Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
(So, even though obvious that QB Tua Tagovailoa is going through protocol, can we say with certainty that he's out Sunday? And also have you and General Manager Chris Grier decided whether to put him on IR and put him out for four weeks? Or are you going to go week to week with this?) – "Yeah, this is something that it's too early to give a definite timeline. I can comfortably say that he'll be out for this game against the Jets, but anything beyond that, we're just focused on making sure he's at optimal health and then crossing that bridge. So it's a little early for definitive timelines beyond that."
(Right now, for example, is QB Tua Tagovailoa not supposed to look at anything too bright, motion, all of those kinds of things?) – "Those are all symptomatic instructions, like if you're having something, avoid something else. Right now, he's in the building. He's had a couple of good days. But he's just trying to go through with the proper procedure and protocols so that he's feeling 100 percent. I know he's going to be diligent with it. And if there's obviously any things that are giving him issues in terms of light and those things, then we will shut that down."
(The firing of the neurological doctor and the closing of the loophole in the concussion protocol with gross motor instability, are guys still comfortable with the initial … in the Bills game?) – "I see those as separate entities. Personally, I can't speak on what the league and specifically the (players) union decided to do with that particular specialist. I think in terms of the new adjusted rule – if moving forward, if it's safer for one extra player, then I'm all for it. As far as the Bills game, specifically our process and really everything involved with how we approach the medical situation, I'm still very confident in how we did that. But for the rest of it and how procedures need to be employed, I think that's not something – when you're talking about matters of the brain, I'm not going to ever pretend to be a foremost expert on it. But I think that as long as the protocols are derived with the proper spirit, if it helps players and keeps them safe, the Miami Dolphins will be all for it."
(Moving forward, who will determine when QB Tua Tagovailoa gets the green light? Will it be the neurological people? Or will it be your own doctors?) – "Well, all of that – it's not one person. It's a collection of contributing factors, that, again, however, the league mandates their influence and the union's representative, we'll obviously abide by but we'll always have our medical opinions from our in house guys. It's not just one doctor. It's a collection of people advising. And that is something that we'll always hold ourselves accountable to."
(I know that you've repeatedly said that an independent neurologist cleared him. What role in that entire process did you take day in and day out with QB Tua Tagovailoa being evaluated every day and being evaluated at halftime? How involved in the process were you?) – "In terms of what?"
(In terms of him being cleared and being tested and evaluated.) – "I mean, I'm very much involved in terms of they're answering and giving me information. I don't think unless I need to adjust my summer schedule, I don't think I should be involved in determining concussion symptoms outside of the obvious. I think the biggest thing that I serve, and one thing that we operate with within this organization, is they know first and foremost that the players' health and safety is above all else. The coaches know that in how we address things and the players know that as well. So mandating and making sure and being that extra voice of reason that says, 'Hey, we're not trying to ever push through something with unintended consequences being pushed to the player,' I'll always stay involved in that way, from an enforcer standpoint, from how we do business. But in terms of me interjecting an opinion that we have people schooled in years and years of expertise, I think that would be a little irresponsible if I tried to kick the door in and say my peace as a layman who is not an expert."
(There was a report today – I think it was Pro Football Talk – that the players' union may also have questions about the procedure to clear QB Tua Tagovailoa even with just a back injury. What was your level of confidence at the time, the instability he showed, which obviously you guys say is from his back, wasn't something that was going to hurt him more by playing?) – "Like I've said before, I'm very, very confident, and the only reason I'm confident is because of everything that I've been around since I've been here with regard to our medical staff and how they go and do their business. As far as the inquiry that is going on from the league and from the PA (players association), we're very happy to comply with all of those things and would much rather be as transparent as possible. So we're happy that all of this is taking place because we do not have anything to hide from that standpoint at all."
(I wanted to make sure we confirm with you, because this is the last thing that was pending when you last spoke on Friday. QB Tua Tagovaiola's MRI, did it come back clean as well?) – "It did. It did. So that can be confirmed."
(And I know there was a report that QB Tua Tagovailoa is getting three additional medical opinions. I think that is from ESPN. Do you know that to be true?) – "I haven't chased down that to verify that. No, I haven't. But like we do with all players, we're not the type of organization that bats an eye at second or third opinions. When it comes to adding information for a player to understand where they're at from a health perspective, that's actually encouraged."
(I get the part of the independent neurologist referring to the team doctor, and then the team doctor ultimately tells you a guy can go or can't go. But, in the case of concussions, in your opinion, shouldn't it be the neurologist who has final say, rather than a team doctor, who in this case, is an orthopedic surgeon?) – "I don't think that's necessarily an easy answer that's just completely flatline, just because there's different working relationships that I can't really attest to. I know that in this particular case, there were aligns of agreement, really. I really don't have an opinion on whether or not that's the best or worst case for every team. I know that from a procedural standpoint, with the rules being as such, that I have no cause for concern of how its streamlined through our process. But if some addendum comes forth that adjusts that, I'm totally fine with adjusting our procedure. If it is helps player health, that's not anything but rejoiced from the Miami Dolphins."
