Miami Dolphins Transcripts – November 24 – Head Coach Brian Flores and Players

WR Mack Hollins

(Is the Friday video going to focus on thanksgiving?) – “What’s today?”

(Today is Wednesday.) – “I guess it’s not Friday.”

(I need something to look forward to.) – “It’ll always be there, so look forward to it. (laughter)”

(Is there ever a time where you feel underappreciated as a receiver? Because you’re a pretty darn good one and I know people for years, a couple years, might think that special teams along with it. Do you feel your receiving skill is underappreciated?) – “I don’t know if underappreciated would be the word. I don’t know. Appreciation is not ever what I’m looking for, whether it’s my special teams play or offensive play. Like I say every week, winning is what I look forward to. I was able to make a catch and we won. Fantastic. I’ve had weeks where I didn’t make a catch and we won. Fantastic. I’ve had catches and touchdowns that we’ve lost. Worthless. I wouldn’t say I feel underappreciated or anything. When my opportunities come, I try to make the most of them because I never know when the next one will be.”

(You were on the receiving end of QB Tua Tagovailoa’s long touchdown pass. What’s your opinion on his downfield throwing?) – “It’s 100 percent when it came to me so I’d say it’s great. The ball was where it needed to be. I was able to tightrope the sideline because of where the ball turned me into. So yeah, it went well.”

(You came into the league as a fourth-round pick so obviously people saw you as a wide receiver who could contribute on offense. When did you become comfortable with the idea that if it’s going to be mostly special teams, so be it?) – “I was okay with that when I got to college. That’s how I got my scholarship. That’s how I became a four-time captain. Special teams has always been my thing. I think I got drafted in the fourth round more off special teams than offense. Obviously I led college in deep balls or yards per catch or whatever it was. Cool. But I also led college in (special teams) tackles. I had just come off an injury in college and was still drafted above some of my teammates who were excellent in the offensive realm. Special teams has always been something that I’m totally fine with playing. Yeah, it’s be great to play offense too but if my worst thing is playing four core special teams, that’s not a bad gig.”

(You had a special teams tackle in this last game down near their goal line. This might be an odd question but you wouldn’t think that a receiver would be a particularly good tackler, especially since you probably don’t get to practice it as much as linebackers and defensive backs or do you practice tackling more than the average receiver?) – “Yeah, I’m probably a good tackler for a receiver but a bad tackler for – like if you look at my games, I’ve left a lot of tackles out there because I’m not as great of a tackler as I’d like to be. But I’ve never, I’d say over the last year and a half, I’ve never – when we do certain offensive versus defense drills, I’ll go with the defense. If there’s specific tackling drills, I’ll work defensive stuff because that’s a small time in practice, five percent of practice, where I can work on defensive stuff. The gains I’ll make doing the offensive side of the drill versus the gains I’ll make on the defensive side, it’s better for me to go to the defensive side because I’m going to have a lot of opportunities where I can make tackles. That’s really helped me over this last year making a lot of those tackles I would have missed.”

TE Durham Smythe

(Opening Statement) – “To start off, I want to say I left my Mike Gesicki shirt in Texas. I have one. Post bye-week when I’m back up here, you guys will see that. It will be perfect timing, right in time for the Pro Bowl push, so I’ll have that on but that’s a little delayed right now. The relationship isn’t one sided, so you can’t think of it like that.”

(What did you think of TE Mike Gesicki’s press conference?) – “Yeah, I mean that’s just kind of the guy he is. A guy that gets a lot of attention around the building and then he passes it on to guys that maybe aren’t talked as much about – the offensive line, other tight ends like myself. That’s just kind of the guy he is. It comes back full circle and says a lot about him.”

(Did his comments elicit any sort of response, joking or otherwise, to you from General Manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President, Football & Business Administration Brandon Shore, Head Coach Brian Flores or anybody in the building?) – “Me and all those guys have a good relationship. I think we’re both in a place where we can joke about. ‘Flo’ (Brian Flores) comes up and we’ll joke about it here and there – me, Mike (Gesicki) and him and all those guys. It’s kind of fun just because we are close enough in that relationship where we can joke about something like that. We’ll continue to do that and pry at the bear a little bit.”

(Was there any serious clarity that you gained in terms of Head Coach Brian Flores or General Manager Chris Grier kidding around with you about TE Mike Gesicki’s comments but also saying, ‘don’t worry about it we’re going to take care of you?’) – “Not yet. Obviously when you’re at this point in the season, things like that come up but the guys around the building are focused on football and that’s going to be the answer regardless. We really are. Three games in a row now that we’ve won and just trying to keep that ball rolling. There’s so much else to focus on right now.”

(Did you know beforehand that TE Mike Gesicki was going to wear your jersey?) – “I actually had no idea. Our security guy, Drew Brooks, sent me about three pictures of him and people’s reactions. I was actually driving on my way to the building. I had no idea so it was pretty fun.”

