Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Friday, September 23, 2022.
(T Terron Armstead sitting out the last couple of days, has it been just to be cautious with the toe so he doesn't re-aggravate it? Or did he have some setback that puts him in doubt for Sunday?) – "It's whether or not he can be ready on Sunday. He's a vet that we can count on if he's able to play without taking – traditionally you don't really mess with that stuff. You have to practice to play. He's proven otherwise. With that being said, I thought it would be extra helpful if we didn't hurt how he's treating it by making it worse with practice. And we need to get guys prepared should he not be able to (play). It is literally up in the air. Only his body really knows and I don't think he knows yet if he'll play. He'll obviously make a great impact if he's able to but if he's not, we've got multiple contingency plans, which you have to do when you have little injuries such as that."
(I was curious to get your perspective on QB Tua Tagovailoa's pocket management and just kind of hear what impressed you about the way he navigates the pocket?) – "I think it's one thing to do things in practice. You try to make practice like games the best you can but you never really know until you get in games. But what I've been really pumped about is how we prioritize timing and execution of concepts but also to be able to be a playmaker, and I think he's done a great job of both playing in the timing of plays in the pocket – being able to move off the spot. He moved off the spot on a couple of (Jaylen) Waddle throws. But also recognizing when he can extend plays. So learning all of that, the nuances of the offense, the timing of it, the only way you can do that is true ownership, which is what I've been very impressed with in the two games is that's the way we all see it. He's really owning the intent of the plays. Great credit goes to both (Quarterbacks/Passing Game Coordinator Darrell) Bevell and (Assistant Quarterbacks Coach Chandler) Henley for making sure the complete understanding of what we're trying to get done is done. He's doing a great job in there. There's not really – so far there haven't been any sacks that I would have held him accountable for avoiding. That's a huge deal. In general, your first two games within an offense, you can't say that. I've been very impressed and I think it's a strong point of his game."
(With CB Xavien Howard, are you confident that he'll be able to go?) – "I'm confident that he'll be able to go if he's able to go. And then I'm confident in the players that will play if he doesn't go. Does that answer your question? (laughter) With injuries during the regular season, you cannot live and hope. You have to operate as the worst case scenario. I think both him and his position coach are very confident. Myself, I'm going to wait until I see it. Otherwise, we have to be completely comfortable and prepared, which we are, to play without him."
(Going back to T Terron Armstead for a second, we also saw what Von Miller did on Monday night. So how concerned would you be about Miller lining up against a backup? And for that matter, how concerned are you even if Armstead does go on Sunday?) – "Concerned isn't necessarily the word. I think Von has proven time and time again that he deserves the attention and respect of the opposing team. So you have to plan accordingly regardless. So his play is high right now. They're doing a wonderful job of incorporating him and you would think that he's been playing a four-down defense for his whole career when in fact he's been in 3-4 systems. He's playing outstanding. Whether Terron plays or not, he's a guy that you have to account for and he's one of those categories of guys that even if you do account for him, it may not matter. He still might make his plays. But you are irresponsible if you don't plan for his impact and how to adjust, which we have because it's our job to and he's an elite player."
(It seems like you guys have backup plans for backup plans. The Bills are also going to be without S Micah Hyde and DT Jordan Phillips, they announced today. How do all of these injuries kind of always affect your gameplan? Not just the week leading up but the days and the hours leading up to the game?) – "It's case-by-case in that there are certain defenses that you can only do certain things with certain players. With the Buffalo Bills, those two players are very, very good players. But I don't think that really regardless of how – that's one of the cool things about their defense in general is if you have good players go out, they don't really change. From my vantage point, I feel like they just ask people to make up the difference. But their whole defense is productive because it's a team defense. There's not a player on their defense that on every clip isn't straining, which is the ultimate testament of their coaching staff and what they've built there. But for this particular game, it doesn't necessarily change anything because they don't change. They play a ton of zone defense with the same structure that having those guys out isn't going to change them. To their credit, they are assignment oriented. They play unbelievable with each other. So they're going to be just as impactful. It doesn't really change how good of a defense they are. They've lost some playmakers, but they ask everyone to really make plays and fully commit to the task at hand."
