Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.
(Short week. It's a short turnaround. Do you have an update on how QB Tua Tagovailoa is feeling? Will he practice this week? His overall status?) – "Yeah, I have an update that he's feeling sore. But as far as everything else, we're just acquiring information right now, in terms of the exact imaging and stuff. But yeah, he was he was pretty sore, which we knew he was going to be. His ankle was a little sore, too, from all of his inner-trench warfare. But we're just – these Thursday night games, you get used to just doing the best you can and we're trying to get information as fast as possible. We'll be working fluidly from that. But right now there's – especially in a hard-fought game like that – not just Tua (Tagovailoa), but there's a lot of players that we'll be adjusting to on the fly, seeing if they can turn it around and give a healthy outing on Thursday."
(Would you consider what's going on with QB Tua Tagovailoa more natural treatment, or is there any concern that he could miss the game on Thursday?) – "These are – it's my first time on a Thursday night game with Tua, so I don't assume anything. But this, yeah, it wasn't out of the extreme norm of bumps and bruises after a game. As far as like me being able to access my crystal ball, it's broke right now. That's one of the reasons why you have a roster of capable people. And that's why we brought Teddy (Bridgewater) here and drafted Skylar (Thompson) is you have to be ready for these type of adjustments. And just like Teddy was ready in the game, we'll be ready for whatever we have to deal with moving forward."
(The NFLPA initiated an investigation into the handling of QB Tua Tagovailoa's concussion check. I know you're on the field trying to coach at the end of the first half, but what is your understanding or direct knowledge of the process that took place in order to get Tua cleared and then back on the field in the second half?) – "You're right, my expertise is much more in the coaching realm. But I think this is the exact reason there's protocols in place. I was very much, with a lot of people, I think when you saw it, you assumed one thing. But that's why there's also an independent neurologist that clears him. We have to clear him. You're talking to the player and listen, the one thing I think our players know more than anybody, there's certain things that I'm very sensitive to. I've been called emotional from time to time and one of those things is player health. So I don't mess around with that at all. And if so, it was above and beyond. Tua was pretty annoyed with me in the game when I was talking to him, because he knew what hurt and didn't understand why people kept talking to him about what we were talking to him about. I think watching replays, he probably could. But yeah, that's something that I think, the paramount or the pillar of importance for all of it is player safety. That's why the protocols are in place, so we're happy to comply and feel fine about that whole process, really."
(So he's not in concussion protocol?) – "No, no."
(You said that QB Tua Tagovailoa didn't understand what people weren't talking to him about what happened on the field there. Did he know that he like fell down and stumbled after that moment?) – "Yeah, he could feel his body so it was just one of those things where you're not looking at it from our sphere. Everyone was so worried about trying to talk to him through the lens of 'hey, is there something wrong with your head' and he was (like), 'no, I'm fine.' And he was dealing with his back. He knew that he was losing his balance a little bit when he was getting up, but it was a completely different source of issue from what everyone else was really looking at from that prism. But they went through the protocols and in that process during the game, and it was something that we wouldn't have moved forward in the direction we did, had there been any sort of red flags because that's – you can't keep quarterbacks out of harm's way so you wouldn't – if he had a head issue, he wouldn't have been back out there."
(Do you know what part of the sideline evaluation for QB Tua Tagovailoa got him sent back to the locker room? Which part of the process kind of triggered his you guys sending him back to the locker room?) – "No, all I know is he was out and so then I was calling plays for Teddy. And then when I was back in the locker room, that's where I got the information from. So as far as the nuts and bolts of the whole process, and when and why they went into the locker room, I was just trying to get the game even, is all we were trying to do at that point. They knew that to have a concrete conversation, it was going to have to happen at halftime anyway, because of however long that timeline takes. So I didn't really worry about when he was in the locker room, or if he was going to – I already moved on to trying to get our team producing without him."
