Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on October 13, 2023.
(We were all wondering about OL Robert Hunt. Did he injure his knee, unfortunately, during practice yesterday? And do you expect him to play Sunday?) – "We list all ailments and the good news is he'll be practicing today and he's going to be good to go. So don't have any issues with that."
(And with OL Connor Williams, this week, did he reaggravate the groin during Sunday's game or subsequently, which has resulted in him not practicing this week? Or have you just opted to rest him this week so that he can play Sunday?) – "Well when we made the decision for him to play last week, we know there'd be residual effects from that just because that's why we're so overly cautious about soft tissue stuff. We expected it to be hurting him and it has. So we've been adjusting on the fly. He won't practice today but he'll be doing stuff with the trainers, kind of like our normal process with guys that we need to find out more information, but we don't want to put them through the rigors of the entire practice. He'll be doing that, we'll assess that and then make a call on his game day status."
(Have you made a decision on RB Jeff Wilson Jr. on whether to activate him for Sunday?) – "We have one available roster spot right now, otherwise we'd have to do moves. There's kind of a lot of things going on with regard to the entire roster. So we're going to let Friday play out, this very important practice that's the most important of our lives, and we'll make the call then. But he's certainly prepared himself adequately so if we went that direction, he would be ready to go."
(Are CB Nik Needham and OL Robert Jones not going to be activated in time for this game?) – "So those are the other two, in particular, that we're kind of digesting today. And it's really more about just the whole roster, and what the game day active (list) will look like. There are special teams things that are involved in that. Just the overall complexion of everybody. We'll be making that call here after practice."
(How have OL Robert Jones and CB Nik Needham looked in their second week of practice?) – "I would like to use this opportunity to pump up our training staff and our strength department because for all intents and purposes, as you know, there's not enough hours in the week for coaches. You are expressing all those hours as best you can and generally, you have to have enough focus on the guys that are going to be out on the field. So you have guys that are hurt that are on the team and big parts of it, that are around, but you don't quite know what that's going to look like. Both Rob and Nik have looked outstanding as their window was opened, so that's a credit to a lot of work and them, specifically. They look good. We're fortunate to have some availability."
(And LB Jaelan Phillips?) – "Yeah, we'll make sure he gets through stretch and practice. I've got to tell you, he's the most dangerous player to himself. We have a lot of them. But he's not used to being injured so he wanted to play last week. So triple that down this week. That's one of the reasons why there's some stuff up in the air is we'll let today progress and see where he's at and then make a call that will have to be the best thing for him and the team, regardless of what his words say."
(Whenever coaches use the phrase, 'we need to find out more information,' it always kind of raises red flags. Not intentionally, on your part – could there be something serious – but with regard to OL Connor Williams, in terms of needing to find out more information, is there a concern that he could have torn his groin and be out multiple weeks or do you still think it's short-term?) – "Well, thank you for the qualification of your follow up, follow-follow up. That's not of issue. It's not did he do something more significant or do a different type of injury or make it more severe. This is maintenance of something that we kind of knew the residuals and just we don't want to – we are at that fine line where we're trying to make sure that we do best and not have it linger all season, knowing that it will be an issue. How much discomfort and ability is taken away? It's kind of complicated. It's not an easy answer. But as far as the injury being something different that the game presented, no, it's not."
(Is center a position, I mean, I know that there's a lot that goes with that position. In fact, talking to OL Liam Eichenberg, he kind of outlined some things that I did not know about responsibilities.) – "The mark of a humble man. Just out front, I didn't know it and he taught it to me. I love it. (laughter)"
(Is that a position where you can not practice and then play in the game?) – "That's a good question because that one in particular is very unique. Because from a physical standpoint, there's not as extreme nuances from game to game on how defenders play. So you're inherently more qualified to do that from a physical standpoint. Then it goes down to mental and the reps at diagnosing the defense and what type of problems that particular scheme has. Because Connor (Williams) has been so durable, I mean, that's probably the longest-tenured player relationship that Tua (Tagovailoa) has in regard to playing with somebody directly at their responsibility. So he's a little more qualified in this particular situation, relative to – the system has grown with them together. That being said, it's definitely not ideal. I don't think I would have been comfortable in that scenario last year with Connor. I think I would be comfortable with that this year with Connor and that speaks to him and his development and the coaches helping him simplify a very complicated position."