(Part of his reasoning with that was that you established a new career high in receiving yards. Your thoughts on this season and how you’ve progressed?) – “Yeah, I’ve said this before. I think this league is one where once you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. That goes across the board. There are really good players at every position that aren’t playing or aren’t getting the opportunities that they think they should. When you do get the opportunity, you just have to make the most of it. That’s kind of what this league is about across the board. I think over the last couple weeks, dating back to the beginning of the year, I just try to catch the ball when it’s thrown to me. That’s what I’ll continue to do and move forward.”

(You caught one of the trick plays right? QB Tua Tagovailoa to WR Albert Wilson to WR Jaylen Waddle?) – “Yes.”

(In practice, are you always wide open on that play?) – “Yeah, actually Mike (Gesicki) is the one on that play that has to take the defense backs out. Every time before he ran it, I was like, ‘Hey man, this is the biggest play of the game for you and me. Make sure you’re hauling ass.’ That was the funny part about it.”

(We didn’t see TE Adam Shaheen at practice. We haven’t been told what his availability is for Sunday. Obviously you know how to do everything he does and vice versa. Does your workload increase this week in terms of preparation if he doesn’t play?) – “That’s to be seen. Obviously, there’s a lot of variables like you mentioned with him and other players. I don’t know the full extent of all of that. At this point, I think we all prepare in our room like we are going to play the majority of the snaps because already we’ve seen this year there’s been some COVID instances in our room, some injuries. I think we all prepare every week to get the majority if not all of the snaps and then we kind of just play it by ear once we get into the game.”

(I meant more workload in terms of preparation and not the game itself because the game itself we’re not sure if he’s going to play. I would imagine it’s the same amount of work either way if TE Adam Shaheen is here or not for you. There’s no extra responsibilities you have to learn if he’s not in the building this week?) – “It’s the same. In terms of preparation, I kind of approach it the same way as the game, prepare the same way every week regardless kind of thing. It’s going to be similar regardless.”

WR Jaylen Waddle

(You haven’t had a lot of return opportunities, but are you feeling like you’re close to breaking one? We’re all waiting for the moment, that Jaylen Waddle return leaving everyone in the dust.) – “(laughter) I mean I’m not pressing it. But if I get an opportunity, I’ll try to make the most of it.”

(I know most of the focus is on receiving. Is that much of what you focus on at all during the week? The return element, how much time is spent on that either from a film study standpoint or from a practice standpoint, on that aspect of the game?) – “Definitely a lot of time throughout the week. Knowing the return, knowing how I’m going to hit it on the blocks, how I’m going to set it up. A good amount of time goes into it, of course.”

(What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food? Do you have a plan on where you might eat?) – “My favorite Thanksgiving food? Some turkey, some good homemade mac and cheese. That sounds kind of good.”

(Are you going to QB Tua Tagovailoa’s house?) – “Tua did tell me to come over there. I might come over there. I plan on going all around and just picking up plates really. (laughter)”

(To all different teammates?) – “Yeah for sure, for sure. I got to get around to the bigger guys. They eat good so I definitely got to stop over there. (laughter)”

(How many plates do you plan on having?) – “I’m going to stack up for like a good four days. I’d say about four or five plates.”

(Do you bring a dish? Is there a dish you cook?) – “No. I’m not bringing nothing. I’m just bringing myself. (laughter) I’m not bringing nothing.”

(I saw this argument online. What’s better – Thanksgiving dinner itself or eating leftovers afterwards?) – “That’s tough. Them leftovers hit different. I’m not going to lie, them leftovers hit different that day after.”

(Who is the best cook on the team?) – “In college, Raekwon (Davis) used to barbecue. I think that’s the only person’s food I had. I’d say Raekwon. He used to barbecue back in college.”

(I know we talked last week about you being top four, top five, now fifth in the NFL in receptions. I know winning is the most important but would finishing in the top five in the league in receptions as a rookie be meaningful to you?) – “Yeah, of course. Just having a lot of receptions and positive plays is always good, so definitely.”

(In recent weeks, more of the trick plays have gotten into the gameplan. When those get called into the huddle, do your guys’ ears perk up, like this is going to be exciting? Are you like making sure everyone has to execute this right? Is there an excitement level that brings?) – “I think it’s more of an execution thing. Knowing that if we want this play to work, it’s got to be right on the dot. I think it’s more about us knowing our assignment and keyed in on what we need to do to make this play work.”

(One of the things that QB Tua Tagovailoa has done well this year is that in fourth quarters he has a high success rate in terms of completions and scoring and things like that. What do you know about Tua relative to how he performs in clutch situations?) – “He doesn’t really let pressure or things like that get to him. It’s hard to rattle him. I think the fourth quarter is crunch time and you need something, and he’s confident in his ability to go out there and perform well.”

LB Jerome Baker

(What do you think about facing QB Cam Newton this weekend?)  “I’m excited. Growing up, I always looked up to him. I’m definitely excited to play against him.”

(You faced him a couple times last year. You maybe thought you’d face him Week 1 this year. Just having that experience against him.) – “It definitely helps, just to play against him and you see the type of player he is actually playing against him. He’s Cam. He’s going to talk, he’s going to compete and we’re definitely up for this challenge.”

