one of the reasons you get multiple opinions and you see the most skilled, highly prepared, schooled and knowledgeable professionals that that you can get your hands on, so that you can have the most information possible from experts and not laymen."
(Can you give us updates on CB Xavien Howard, T Terron Armstead, WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jaylen Waddle?) – "'X' (Xavien Howard) and (Terron) Armstead need the whole week. You'll see 'X' out there today. I don't think you'll see Armstead, but that's one of those situations that it's kind of become the norm, hasn't it? But we just kind of have to take it day by day. So I know they'll do the best they can to move forward and play the game because I know it's eating at them. And then the third – Tyreek Hill? He'll be out there today. He's going to get some work in, and he won't be practicing with a boot on. (laughter)"
(On Monday, you had alluded to your captains kind of embracing that role of team captain. Coming off these two losses and some adversity here this season, what are you hoping to see from those guys this week?) – "Well, I'm hoping to see them. I think we had three out of our seven captains last game play the entirety of the game. So I'm hoping to see them, one. But also, as I've stated to you guys and as I've stated to the team, this is not something that is foreign to NFL teams. You lose two in a row – that's the adversity that in one way, shape or form, happens to every single team. Captains need to help lead people in the direction out of that. So how do you do that tangibly? A multitude of ways – and I really put a lot of pressure on those guys to make it their team, because it is. One example that I was pumped about – I think you guys will have an open locker room today – Tyreek (Hill) and the captains decided that they wanted to take a step forward with all their opponent prep with regard to the team and their preparation with our game plans in general. So he made the move to take the ping pong tables out of a locker room. That, to me, is leadership. To me, leadership is acting, not talking. There's a bunch of different examples from those guys, and that's why they're captains and that's why I rely on them, because it's about solving problems, not complaining about them. They, collectively, as a group of players, wanted more time investment during the week on their jobs for Sunday. So instead of just saying it, they did something about it. And that's the whole reason that I really have a lot of love for those guys."
(I wanted to ask you about QB Skylar Thompson. Some coaches would start the veteran, even on limited work, as opposed to the rookie. What gives you the confidence that he's able to handle that moment?) – "What gives me the confidence is that I wouldn't do it if I didn't think the team would agree in terms of their confidence for him. You're always trying to keep the pulse of how everyone feels. The quarterback's job is to make people better, and he's – as you guys have noticed and a lot of people have noticed, he's not the run-of-the-mill rookie. But also, it's not just about the quarterback, it's about a collective group of individuals working together. He's going to have the opportunity to have all the full-speed reps this week because of the position that Teddy (Bridgewater) is in the protocol. We're very fortunate to have three quarterbacks that our guys really believe they can operate at high level with. So it wasn't that difficult of a decision for me to make in this set of circumstances."
(When will you make a decision on QB Reid Sinnett and whether you need to have a third quarterback available on gameday?) – "I think the way things are going, it's probably going to be later in the week because I can't wait (for) what's in store for me today. There's a lot of moving pieces, especially when you have a limited gameday active situation and with all the guys that really strain to make it on gameday with all of our bumps and bruises. That compounds that whole decision a little bit. So you end up having to take the week to kind of process everything and see where people are at to make sure that those guys feel healthy. If the need is necessary, that does come at a cost to another roster spot for that gameday active. So you have to assess where that comes from and what groups can afford that, so there's a lot a lot of different variables that go into that equation."
(What's one teaching point that maybe you could share with us that you've given to QB Skylar Thompson after his first real game action going into this week?) – "When I talked to him yesterday, I talked to all those guys yesterday, (and) the one thing I said to him is that you take stuff, you learn stuff, but you also have to understand what the situation was last week. I want you to – there were some things that he was definitely happy with. He definitely left the game feeling like, just like he thought in the preseason, that he's an NFL player. But also, I made sure to (say), 'Hey, look at these 10 plays that I know you're not happy with. OK, what's this common denominator?' There was some footwork stuff, there was some timing stuff, all of which you can kind of connect to that was his first live full speed rep of that footwork, that concept, that progression. 'So, this week, you're going to be afforded all those full speed reps. Understand that game is that game – take it for what it is. You got, basically, your first start out of the way. This week, you have a great opportunity to hone-in on the details of all the things you'll be asked to do on Sunday. So move forward with that and gain confidence with that because if that's the worst that we'll see, which you talk about controlling the controllables and if you're going into a game, especially as a rookie, completely blind without reps, if that's the worst you're going to do, we're all right. So you should get confidence, in an ironic way, from that game that you, without a shadow of a doubt, can play up to your own personal standard. And that, I wanted him to – because to me, that's a big deal. It made me confident in him that he was able to do what he did, own the game plan and be a pretty darn good decision-maker without having anything full speed of that given gameplan, which in this game and the National Football League, the difference between that is the difference between an interception or a completion. So timing is everything. This full-speed work is vitally important, and I know he's going to make the best of it this week. So be excited and just go after it because everybody believes in you."
(Did I hear you correctly when you said that if QB Teddy Bridgewater clears protocol that he would be backing up QB Skylar Thompson?) – "If there's no setbacks and he clears protocol, yes, he'll be backing up."
(What kind of impact can that have for QB Skylar Thompson on the field? Because I mean, on Sunday, he goes in, it's his first game action, no teammate, or I guess no quarterbacks on the sideline with him. How big of a difference will having somebody in the room on the sideline be?) – "Huge. Huge, because in a game experience for a quarterback, you get coached. There's a lot of stuff going on and you're taking in information from one, two, three voices. But then when you have a peer that has gone through it and has seen it, that translation – it might be one word, it might be a pat on the back – that teammate support is a very immensely huge thing for a player like that. That's the great thing about that room that we really – really, I hope all the rooms on our team can really be inspired by that group because they support each other, they make each other better and it will make a definitive difference, for sure, having that support from his brother on the sidelines this week. It was a lonely sideline last week. He just – all Skylar (Thompson) had to talk to was (Quarterbacks/Pass Game Coordinator Darrell) Bevell and myself. We're great guys, but not that great at conversations. (laughter)"