(I wanted to ask about the coaching staff too. You guys have a bunch of guys who were here the past couple of years that got out-coached by the Bills coaching staff. And it seems like the Bills coaching staff out-coaches a lot of people in the league. Preparing for them this week, how has their experience maybe landed or helped you going up against them?) – "I try not to speak on that type of stuff in terms of whether they were out-coached or not. Like you said, they do a great job of coaching week in and week out. I think it's important to know people's experiences so that you can best apply the task at hand. I found more value in hearing more about the outcomes and then kind of how the team approached their games against them. And learning how the history has been. I wasn't here but I can put myself – I've been on both sides of the coin in my career with teams that you have some winning streaks on within the division and teams that you have some losing streaks on. So that's impactful to me. But outside of that, I think it's a new year and a new team, really. So we're not really approaching it like 'Ok, well we have to get them this time.' All of that stuff is rabbit pellets, I guess."
(I'd imagine it'd be hard to play with ribs that are hurting a lot. With WR Cedrick Wilson Jr., do you leave that decision up mostly to him with pain management? How much does the medical staff get involved with ribs?) – "Ribs are tricky because it's hard to play football and keep them out of the equation or breathe. But yes, that's something that's both player and medical staff and coaching staff. You have to assess the risk. You have to – is it is it going to get worse? Are we making ourselves vulnerable? Do you have to – what risk are they taking? Is it just pain or is there further injury? And then you have to assess, ultimately, are you doing a good job or are you doing what's fair to the player by putting him in a situation where he's not going to put his best stuff on tape. So you're trying to find that perfect formula. And with ribs, that's almost like an ankle, where you're really trying to see how things progress, because it's not a linear path of, 'OK, well, you get 25 percent better every day.' It is tricky. It is something that's tough to play with. You end up seeing players earn a lot of respect from teammates when they're able to grind it out, because if you haven't had one, you've seen some really tough players wince and curdle under some rib issues. I know 'Ced' (Cedrick Wilson Jr.) is doing his best to get there. He wants to play and we want him to play, so we'll take that up until game time. But he'll be moving around today, just because you have to see what it's going to feel like and if it's going to get worse."
(WR River Cracraft – there were two elevations in two weeks, which could possibly give you a decision to make soon. Your thoughts on the way he's played and a potential position for him on the active roster?) – "He's done a great job. He got himself his first career touchdown, which was well earned. But those are things that you're trying to – when you get to that point, you make these decisions every week for what's the best thing for the football team that week in the given matchups and whatever. If we get to that point where he's lost all that eligibility, then we have to cross that bridge. I try – not because I'm irresponsible but only because I want to stay true to my word – I don't get ahead of myself, because that involves his play and that also involves other people's play. So we'll cross that bridge when we when we come to it. But he's doing a tremendous job. He's out there and no one would know, 'Hey, there's a flex guy,' which is a credit to him."
(You've mentioned a few times your affinity for football, cars and going to Broncos camp as a kid. When you think about Dolphins and Bills rivalry, what's the first thing that comes to your mind?) – "Jim Kelly. Dan Marino. Turf games. I don't know. I think that there's a – it's always been a cool – from afar, not being in it – it's been a cool matchup and rivalry, because there's an extensive history playing each other. And you have – the first thing I always thought was, 'Wow for the same division, they couldn't be two different of places,' which is what's cool because I think there's a cool home and away juxtaposition there for both units. One team has to come and play in a place that's a lot hotter than it is at home. Another team has to play where it's a lot colder. So I think that balances out. There's a lot of cool things about that. What's awesome, too, is they're so different, but there's a lot of commonalities, where you have a fan base that is loyal and vested and true in both different places. So I think it kind of exemplifies the cool things about rivalries in the NFL in general."
(What about OL Brandon Shell and bringing him on board? Why did you choose him in grabbing a veteran tackle?) – "It was more of an opportunity. It wasn't like just seeking out a veteran. It was that we feel that he has experience, but he's also a fit for what we're trying to do. (I) really, really liked the personal accounts of him before we got him. I think he's a strong player that has a lot of pass protection value and a lot of run game value. I think we're excited about developing him in in this system because we feel that he can do some good things. Already, you can tell that he's the right type of guy that he fits right into the team and is passionate about being a part of it."
(I was just going to ask you real quick with the thinking of you and General Manager Chris Grier leaving a spot on the 53-man roster open for the last seven days. Could that be filled tomorrow?) – "I mean, it's just more to keep you guessing. That's how invested we are in you. 'I bet this will trip up Barry.' 'Oh, let's wait another week.' (laughter) There's a – man, the NFL season, it's all about adapting. So there's a – I can promise you this, it will not be vacant forever. We're not just doing it because 52 is our lucky number. (laughter)"