(When S Eric Rowe was out here a few minutes ago, he was talking about how QB Cam Newton has a way of getting under your skin as a defensive player. How much of that have you experienced and how eager are you to shut him up?) – “Me personally, he doesn’t really do it to me too often, just in the few games I played against him. But like I said, in the eighth grade when he was at Auburn, I was that kid in the back of the class looking up YouTube videos watching his highlight tapes. I’m still that fan of him. Just to go out there and compete against guys you looked up to is definitely fun. He’s Cam. He has a personality but at the end of the day, he loves to compete. If anybody knows that, I know that because I watched him quite a bit. I’m definitely excited.”

(What do you remember the most or was most challenging about him when you faced him last year with the Patriots?) – “I remember last year that we didn’t know exactly how they were going to use him in the run game. That first game, we would come back to the sideline and try to coach it up. It’s pretty hard to do that the way they were doing it. I remember the second game we were coached up and did a better job of containing him. At the end of the day, he is still Cam Newton. He can run the ball, he can throw it, strong arm, he’s a veteran. We definitely have to get after him and throw different looks at him. We’re definitely excited.”

(What type of dual threat does RB Christian McCaffrey presents to your defense? A guy who has been successful for a while now in this league.) – “Do you want me to talk about him?”

(Yeah, about McCaffrey.) – “He’s definitely one of the best backs in the league. He can take it 90 yards on a run play or he can catch a bomb for 60 yards receiving. He’s one of those guys that it’s pretty hard to stop him. You really have to contain him and limit his plays. It’s definitely going to be a big challenge with him. I’m excited because I cover a lot of running backs and it’s my first time going against him. I’m definitely excited to go up against him and see where I stack up against him. This will definitely be a fun one for me.”

(What’s more challenging from your standpoint in terms of defending a scrambling quarterback, an incredibly fast guy like QB Lamar Jackson or a really big guy like QB Cam Newton?) – “It’s not really challenging for me per se. It’s more the d-line. Our d-line does a great job of containing those guys, knowing the gameplan and just following the gameplan. If I would give anybody credit, it’s our d-line. They come in and they’re ready to work. They know how important it is to contain a guy like Lamar. They know how important it is to squeeze the pocket on a guy like Cam. I give it all to them. If I had to say what’s the most challenging, I’m going to give it to the young guy that’s running a 4.2 or something like that. Lamar, he’s definitely a challenge. But the one thing about Cam is he has something to prove. I think a lot of media takes away from his talent now that he’s older. He still has a strong arm. He has a bright mind so he’s seen it all. He has that hunger, that chip on his shoulder. I’m going to give it to Lamar but I’m definitely going to still give it to Cam.”

(When you found out that QB Cam Newton was re-signing to Carolina, did it immediately flash that ‘oh, we’re going to be playing them in a few weeks?’) – “Yeah. It definitely did, I was just happy for him to get back into the league. It was definitely cool to say we’re definitely playing him later. This week is this week, and now it’s time to get it done.”    

S Jevon Holland

(What are your thoughts on facing QB Cam Newton this week?) – “I think it’s pretty awesome. I was a kid when he was at Auburn. What was that, like 11 years ago or something like that? Super long time ago. Nah, it’s pretty crazy. It really is pretty crazy. I’m excited.”

(One of the plays that happened last game was DT Christian Wilkins had the ball and then he didn’t. Were you on full alert? You jumped on it right? Were you on full alert in case something went wrong?) – “No, it’s funny. I was actually behind him. I was waiting for him to start running to the sideline because I was standing right behind him and I was going to try to get as close as possible to try to cut him off and block somebody. He ended up fumbling it but hey, I appreciate the stat – fumble recovery and whatnot. (laughter) I was just trying to throw a block out there but it ended up coming out so Johnny on the spot.”

(Did you ever think about taking the ball from him? S Ed Reed did that once.) – “If he’s running and I’m like, ‘Yo, give me the ball?’ (laughter) It wasn’t really on my mind but if he started running and I saw he was going to get tackled I would have been like, ‘Yo pitch it!’ Nah, that would have been fun though.”

(Do you think he actually would have pitched it? I think he wants to run with the ball.) – “(laughter) He might have faked it honestly. Christian, he’s good with the ball in his hands as you guys have seen before.”

(Judging by what you’ve seen on film, what comes to mind as far as what you have to do to stop QB Cam Newton both passing and when he’s rumbling and stumbling towards you as big a guy as he is?) – “That’s a great question. I’m actually not going to answer that question. Keep the game plan within the gameplan. But after the game, you can diagnose what we did and determine what the gameplan was. I’ll keep that one to myself.”

LB Vince Biegel

(How was the emotional roller coaster this year of not making the team, being injured, being practice squad and now? How much of a roller coaster has it been emotionally for you.) – “I think the game of football is a journey and sometimes the gift is the struggle, as I’ve been saying. It’s been quite a journey this year and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m just thankful to be back with a great organization like the Dolphins and help this team come out and win ball games.”

