Read the full postgame transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.
(Transcribed by the Cincinnati Bengals)
(Can you talk about the status of QB Tua Tagovailoa?) – "It was a scary moment. He was evaluated for a concussion and he's in the concussion protocol. He was at the hospital, I believe he's about to get discharged. That was an emotional moment. That is not part of the deal that anyone signs up for even though you know it's a possibility in football to have something that you have to get taken off in a stretcher. All of his teammates, myself, we're all very concerned. The best news that we could get is that everything is checked out, that he didn't have anything more serious than a concussion. He'll be flying back with us here on the plane."
(Is it tough to get back into the game as players and coaches after a situation like that?) – "For me, yes; I think a lot of people struggled. I know me, personally, that if I didn't have a job to do for the organization and the rest of the players and I didn't have that obligation in my mind, I would've tapped. It's not something that is comfortable for anybody. It was not a situation that you want for any of your players or your team in general. That's some scary stuff. I'm just glad that it worked out."
(Looking at the game, it was a tough time with your short-yardage running and you weren't able to punch the ball in when you had it down by the goal line. Could you have used one or two of those earlier in the game?) – "Yes, absolutely. When you lose games to very good teams, you can always point to that. We lost the turnover battle and we were kicking field goals as opposed to trying to score touchdowns. On top of that, we had some third downs including the third-and-one I think in the fourth quarter or third. There was situational football that we had been executing and we did not today. You don't get freebies or you don't get passes in games against good teams. So, the point of that is it only means anything if you can learn from it, if you can get better from it, and that's what I'm going to be challenging the guys to do because that's what will happen in games against good opponents if you don't take advantage of those opportunities. They win those situations and you lose, you'll lose the game."
(What was the message to the team at halftime and what was the message after the game?) – "The message was that if Tua had his way that he would be standing here watching us play and that we need to put forth an effort for him because one of our teammates and our brother has gone down. That was beyond what everyone else was trying to do. They had expectations to come in and play pretty well and they didn't, so I tried to refocus them as best I could with that message."
(What led to the determination to allow QB Tua Tagovailoa to play tonight? What factored into determining he was healthy enough to play?) – "What goes into every one of those decisions, that it starts with your medical staff but then there's independent specialists that look into it, too. There's an entire protocol and then you're talking to the player as well. There's probably five or six different layers of a process and decision-making like you do with all players."
(What specifically throughout all the layers of the process gave you guys confidence to say you feel like QB Tua Tagovailoa is healthy enough to play?) – "Him getting cleared by people. Your standard operating procedure with all players in every single game."
(Can you express with 100 percent certainty that QB Tua Tagovailoa in last Sunday's game vs. Buffalo did not suffer a concussion or other head injury?) – "Yes, otherwise we would've reported him having a head injury. That's why the NFL has these protocols and there's, like every single NFL game that is played, an independent specialist that specializes in the specialty of brain matter. For me, as long as I'm coaching here, I'm not going to fudge that whole situation. If there's any sort of inclination that someone has a concussion, they go into concussion protocol and it's very strict. People don't vary or stray. We don't mess with that, never have, and as long as I'm the head coach that will never be an issue that you guys will have to worry about."
(What allows him to be able to fly back on the team plane? Can you walk us through some of the things that he has to clear at the hospital to make sure that he is safe to fly?) – "That's told to me. It's not me making that decision, it's more the medical professionals that are there with him at the time that deem him fit to leave. What goes into that, I wouldn't pretend to know. I just report the news."
(When you saw QB Tua Tagovailoa go down and saw him on the field, can you explain what you saw?) – "I saw him lay down. I saw that it looked like he had some stressers going on with the impact of the hit, and then once I got out to the field, I knew right away that this was at least a concussion. What I was worried about was other things on top of that. Obviously, I was very worried about his head, but you're wanting to make sure that all things with relation to the spine and back and all that stuff, you want to make sure that's okay. But it was very clear to me from the onset that he had, I didn't really the know the degree of, but I knew he had a concussion. He was asking for me and then when he saw me, I could just tell it wasn't the same guy that I'm used to seeing."
