Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022.
(update on CB Keion Crossen, if that will be a long-term thing? And with CB Byron Jones, do you think he'll practice this week? And do we know that he'll definitely play this season? Is that in question?) – "Keion (Crossen), he's a tough one to kind of nail down with the timeline for a good reason (because) he's one of the fastest healers that I've ever been around. He's shown that in the couple opportunities he's had since he's been here when he's had something. So we'll reassess midweek, only because it's hard to kind of nail that down. Then with Byron (Jones), it is a big deal to put someone out there on the field, a cornerback that's trying to perform at a high level, with a lower body extremity injury. So we've been judicious with it. I don't think we're going to see him practice this week, but we're really just trying to do it the right way. It's hard to know fully when that's going to happen because if I gave a timeline – I've had a couple timelines in my head and held back from giving you those timelines, and I've been correct in doing so. We'll just be taking that week by week and watching him work in the process."
(With QB Tua Tagovailoa cleared, are you going through the week and anticipating that he'll practice as the starter and ultimately start on Sunday?) – "The plan is for him to approach the game as the starter. So he'll be able to get those reps in on Wednesday. I felt really good about how he was able to get back on the field. What's unique about his whole process was that his last really full week of practice was the week of the Buffalo Bills game, because when you have a Thursday night game, you're walking-through. So you're talking about your last full-speed practice. So last week was a big week to get through the protocol, see all the specialists, get all the information and then get him back moving around. So, he responded really well and was his exuberant self. We'll be excited to see him practice on Wednesday, and I know the team will be as well."
(I know you haven't wanted to make excuses for being without him, but what does having QB Tua Tagovailoa back do for this offense and this team?) – "He's a captain. He's a captain for a reason, and as I've told you guys from the onset, I think he's a very, very good player at that position. So very good players, they definitely give people a boost – not because of what other people aren't but more just because he is who he is. So he's a strong fabric of this team, and that's exciting when you get to go play with one of your brothers, which is why the team will be excited, and it will be exciting."
(Did you see from just him tossing the ball around last week, at the end of last week, could you see that he's not going to have any problem with the rust? Do you want to wait and see if rust is going to be an issue for QB Tua Tagovailoa?) – "No, I don't anticipate necessarily rust from a mechanics standpoint. He is pretty gifted in that in that realm, and he was really the same the same guy. Luckily, he hadn't forgotten. He didn't start throwing right-handed, so that was a good thing. (laughter) But there's always – you're a product of your process in the NFL season. So there'll be some things that for him getting used to the whole process will probably – there's a little rust in that. But typically when that happens, nobody even really knows. You're just getting used to, 'Oh, it's Wednesday, and we're walking through, getting the huddle correct and proceeding from play to play and calling the plays to the guys and emphasizing the information to each player in the huddle that you need to.' There's always a little rust when you take time away in that regard, but physiologically and how he plays the position, he's been so mentally locked in to everything we've been doing. I expect him to be pretty comfortable executing that."
(When QB Tua Tagovailoa does go back into the game, do you want him to be more cautious about how he protects himself? Do you not want him thinking about that? Or what's the line there when he goes back?) – "I talked to him a lot sooner than this week. When we were – when he'd come by the office and we just kind of talk about how things have kind of gone, there's risks in this game and you've got to be able to control the controllables. One thing for him is you love his competitive nature, but there is a time in a play where you have to kind of concede, and that's where he's kind of been focusing on because it's something that's not natural to him. He wants to break every tackle, and he doesn't like when plays don't work. Well, sometimes they won't. So that's something that he's mindful of, and I think that that's a consistency of all the really great quarterbacks that you think of, the guys that you look up to, the guys that kind of set forth the example of how to play the position, they do find ways to be available. And part of that is that concession, but that is – all things considered, that's probably a good problem to have in terms of a competitor. You just need to be able to understand your importance to the team and how sometimes the best play you can make is a throwaway."