(The fact that he was able to come back in the second half and help the team win, did that raise the respect teammates have for him, or was it already so high that it couldn't be raised anymore?) – "I definitely don't think it hurt at all because you could see, like from the onset, he was not happy with the idea of not leading his team to try to get this win. I think the guys that have been around here– and I can relate, too, everyone can where in your division, you've lost several games in a row to a team. As the quarterback of this team and a captain, he wants to lead the team and is very competitive. I think his teammates saw a version that we haven't been able to see really, which is this confident quarterback that's really grown in his game. But you don't really know until you're in the heat of the moment how a guy is going to try to battle through in this case back pain. And you could tell it was uncomfortable. But like you said, I don't think – it definitely didn't hurt with his teammates. He got to show a hunger and a yearning to be with his brothers, which all of the guys whether they say it tangibly or not that, that's something that sits with you moving forward for sure."
(You mentioned confidence. I wanted to ask – you mentioned a couple of times about wanting QB Tua Tagovailoa's confidence to outweigh his perfectionism. I'm curious through three games, how it's been going in that pursuit. I'm sure it's still ongoing but what you've seen from him.) – "It was a really cool last week. That's one of the things that I can't say enough about Tua in general is how coachable he is. It's one thing to say a coaching point, which is what you are alluding to. It's another thing for a guy to take it by the teeth and run with it. He channeled the end of the Baltimore game into a great week, where you could feel his spirit, his command and his attention to detail, but also his confidence. I think it definitely manifested itself in this game. That's why you can't just look at stat lines. His stats weren't nearly as impressive as the game before but he definitely took a step forward in the right direction. You could argue that – I would argue that the in-rhythm touchdown he made to River Cracraft, I would put that up against any play that he's made this year. And I don't think going into the Baltimore game he might have made that play because it was more than just a bang-bang. He had to see the coverage right and really, really hum the ball in there because it was a tight window in that low red area. So that's an example. I think on the long (Jaylen) Waddle catch, people talk about all sorts of nonsense to me. But all I see is a guy that not only made the throw but watch what he was doing before the throw with his drop. The only reason why there was any room from the field half safety is because he was eyeing him up the entire time and really not even looking at Waddle to try to manipulate that guy. So what that tells me is that's a guy in a situation that is not for everybody. Third-and-22 isn't exactly where you want to be, but he saw that, he recognized that he had a play call that he owned, he got the look that we were looking for and he really owned that moment. And who would have known that that could have been one of the bigger plays in the game. (He's) a guy that's confident. A guy that's not trying to force stuff but recognizes when his opportunity is there. That's what that was there. I think it was a really, really big week applying all of that game momentum from the Baltimore game into this past week. I'm not sure we would have won the game otherwise."
(How did CB Xavien Howard and T Terron Armstead make it through the game on Sunday?) – "There's a lot of inspiring – our guys are really taking leadership and following leadership appropriately. Our captains, specifically, had done an unbelievable job setting the tone. When you have two captains like that do everything they possibly can to contribute as much as they can to the team, there's a trickle-down effect that I think really it's hard to just say their own play. Not only did they play very well – both of them – but I think you're also setting a tone for your teammates to follow. And I think there's a lot of straining, a lot of grit, a lot of battling in that game that is a function of a lot of captains really scratching and clawing. That's the thing I was so pumped about because they not only put their characteristically top-shelf play on performance, but I think they led by example in a way that you'd really hope your captains would. That's what we count on them for and they came through, for sure."
(Can you talk about the short week and just your approach to getting ready for Thursday night?) – "My grandfather used to have a saying that's very applicable for Thursday nights. He was a farmer, so he would say 'I'll sleep when I'm dead.' That's how I feel. (laughter) You just approach it. I think one of the things that after you've had one or two, you realize you're doing – for instance, today we're doing Monday's, Tuesday's and Wednesday's worth of work today. It's fly by the seat of your pants. It's very hard on the players and coaches alike. But also, we understand that I'm very comfortable with it because every team does it. It's also not a bad thing when you have an opportunity to play in front of a national audience. It's good for our game. We all benefit from it because it brings in revenue to the whole pie. I kind of look at it as a necessary evil that you just – they have the same short week as well. So if you're going to spend time complaining about it, that's time lost on your opponent. And realistically, it is nice, after the game, if you're able to win that game because you get a little mini bye week that can kind of break up the season and give your guys a little rest, if you're able to do so. It's a scramble but it's one that's fun that we all benefit from, so we're looking forward to it."