(You participated some in training camp, right? But then right before the season you had to have an injury settlement. Tell us about what happened and how you were feeling about the fact that I guess you weren’t ready.) – “I got hurt during training camp with a calf strain and then we did an injury settlement. The reason why we did an injury settlement is because technically when I went on IR before the 53-man roster was set, my season was over at that point. So the only way for me to come back during the season was through injury settlement. So, I knew I was going to come back this season. It’s never a good time to get hurt, but especially during training camp, it sets you back. We did an injury settlement and trained here in town away from the facility. My whole mindset was to come back and be able to come help the Miami Dolphins finish the season strong and win ball games.”

(Did having extra time since your last NFL game – defensive snaps, I know you had a couple of special teams snaps this year – did that help in any way strengthen the Achilles situation?) – “The Achilles has been great. It was a calf injury during training camp. Both are 100 percent healthy. I’ve been running around here now for the last six weeks and bringing the juice on special teams, bringing the juice on scout team defense. I’m excited to be able to come out now and contribute to the defense, contribute to special teams and like I said, continue to help this football team win ball games.”

(Not everyone who goes in injured reserve in August gets an injury settlement and is brought back by the team. OL DJ Fluker wasn’t. Many examples around the league of guys not being brought back. Did Head Coach Brian Flores or General Manager Chris Grier tell you at the time that you were placed on IR in August that we’d like to do an injury settlement with you and bring you back?) – “It was in the conversation but at the end of the day, the game of football is a business. You never know what’s going to transpire. I always go back to I have a great relationship with ‘Flo’ (Brian Flores) and a great relationship with this team. Honestly, that’s not just talk. I really wanted to come back here and I really do love this team. My family loves it here in Miami and like I said, I’m just excited to get back, move past the injuries and finally be able to get out there and play football again and be able to help this team win and be able to make plays with guys like (Andrew) Van Ginkel, Jaelen Phillips and be able to bring the energy on defense, special teams and on the team.”

(Before you re-signed here to the practice squad, did you ever come close to signing with another team?) – “We definitely had a lot of interest from other teams but to me, it was just the commitment from this team that really wanted me to come back here. The commitment from Coach ‘Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores), the commitment from (Chris) Grier. I really wanted to come back. It was really cool to come back and see my locker wasn’t cleaned out. My nametag was still up there and that really speaks volumes to what this organization is. I wouldn’t really want to be anywhere else.”

(A little unfinished business maybe?) – “Unfinished business, that’s right.”

(What are some of the things that you were able to do in 2019 that you would like to re-establish in the last six games?) – “It’s the same type of system, right? It’s not overly different from what we had in 2019 so there are a lot of parallels, a lot of similarities. It’s still the Miami Dolphins defense. To me, it’s not a huge difference it’s just being able to be consistent every day. Being able to be a guy that, I’ve had injuries in the past, and it’s about being able to be out there and be reliable. A guy who my teammates and coaches can count on where I’m consistent and I can be able to make plays and also bring the energy and be a guy that they can rely on.”

(A huge part of who you are as a player, and all your teammates have told us as well is your skill, is your positivity, your leadership and all that. Is that tough to be gone for those chunks of time and come back and get that role back? Is it a different feel now then it was then?) – “It was definitely tough being away from the guys. I’m a football guy through and through. I grew up in a football family. Being away from the game for six weeks, it was challenging. Watching games on Sundays, not being able to around the facility rehabbing. You’re really out of the flow of things. It was a challenge in a different way but I always go back to sometimes the gift is the struggle. I’ve grown so much as a man, as a person off the field, being able to spend time with my daughter. Those are the things that I’m thankful for. Those are the things that – I’m a glass half full type of thing so those are the things that I really took and being able to grow, not just on the field but off the field.”

(I’m a girl-dad too. If you get a sack or something have you thought about maybe you can do something to let her know what you did or you’re thinking of her?) – “I’ll be completely honest, I haven’t given it too much thought. To your girl-dad point, I’ve got another daughter on the way. So not only do I have a daughter, I got another daughter coming March 7, so I’ve got my hands full in a few months here.”

(Was there even maybe a slight gamble on your part when other teams call that you were banking on the Dolphins re-signing you? Was there any kind of gamble would you say?) – “To me, going back to my relationship with this team and my relationship with ‘Flo,’ that was really what my mindset was. Coach ‘Flo’ knew I wanted to come in and help this team win ball games. Obviously you’re hoping that the Miami Dolphins are still interested in you after the injury settlement but kind of what my mindset was during that rehab process was to take it one day at a time, continue to train and get my body right so whether it was the Dolphins or any other team, I could be ready to go out there and help contribute. To my earlier point, it was always the Dolphins who I wanted to come back to and be able to come back with this group of guys, this locker room and come help win ball games.”

S Eric Rowe

(What did you take from your two games facing QB Cam Newton last year?) – “The two games – every time we played him, he brings all of the energy. He brings it for both sides because he gets us pissed off and obviously that gets us going, and then obviously energy for his team. Every time we play him, it’s always fun. He’s one of the most competitive quarterbacks at least when I’ve played against him, that I’ve been against in the sense of he’s talking crap to everybody – linebackers, DBs, d-line, it doesn’t matter. He’s on the sideline talking crap. I like that. Every time we play him, I’m always look forward to it.”