(Hopefully this isn't too much in the weeds, but as you talked about OL Connor Williams, it made me wonder the difference between OL Connor Williams and OL Liam Eichenberg maybe snapping the ball speed wise, flow wise, and does that affect at all the timing of your offense?) – "So that's one of the reasons why I was – I meant what I said, there was some really cool stuff when Liam (Eichenberg) last got to play a whole game at that position. It was the first time he's ever done it and there was some really cool stuff. Usually, that's a huge issue. We do a lot of timing, we do a lot of – if you guys hadn't noticed, we motion a lot. That has different cadences and different timing. We do a lot of movement stuff where if you're in shotgun and you have outside zone, you're snapping it directly behind you and moving that way. So usually it's a huge issue. The fact he was able to execute and really, really master the ability to match the tempo and speed and when you're snapping the ball. Typically with centers, you have a ton of procedural penalties that are like the guard moves at a different time than the tackle moves. Those types of procedural penalties. The fact that – that's to his credit and why it was impressive to me, because, you think you have an idea, but you never know when someone's thrust into uncharted territory, what it's going to look like. And when the bullets are flying, that's what I mean – the game is not too big for him. So we're fortunate that he's able to really allow a lot of players to do their jobs when he's in there."
(This might surprise you, but in the media room, we spend a lot of time for perseverating or ruminating about running out of available short-term designated to return IR slots with the team this year.) – "How do you guys sleep? That sounds stressful. (laughter)"
(All this time spent worrying about it.) – "That sounds stressful."
(So you have seven guys, at this point, who could be brought back from short-term IR? Have you and General Manager Chris Grier talked about any concern about getting through the season with enough slots to bring guys back who are not out for the year? Because potentially WR River Cracraft and WR Erik Ezukanma, at this point, would be six and seven. You have five others who assuredly will return.) – "Thank you for joining the party. (laughter) Yeah, of course. It's a huge part of the decision-making process that we're very aware of. That factors into how many players you put on IR, and you do the best thing that you can for the team knowing all the information. So that's on the front end of those discussions is, 'OK, well, who's going to potentially be available from a physical standpoint? What implications does that have on the rest of the roster if we didn't put them on IR, or if we do?' Then the obvious rules and regulations of the IR system in present day. So you don't have concerns with best judgment decisions that are of the appropriate intent and really thought through. It's definitely on our radar, so you guys can go back to sleep."
(When you guys finalize whether or not to have WR Chase Claypool active, what will be two things most seriously discussed?) – "Really there's a third day of evaluation, which is today, that because I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I've been very pleasantly optimistic. He's done an impressive job. The system that he's going in is very specific. A lot of different words mean different things, and he's definitely hungry and ready to contribute. Just there's a lot of things in play there in terms of the specific defense and what we actually need in this particular game. But it's really just evaluating that and what he offers to the team in his current state relative to the other guys and what roles would those be. So a lot of that intentionally has to be cloudy for competitive purposes."
(On RB Jeff Wilson Jr., given what you've seen from him in practice this week and if he is up, what's realistic as far as a workload that he could manage given the time off?) – "I think I wouldn't put – yeah it's tricky, because with the way that we like to rotate backs, to an exact number, I don't think unless we play 120-play game, that we would be doing anything above 25. But that's kind of our first game back. It's kind of something, that's a number we kind of talked about with regard to the medical staff. But, again, that's kind of the exact numbers kind of dictated by the play of the guys out there. When you have a lot of skill and every single back we have has attributes that the other doesn't. Every single back we have, I'd honestly be comfortable starting. So in situations like that, I'd feel remiss if I'm deciding this game, this person, is going to be the best. You kind of make sure that they have opportunities early, and then assess how they do. It's not just like, hey, that was a long run. It's like how are they playing? And that kind of dictates the terms. So if there's a back that we feel is really in their zone, we're not going to compromise that to hit a rep count. And so it can look a lot of different ways. More often than not, coming out of the game, the rep count, I wouldn't even try to guess what they would be before the game. You have feelings, but I prefer facts, and facts are on the field."