(After WR Jaylen Waddle's fumble in the game, he appeared visibly distraught and just really upset about the play after the fact. I'm curious what it means to you when you get that tangible visual evidence of a guy that it just means so much to him?) – "Well, it's definitely case by case. For him in particular, I recognize it as a good thing in nature. Like, it's good that you're mad. But he's a young player that is going to have a wonderful career and we rely on him to make plays for us. So to me, I think one of the things that he can take a step forward in is being able to translate that frustration towards the next play rather than his helmet in the sideline bench, because people understand where he's coming from, but also, what he aspires to be as a player and what I want to see him get to, when you're a big time leader; you end up translating that energy for things between whistles. So it was definitely not a negative thing, but something that I could use the opportunity to try to give him a picture and a vision of growth moving forward because things will happen that you don't want to happen. Regardless, he was trying to catch the first turnover that bounced off of him and was an interception. Then he was trying to score when he let the ball be a little loose and 22 (Harrison Smith) made a terrific play. That is coming from the right place. He's trying to help the team win and then you can just learn from those examples because they're very powerful and emotional because that's the type of competitor he is."
(The unique circumstance of Stephen Ross being suspended and now coming back. What, if any, impact does an owner's return have on the team and what have your interactions been with him? – "I'm excited to talk to him. I haven't talked to him in a long time. Since daybreak on Mondays, my day, even up until this point, I'm literally meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting to hanging out with you guys. So I'll be excited to talk to him. I think every team is different. I know this particular team, with regard to everyone in the organization, the players really appreciate him because he allows myself, Chris (Grier) and everyone else in the organization, to do whatever it takes necessary to try to produce a winner, and he gives us all the all the resources possible. So I know the players will be excited to see him just because of that and their respect and regard for him and what we're trying to do here. So it'll be fun and I'll be glad to see him because it's been a while and we all very much appreciate him."
(Speaking of some of your leaders, yesterday CB Xavien Howard kind of said, just spoke on the need for guys to make plays, specifically putting more points up on the offensive side of the ball. What can you say about his leadership? And what have some of the other captains stressed after yesterday and what has kind of the response been from the team?) – "I believe with the context that 'X' (Xavien Howard) was speaking on, I 100 percent agree with him, and I think every player does, too. You have to score more points than the opponent to win and we're in the business of winning, so that is without a doubt, like I totally agree with him. I also know where 'X,' where his footing is, with regard to the team and he is stating what everyone is saying, which is that we need to put together a complete football game to get the results we want. So I appreciate that really all the guys really want to win. And speaking to the captains today, there's without a shadow of a doubt, complete confidence in our ability to do what it takes to win on both sides of the ball. And I think when guys are more demanding of themselves than other people, which really all seven of our captains are, their sentiments do not go unnoticed and are supported because they lead by the best example you can give which is personal accountability over everything."
(I know you said with the T Terron Armstead and OL Austin Jackson, the decision was made to hold them out. Were they on pace? Do they appear to be on pace, barring setback, which are always of course unpredictable, do they appear on pace to play Sunday?) – "With both guys for individual reasons – I feel good about where (Terron) Armstead got without playing in the game. I thought that helped him and he's a guy that as he works through this stuff, he'll be day to day. But I know he really, really wants to be out there and I'm fully confident that if he's capable, he'll be out there. So I would say it was a step in the right direction for him not to play because he had been gritting through a lot of stuff. So I feel good about that. With Austin (Jackson), we're really, when you think about a high-ankle sprain or a low-ankle sprain or really anything with an ankle; that for an offensive lineman, is a tough injury. You can feel better, but then now you have to go lean on a 300-pound individual and try to displace them. And that force from ground up is challenging. He didn't have any setbacks, so I feel good about that. It's more about being judicious with that process so we don't put himself in a position where he has any setbacks moving forward, or he doesn't all of a sudden, we put him in a position where he's super vulnerable in a game and isn't able to complete it, which is tough with the active roster selection. So we'll be monitoring that and a lot of guys have gotten good reps and are getting better in their place so hopefully we'll get one or two of them back this week. If not, we'll just keep getting better with the players on the field."
(I wanted to ask you about a couple of other injuries. CB Nik Needham – has he had surgery yet or is that coming tomorrow or something? And also QB Skylar Thompson, obviously with the thumb, what update do you have?) – "So I'm not sure he had surgery, but Nik (Needham) will be put on IR for the Achilles. And then as far as Skylar (Thompson), he's such a tough competitor. He's in that whole little bucket of what our whole team seems to be, which is day to day. So especially Wednesday, we're going to reassess where he's at. But right now, it's super unknown with that fresh injury to his throwing hand."