(Is that pretty rare? Most quarterbacks don’t talk do they?) – ‘That’s what I’m saying. Most quarterbacks don’t talk. The only ones I know are like him, I know Philip Rivers did. (laughter) But usually everybody else, they kind of stay to themselves.”

(What was your reaction a couple of weeks before the opener when you found out you weren’t going to play against him, and then a couple of weeks before this one you found out you will?) – “The opener shocked all of us. We were getting prepared for him because we know when he’s in the game, offenses can change a good amount. Now that we’re a little bit over midseason, we’re playing him again, so we’ve got to prepare for quarterback runs, quarterback powers and that’s his strength. We’ve got to get ready for that all of a sudden now.”

(Is there a particular instance where he pissed you off?) – “Not a particular instance. I do remember it was my rookie year, I was on the Eagles and we played at Carolina. It was like 2015. I remember he – he didn’t run over a DB. I can’t remember who it was but he hit him and then he said ‘you too small!’ This is my rookie year, so I’m like ‘oh, man.’ Cam is a big guy. I was like ‘I’ve never seen a quarterback come at somebody (and yell) you’re too small. I’m like ah shoot, he’s the real deal.”

(You said you like that. Does it give an extra edge to you?) – “Yeah. You know how it gets the juices going. You’re like ‘no, eff you.’ Then you get going. It’s a part of the game.”

(At the same time, you want to do your best not to get run over by this guy.) – “Yeah. Once you get mad, you just want to smack him and it brings out the most competitive in you.”

(I see LB Vince Biegel back in the room. What do you recall about what he brings to the defense when he’s been out there?) – “When Biegel is out there, because I’ve been with him since 2019, it’s consistent energy – practice and game, it doesn’t matter. He’s out there communicating, he’s talking and when he makes a play, you know it. It’s good to see him back out there. I saw him get hurt, come back, get hurt again, work hard, I’ve seen him through rehab and to know he got singed again, to (the) active (roster), that’s a great thing for him.”

G/T Austin Jackson

(On the offensive line not allowing a sack against the Jets.) – “A no-hitter. Well, a penalty. (laughter) One guy (bailed us) out. But that’s our goal every week. Uphold the protection, follow our keys. We study a lot. I think the league is a copycat league so if you mess something up with one team, another team is going to try to do it. Just staying on our p’s and q’s with that and staying alert. We look to have a lot more of those.”

(I think you and T Liam Eichenberg did a good job on the left side of the offensive line in the pass game. Can you talk about how the two of you and your relationship and working together is evolving?) – “Yeah. We go to practice every day. We’re both guys that – I don’t know, we just work hard. We’re not afraid to critique ourselves and accept that we’re not doing some things well, so we’ve got to do it better. We just keep that mentality and take it in day in and day out.”

(The Panthers are one of the league leaders in sacks. What have you noticed about the Panthers pass-rush plan?) – “They’ve got two very fast dynamic guys on the edge in (Brian) Burns and (Haason) Reddick. They’re very fast, very agile type of rushers. We’ll definitely be practicing for that. They’ve also got some pretty stout guys that can also move pretty well too on the inside, too. It’s really a good mix. I think the offensive line has to do a great job of just holding the pocket, especially upfront for us, with those guys being fast around the edge. Yeah, they’re dynamic. And like you said, they’re leading some categories in terms of the whole league.”

(Your comfort level at guard now, how is it? Do you feel a lot better there than you did a month ago?) – “Yeah, definitely. Just getting more reps, more game reps, practice reps and training. I think my comfort level has gone up.”

(How about your chemistry right next to T Liam Eichenberg?) – “I think that’s gotten better too. I like to get better every time I step on the field. I definitely would say that instinctually, I’ve been able to be a lot quicker on certain things and reading certain types of stunts. I think I’ve done a good job there.”

(What was your perspective on QB Tua Tagovailoa’s long touchdown pass last game?) – “I was like blocking the whole time so I really didn’t even know what was going on, to be honest with you. I just looked up and saw Mack (Hollins) running down the field. Looking back at the film, it was a great pocket he had to step in. He stepped up, which is all the great things we talk about, and he delivered a strike. That’s what we want.”

(There were several good runs in the last game. What are some of the common denominators, in your opinion, on the successful run plays?) – “Just being on – first things first, we have to be on the same page in terms of who we are blocking. There’s a lot of different rules, a lot of different motions, a lot of different situations where we would re-count and where we wouldn’t. Being on the same page, first and foremost. And then getting movement up front. I think they played a lot of – in their base, they didn’t really move too much at the start of the game. But every team you play makes adjustments based on how you play, so taking in those adjustments, or adjusting to their adjustments, that’s like the second biggest thing. I think we did a good job with both of those things.”

(It’s rare to have a day off in the middle of the season on a game week to celebrate friends, family and Thanksgiving. What’s your plan tomorrow?) – “I actually don’t think I have a lot of family coming into town for this game. I think Christmas, I will. I’ve got some turkey legs I want to smoke. Tua (Tagovailoa) got us a Traeger (grill) last year for Christmas, so I finally got that set up. So I’m probably going to throw something on the grill and see what I can do.”