(What have you told the team about getting involved in the situation, like on social media or anything like that, and commenting on it? And has it been a distraction – I know it's only Monday, but has it been a distraction in preparation for the Jets?) – "Like everything else, I've been very transparent with the team with all of it. I think they can come in many different shapes and forms. Sometimes they can be good, sometimes they can be bad. But the nature of the NFL season are distractions from what your team's objective is. Narrative that has to do with anything else but playing the next opponent who's trying to beat you is a relative distraction for them. This is something for none of our players to bear, so I make sure that they understand that. I also make sure they know where we were coming from and how things kind of can happen out of your control. So the biggest thing for the team is to understand that regardless of what's going on, from last Thursday, or the Bills game, or any of that stuff, the New York Jets do not care one lick about any of it, and they're getting ready, starting today, to play us and try to win a football game. So to understand that and understand that we need to worry about what we can control and for each individual player and coach really to go along that process in that direction.
(Is CB Byron Jones ready to practice? And is he coming off PUP this week?) – "Yes, so (we're) going to find those things out probably mid-week. A little too early for me to tell with various things going on."
(Can you talk a little bit about the comfort level you might have with QB Teddy Bridgewater being the No. 2 guy going to play against the Jets and how he fits into your offense and what you want to see from him this week?) – "I think myself, I can speak for the team, offense and defense and special teams, we're very, very confident in Teddy Bridgewater. It's one of the reasons you decide to go that direction in an offseason and prioritize your backup quarterback is for these moments. We went out and signed him, and it's been one of the better things that could have happened to us for the team's dynamic, for his contribution in how Tua (Tagovailoa) is playing and his ability to play, as well as his part in the development of Skylar (Thompson). So he's had a big role. Everyone's super confident in him. He's done it before. It's a different deal coming off the bench than starting. Teddy knows that and he'll be fully prepared and ready to go. I don't think that the team will bat an eye when we lace them up on Sunday."
(Do you need to add another quarterback?) – "Just because of the unknown timeline … Do you guys know a quarterback by the name of Reid (Sinnett)? He's back! Yes, we signed him to the practice squad this afternoon. So that was something that we prioritized over the weekend."
(How comfortable are your players and the rest of the team with the current concussion protocols that are in place after seeing what QB Tua Tagovailoa has been through?) – "It'd be tough for me to speak on behalf of every individual. I think that – my best guess from all the feedback that I've gotten was that our particular team wasn't concerned about those protocols within that game and are not concerned with it moving forward. But for me to speak on every single individual, that's probably pretty impossible. But from all the feedback that I've gotten, I think they're fairly comfortable with everything."
(Without divulging secrets, how much, if at all, does the offense change with QB Teddy Bridgewater in there as opposed to QB Tua Tagovailoa?) – "You can tell (Jets Head Coach) Robert Saleh that the entire offense is way different but the exact same. (laughter) No, I think that there are certain times where you will have a large disparity between the type of offense you run from your starter to your backup. I don't see this being one of them. I think Teddy (Bridgewater) does a lot of very good things at the quarterback position that are similar to Tua's strengths, and he's done a great job within the offense. So we'll obviously cater to certain things specifically that Teddy prefers or is comfortable with, but for the most part, the aesthetic presentation should look very similar to what it looks like now."
(How is RB Raheem Mostert looking finally healthy again changed your running offense? It seems like the past couple weeks, he's taken a pretty firm grip on, I don't want to say lead back but…) – "I think we're getting – specifically our two backs, have done some really good things that have highlighted some of their skillsets. I think one of the things that their strengths are is they are very versatile in both phases. However, I have seen some real cool things for Raheem (Mostert) in the last couple of weeks that has really given our offense a little confidence in the run game, much needed. And Chase (Edmonds) has done a great job too. So we'll continue to utilize those players all season in different modes and different ways. But to answer your question, yes, I think he has. I think our team has felt it too. He's done some good stuff carrying the ball the last two weeks specifically."
(You and Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh go back a ways, right?) – "2006."
(Tell us about him. Any good stories?) – "Well, he was a squatter when he first got the job in Houston, which was hilarious. So I came with Gary Kubiak and Troy Calhoun, really, from the Broncos. In Houston, what was then Reliant Stadium, we had an office that there was one guy in there when I got there, and it was Robert Saleh, and he hadn't been terminated. He was, I think, working with Dom Capers before. He hadn't been terminated, I think he had like two more weeks of pay or something. So he did an excellent job of just forcing his hand and getting face time with the head coach. He sat in there all week. I think I got there on a Tuesday, and he just sat across from me in this awkward room like, 'Hey, dude, do you got a job?' 'No, not really. I'm trying to see Gary Kubiak,' and he just waited there until I think like Friday, barged in and told him, 'Hey, I'd really want to work for you.' There were a lot of those stopgaps at the beginning of Robert Saleh's career. Always a sponge. Always unbelievably smart. He would always blow my mind because we'd have a problem with our printer, we're trying to print Visio or Excel or something, and he wouldn't call IT. He would just open up this manual and figure out how to figure this stuff out. So he's always (been) super smart, but had some hiccups in his career, which I really, really respect because he just really stayed true to himself (and) kept pressing. Finally, (he) was a little more fortunate when he was with Seattle as an assistant there. But he's never been given anything, just like he wasn't given the job with Gary Kubiak in 2006. I think when he went to San Francisco in 2017, it was under the impression he would be the linebackers coach, and then he asked to interview for the defensive coordinator spot. Long story short, he hasn't been given anything, and every time he has been given an (opportunity), he's taken advantage of it. I'm very, very close with him as a human being. I really respect him as a man. But from a professional standpoint, he's lived the whole mantra of, 'You don't define me, I define me.' He's pushed through and really (is) one of the better defensive coaches and head coaches I've ever been around."