(When do you think the players shook off the injury and put it behind them, or did they?) – "I think that was my hope just because I knew exactly the way Tua would feel, that he would want his guys to go take care of business. So, I would hope at least at halftime when I'm extending that message. I think they put it past them. They went out and fought. I think both sides of the ball and special teams didn't show any signs of just kind of being out of it. We just didn't make the plays that we needed to make and we were playing a good team that was taking advantage of the opportunities that we weren't. I think that I feel confident that they put it behind them, but at that point in time you have to put it behind you but you also have to rise to the occasion and make some plays on both sides of the ball, and I think we just weren't very complementary like we had been in the previous weeks."
(Can you talk about the frustration of losing a game in which you had opportunities and couldn't get over the hump?) – "I think that is something that you don't want to run away from the frustration. I think that you have to experience this in some part to really go after all the little details that it takes to win NFL football games, so it's very frustrating. You feel like you missed an opportunity to play toe-to-toe with a very good team and potentially beat them, but that's the point. It's not supposed to be easy, and if you're wanting to play teams like this on stages like this, you can't do some of those things. Otherwise, you're going to end up on the short side of the stick. To me, it's incredibly frustrating with good reason, and that's part of what we do in professional football, and you do one of two things with it. You either use it to make you get better or you live with things that you can't change and get worse. Our plan is to learn from it and move forward. The only thing you can do really, to me, with losses is make them purposeful, and how do you make them purposeful? You have to be better from it than had you won the game. So, that's the way I'm going to approach it with the team and so far they haven't done anything but answer the bell whenever I've asked them. I feel confident that we can get that done."
(Is there anything you feel like in hindsight you should've done or could've done differently after QB Tua Tagovailoa went down the first time?) – "Absolutely not, absolutely not. If I would have, that would be irresponsible in the first place. I shouldn't be in this position."
(Given the manner of how QB Tua Tagovailoa went down similarly to how he went down last week, do you feel confident that you got the correct diagnosis the first time and that it was indeed a back issue initially?) – "Yes, absolutely. I don't think that an injury from last week made him fall the same way this week. But yes, I do not have any, absolutely zero patience for or will ever put a player in position for them to be in harm's way. That is not what I'm about at all, and no outcome of a game would ever influence me being irresponsible as the head coach of the football team."
(What was the reaction you saw from the players when they saw QB Tua Tagovailoa go down?) – "I got out there pretty quick. I did notice some guys around that were pretty worried about it. I'll tell you this much, if you guys or people are ever curious or question if Tua is the leader of the team, I think you found out pretty quick. It was a gut punch to a lot of people and I'm just very, very happy that it wasn't anything more. I'm very happy with that and I just want to get him healthy and right for himself and for the football team whenever that is."
(You mentioned an interaction with him on the field, so he was responsive at that point?) – "Yes, he was. When I got out there, which was pretty quick, he was conscious. I could just tell by what we were communicating and how he was talking to me that he was in the midst of a concussion, for sure. I'm no medical expert, but it was pretty obvious to me that he was just trying to grasp what was going on, what had just happened. There was a little of that foggy nature to it."
(Do you feel like when something like this happens in a game to a player you are close with that it could have a long-term effect on you personally?) – "I wouldn't say that. I'll never be comfortable with it, it's just not my personality and I'm pretty emotionally invested in these guys. It's also a part of the game. It's not something that goes away, but it's not something that's in the forefront of my mind. I don't think it's something I'd ever get comfortable with, but you know that it is an unfortunate part of the game. If I didn't have so many other people depending on me to do my job, maybe it would be hard to get over but I don't really have that option with regards to the responsibility that I feel to the Miami Dolphins organization and the fan base."