(This is kind of random, but I’m curious how you think the USC head-coaching opening compares to some of the other ones that are out there like LSU and Florida?) – “Well you get the opportunity to coach in LA, which is a great job. It’s a great university. Very prestigious. (I had a) great time. I love it. I think there’s a culture about football over there that is hard to match. I think whoever ends up filling that role, I’m looking forward to whoever it is because there’s definitely a lot to do in order to help us get back to where we want to be.”

(I heard they re-did the Coliseum. I have not seen how nice it is.) – “Yeah, it’s nice. It’s really nice. They re-did it like two years ago. They took a lot of seats out. I remember my freshman year, we were sitting at some games of like 100,000 capacity. Now I think it’s 70 or 80,000. Something like that.”

QB Tua Tagovailoa

(Your deep throws obviously at Alabama were outstanding, but your metrics in terms of balls that travel 20+ air yards have improved a lot from Year 1 to Year 2. They’re among the best in the league now. Do you attribute that partially to the hip being better and more power in the base? Are there other reasons? What might you cite?) – “I would say it starts in practice. A lot of the looks that we get in practice kind of entail us to take shots. But in the game, if it doesn’t present itself, we never want to force it. So when it does present itself, we try to take advantage of that.”

(Are you feeling more strength just in your base this year on deep throws? Obviously you’re future removed from the hip injury.) – “I wouldn’t say it doesn’t not help. I would say it helps. Then again, it’s always about the opportunity presenting itself.”

(Have you found it difficult at all to manufacture power when going through the rib fracture and your finger fracture as well?) – “I would say just being in the game, those aren’t things that you kind of think about. You’re just playing. And also in practice. So to me, no. I would say no.”

(You’re like I’ll deal with the pain later?) – “Yeah. Nothing really hurts if you win.”

(Hitting that deep ball at the end of the game, did it feel like a monkey off your back, to be able to hit one in the game that both the opportunity presents itself and then you connected?) – “Yeah, it felt really good. We haven’t had much of those. Last year when I played and then this year too, we haven’t had much of those aside from the throw to Albert (Wilson) earlier the game before, the Baltimore game. Those feel really good, especially when it ends in a touchdown too.”

(The last couple of weeks, the play-calling there’s been some Wildcat and there’s been some flea-flicker stuff. Do you guys get excited for that or is it just ‘Don’t mess this up, the execution, whether it’s the pitch or whatever,’ that you can’t really get geared up for it?) – “I would say it’s definitely the second part of what you said. We want to execute the handoff, the toss, whatever the trick play has. We really want to execute that. Then once everything is kind of set up already – when I get the ball to throw it or someone else gets the ball to throw it – then it’s just about making the throw or the guy being in the right spot.”

(Has any DB ever said anything to you when you are lined up wide in the Wildcat?) – “No. I don’t think these guys want to talk to me. (laughter) I just go out there and just ask for the ball and try to get them to come up. Some come up and some don’t even mind me.”

(One of the statistical things that I’ve noticed is that your performance in the fourth quarter has been good. Can you think of any reasons why things might be going well for you late in games?) – “I would say the things that kind of haunt me is after our first series, it’s the second, third, fourth series when we kind of get stopped and are just shooting ourselves in the foot with me turning the ball over on the second series. Things like that. I kind of think of those things more than the fourth quarters and how we’re trying to finish. Obviously we’d like to start fast and finish strong but it’s really the meat of everything. Then also situationally, our two-minute, just all of those things. I think offensively, I need to help our guys do a better job this upcoming game with the second quarter, the third quarter, playing at a high level still and getting us to the fourth quarter to finish strong.”

(Do you have any personal experiences with Carolina DT Derrick Brown when he was at Auburn and you were at Alabama?) – “A really good player. He was always in the backfield when we played against them. He’s a nice person too, just not on the field.”

(Back to those instances when you line up out wide, if the ball one day comes your way, are you catching it or are you looking like QB Tom Brady in the Super Bowl?) – “(laughter) It really depends. If I see somebody and the ball is coming, I’m going to have to bat the ball down. I’m not catching that ball. (laughter) I know how the receivers feel now. I don’t know about that. (laughter)”

(What stands out to you about the Panthers defense?) – “Fast. Fast, athletic. They’re very good as far as their communication up front and then the back end, I do understand that they – I think they’re the No. 1 pass defense, which forces us to – it gives us a challenge, I would say. I would say philosophy-wise with this defense, they don’t give up big plays much. It’s more of a eight-play or 12-play drive. They really make you work for points. You don’t ever see them blow coverages. You rarely ever see a three-play or four-play drive and a team scores on this team. They do present a big challenge for us.”

(Do you spend any or some time on social media to know that there is a very, very staunch group of fans that are very defensive of you and back you 100 percent? Like a minute ago when someone said your performance in the fourth quarter is good, they might be thinking, ‘What do you mean good? It’s better than good.’ Are you aware of how much they’re behind you?) – “Sorry if this offends those guys, but no I don’t.”

(WR Jaylen Waddle told us that he has an invite to your place for Thanksgiving?) – “Yeah, but I did hear that he is going to everyone else’s house after? Yeah, so I’m pulling the invite. (laughter)”

(How many teammates are invited?) – “Well, I mean all of them are invited. It’s just whoever shows up.”

(You’re a family guy. You’re so used to being with your family. I’m sure Thanksgiving is amazing for you. What’s it going to be like for you and your teammates, your second family?) – “It’s going to be good. You got it right, I’m a family guy so my family is coming too. They’ll be here and I’ll be able to spend some time with my dogs, with my sisters and with my parents. The only person that won’t be there is just my brother.”

Head Coach Brian Flores

(WR Will Fuller, WR DeVante Parker, RB Malcolm Brown, G/T Michael Deiter – any of those four that you think will be out there today?) – “Deiter will return to practice today. The rest of that group, they will not be out there. All getting closer, just not quite there yet.”

(S Will Parks, what’s the thinking behind adding him? What skills do you like?) – “He’s obviously had some experience in this league – free safety, strong safety, kicking game. An opportunity to add him to the roster and take a look at him. We’ve got some guys banged up. That played a role in it as well. I’ve watched him over the years and had an opportunity to have him join our team and we’ll see what it looks like.”

(When you watch QB Cam Newton, do you feel like there is any rust or anything from his time off or has he picked up where he left off?) – “I think he’s picked up where – he’s the same player he’s been. Dynamic obviously as a runner, but also as a thrower. I think that gets pushed to the side. He can throw the football. He’s had a lot of production with throwing the football in this league. They’ve got good receivers, a good o-line, a good scheme, good backs obviously. He’s a very good player in this league and can still make a lot of plays. This will definitely be a big challenge for us.”

(It probably helps that you faced him last year. Did you have any idea that you would face him in different circumstances?) – “Yeah, we’ve got history with him like we’ve got history with a number of players that we play against, but the same problems are there – as a runner, throwing the football. This is definitely going to be a game about communication and playing disciplined football. But it’s not just Cam. (Christian) McCaffrey is a great player. (DJ) Moore. Robby Anderson takes the top off the field. Ian Thomas is a very good blocking tight end. (Tommy) Tremble is a good young tight end as well. They’ve got a good o-line. It’s not just one player that’s their offense. It’s their offense, their defense and their special teams and we have to play a good complementary game in all phases, which starts in practice.”

(What have you noticed about the Panthers’ pass rush?) – “It’s very good. I think defensively they are fast. (Brian) Burns, (Haason) Reddick, Shaq Thompson, Derrick Brown – they’ve got players everywhere. It’s a very good defense. They are well coached. (Matt) Rhule, (Phil) Snow, Joe Brady – they’ve got a good coaching staff. Chase (Blackburn). It’s a good group, a good staff, they’re well coached and they’ve got a lot of good players.”

(LB Brennan Scarlett and CB Jamal Perry, are those season-ending deals?) – “Yeah, unfortunately with Jamal, that is going to be season-ending. You hate when that happens. He’s been a significant contributor to this team for three years. He’s been on the active, this year he was on the practice squad, he was back active this past weekend and unfortunately that will be season-ending. Brennan will be at least three weeks and we’ll take it from there. I don’t want to put a timeline on that one.”

(Anything you’re particularly thankful for this holiday season?) – “I think we all have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my wife, my kids and my family. I’ll take this time to say that, how thankful I am for my wife and really all of the football wives. Throughout the league, whether it’s high school, college, pros, those women in our lives allow us to come in early, stay late and do what we love to do. My wife in particular has done a great job raising our kids and taking care of our household, so I’m very thankful for her. I’m also thankful for all of the other wives who allow their husbands to come hang out with me and coach some ball and they take care of things. I’m very thankful for them. I’m thankful to be a part of this organization. I’m thankful for our support staff. I think we have a great staff from the medical, to nutrition, to equipment, to you name it – IT, video. I think there are a lot of great people here. I’m thankful to work with all of them. And I’m thankful for the Dolphins fans and the community here and the support of our team.”

(It’s your third Thanksgiving week as a head coach. How unique is this week as far as the players deserve friends and family and that outside thing, but also keeping the team on track with very little margin for error? How do you balance that? Have you got that down to a science?) – “No. I don’t think anything is down to a science in this league. It’s the same for everyone else. I think that’s it. We’re all kind of dealing with the same schedule, besides the teams actually playing on Thanksgiving. But we know there is going to be family in town. We know there is going to be added distractions, so what I try to do is just get our guys, when they’re here, let’s focus in. I understand that parents are here, brothers are here, family members are in town. They want to spend time with them, as they should. This is people who are important to our players and those people are important to them, and I want them to spend that time. I think that has a lot to do with – those relationships outside of the building are a part of the reason why we get production on the field. It’s a whole different thought process but I want them to spend that time with them. But at the same time, when we’re in here and we’re putting time to focus on the Carolina Panthers, let’s devote time to do that and get prepared well so we can have the results we’re looking for.”

(Question on DT Zach Sieler. What are some of thew things that you think make him effective against the run?) – “I think he’s tough. He’s strong at the point of attack. He plays with very good fundamentals and technique. Hand placement, footwork, locking guys out, it gives him an opportunity to see where the ball-carriers are and does a good job of releasing and making plays. He works hard at that, really on a daily basis. He’s the first guy out there hitting the sleds and he’s improved really every day since he’s been here. There’s a desire there as well. I don’t think you can really quantify that and I would say that’s probably the No. 1 thing that he has that allows him to make some of the plays you are talking about.”

(When things aren’t going well for a team, there is that … to put the nose to the proverbial grindstone and all those cliches. When things are going well, how do you keep that same edge? How do you not get lost in 3-0 the last three games and get away from the things that help you be 3-0 in those three games?) – “I like to take the same approach, really every day, which is we are just trying to get better and improve. I think that’s the most important thing. Try to let the results take care of themselves as long as the preparation is where you want it to be, the execution in practice, that we are doing everything we can possibly do to get the results we want. That’s kind of the mindset we are looking for. I don’t really get into losing streak, winning streak, momentum and not having momentum. I try to stay the same either way and that’s the message I give to the players. There’s always emotion involved with winning and losing. You try to build on the winning and you try to learn from the mistakes and adversity of not having success. In both instances, there’s an opportunity to motivate.”

(Is there something you really liked or maybe that’s different, other than execution and those things, about the way your defense has played these three games? They’ve given up some yards. It hasn’t been all three-and-outs, but you’re not giving up points. In the ultimate moments, they found a way to get off the field. Is that simply execution or is there something that’s really stood out in that unit?) – “Execution is definitely a part of it. I think communication is a part of it. I think putting in extra time and meeting together more is a part of it. I think practice, practice execution becomes game reality. That’s a big part of it as well.”

(What can you tell us about your Thanksgiving tomorrow? Are you going to be spending it at home? Are you going to be eating, cooking? You’re a Latino, what kind of special food? I expect you like some flavor.) – “Yeah, I like flavor for sure. (laughter) I’ll be home, probably a little later than my wife wants me to be but I’ll be home. We’ll have the normal – turkey, ham, greens, macaroni and cheese, yams. My wife makes a lot of desserts so maybe we’ll have some guys come by for some dessert. They probably won’t come by though. (laughter) The offer is there for the players.”

(If you like mac and cheese, there’s a lot of blasphemy going around about this dish on the internet right now.) – “Yeah, I’m not really on the internet so I don’t know. (Laughter) I like mac and cheese.”

(It’s average. Like a throwaway of a dish. Patriots OLB Matt Judon said yesterday, ‘Take mac and cheese off of the menu. Take it off the menu, it’s a terrible side. No one should be eating mac and cheese.’) – “Who said that?”

(Matt Judon.) – “Hmm well, everyone’s got their own opinion. (laughter)”

(Do you have a controversial food take that could make some news?) – “Controversial food?”

(Food take, yeah.)  – “Um, for Thanksgiving or just in general?”

(Let’s go Thanksgiving.) – “No. I think it’s all good.”

(What about in general?) – “(laughter)”

(I think you have one open spot on the 53-man roster, is this going to be a tough call for you and General Manager Chris Grier? Are you looking potentially for another edge guy like a LB Vince Biegel to replace what LB Brennan Scarlett gave you? What’s the thought process this week with you and Chris on that?) – “Yeah, we are going to sign Biegel today.”

(So LB Vince Biegel will be on the 53-man roster?) – “Yes.”

(I know LB Vince Biegel’s injury, especially the one last year, is sometimes tough to come back from. Does it look to you like he’s regained physically what he showed in 2019?) – “Yes. I think he’s moving around well. I think he’s brought a lot of juice, energy to practice. We brought him up a couple times and we’ll sign him to the active (roster) today.”

(Talking about family as we have been this morning, I’ve wondered in the role that you’re in, obviously you spend a ton of time in this building. How do you balance that? I know being a father is very important to you. How do you balance those two?) – “I think when I’m home, I try to be present with my kids. When I’m there, I try to throw the football around, play baseball, run around with them as best I can. I think that’s the most important thing. I don’t want to go home and watch more film. I don’t do that. All coaches kind of deal with that same wanting to spend time with their family, knowing it’s important – very important – but also doing what we love, coaching and spending time with our other kids which are the players in the locker room. It’s not easy but I try my best to FaceTime as much as I can and make the parent-teacher conferences even if it’s over Zoom. It’s not perfect but I work hard at it. You always want to spend more time and we get that done in the offseason.”

(I can’t imagine what the teachers think when the Dolphins’ head coach pops up.) – “I’m just a dad in those instances. That’s what I am. When I go home, I try to just be a dad. I’m just a dad. The head coaching thing doesn’t really matter in those moments. My daughter sure doesn’t care. (laughter) It’s just, ‘go get me this,’ and alright I’m going to get it. That’s kind of how that works. I’m just a dad.”

(I’m genuinely curious, do you watch football on Thanksgiving Day like the rest of us?) – “Yeah, I pop it on. I like to watch end of half situations, end of game situations, red flags, timeouts. That interests me.”

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