Miami Dolphins Transcripts – September 26 – Head Coach Mike McDaniel, OL Robert Hunt, WR River Cracraft, LB Jerome Baker, TE Durham Smythe and LB Duke Riley

OL Robert Hunt

(So how hot is hot enough?) – “It’s hot, so I think that’s enough. It’s always hot here. I do – like I said, I wear this every day. (laughter) I don’t know if I actually wish that.”

(You’ve been here for a couple of years now. Obviously, the record is different, but internally, what can you say is different about this team, the set of players here, the coaching staff, the environment?) – “Man, I just think we got a locker room full of guys that care about each other, that’s willing to go out and battle for each other and put their body on the lines every week, man, just to try to get a win. I think that’s just like – a lot of high character guys in the room, man.”

(QB Tua Tagovailoa specifically, I’m sure you’ve heard the noise. He’s a polarizing guy. Where have you seen him grown the most over the years, and really in the first three weeks of the season?) – “I think Tua (Tagovailoa) has always been a guy with leadership and character. He’s been him since Day One man. I haven’t seen much change. Tua is just being Tua. We love to see the publicity of it and everybody looking at it differently, but we’ve been seeing it for a while.”

(Do you get an extra sense of pride or kind of joy seeing that praise now?) – “Yes, I’m extremely happy for him. We have a long season ahead, and I’m excited to keep doing what we’re doing. Yes, he definitely deserves it.”

(Thankfully, it turned out not to be serious, but how scary was it to get a kind of rolled up on the side of your leg there yesterday?) – “It was alright. I wasn’t really scared. I mean, if I can get up and move, I knew I was going to be okay. So I tried to go and stay in, but they told me I had to get out. But it is what it is. I’m fine.”

(Is it something to monitor on the short week? Or do you feel you’ll be OK?) – “I’ll be fine.”

(Watching QB Tua Tagovailoa, what was your perspective of him going out, coming back in and what he was able to do the second half?) – “Tua (Tagovailoa) is just Tua, man. Tua is a hardnosed guy who’s tough. He’s one of the captains of this team and he did what he did, man. He did what he had to do. We won the football game. That’s all that really matters. We were excited about that.”

(What do you see from T Greg Little lining up next to you?) – “A lot of great things, man. Greg (Little) is doing fantastic. He communicates well and he plays hard. I think we got a bunch of guys in that room that do the same. So it’s exciting to see Greg get his (opportunity) and do what he’s doing.”

(You mentioned the shirt. We’ve seen you wear it before, but yesterday in particular, you got guys cramping up and a lot of Bills guys had to go out. I mean, players were out there struggling. Is it a mindset? Is part of it when you wear a shirt that, it’s kind of mind over matter?) – “No, it really is. That’s the way we look at it, because it is hot here. We know it, and we use that to our advantage. So when we’re practicing and when we’re doing what we’re doing, we do say that, ‘I wish it was hotter,’ because we know our opponent may struggle in the heat because it’s a little different. But we get to work in it every day and try to embrace it.”

(Short week, obviously. Usually it’s a 24-hour rule to celebrate a win and stuff like that. The challenge of turning around quickly with a tough opponent coming up on Thursday night, how do you embrace that? How do you deal with that?) – “Like you just said, we enjoyed the win last night and we’re back in here today getting to work and watching those guys. The game will be here before you know it, so we’re getting ready for them.”

(On that subject of the heat, watching your defense be out there for 90-plus plays, what was your thought on how they persevered through all of that?) – “Unreal, man. Those guys are warriors – they’ve been that way. We go against them – we went against them all camp and we know what they’re about. Those guys are tough guy. Those guys are the real deal.”

(Going against the defense, talking about that, what have you observed about LB Melvin Ingram? He’s made some big plays in these three games so far.) – “Mel (Melvin Ingram) is a dawg, man. He’s really good. He’s been good. We all know he’s been good in his league for a while, and he can play, man. He can just flat out play. Lining up against him in camp, you got to be with it because he can do a lot of different things. He can power, he can rush to like get the edge. He’s a dangerous rusher, man. He’s good. He’s really good.”

LB Duke Riley

(So when look back at Sunday’s game, for a lot of you guys on defense, that was the most snaps you ever played in a game. Can you recall ever playing in a game that many snaps and that hot?) – “Well, I didn’t play like every snap of defense, but I played more snaps in actually the Bills games last year at the Bills. But it was like in the heat (this week), like it was a different. So yeah, it kind of plays a big part in it. It was definitely one of the hotter games that I’ve played in, but just living in Miami, being from New Orleans, I’m used to the heat. It’s kind of like playing at LSU, I’ve been in the heat my whole life. So I’m kind of used to it. I just, when I know it’s going to be like a hot game like that, I get extra IVs. I make sure I drink extra Pedialyte before the game, but I always try to stay ahead of the curve.”

(Speaking of LSU, how much did you enjoy watching Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase in college and how much are you looking forward to playing against them?) – “Oh, man. I was there for the national championship game obviously in New Orleans. That was like the only good thing that happened in 2020. That was the COVID year that we all know. I mean, those two guys are like some of the greatest players. I told Joe Burrow, when I first met him, I was like ‘man, you’re my favorite college player ever.’ And that’s hard to say, because I’ve had a lot of people that I used to watch that I used to like, but (Ja’Marr) Chase being from New Orleans, I’ve always seen him. He played at (Archbishop) Rummel. So I always knew he was going to be that type of caliber receiver and just to see him from high school to college to now it’s just like, it’s something that’s a beautiful thing to see. And yes, we do have a quick turnaround and we’re playing them, so I think that we’re getting to it. We had some extra meetings today and I’m looking forward to it. Thursday night game, prime time.
It’s something that every player I think in the NFL looks forward to because those are the games that everyone’s watching and we’re well aware of that. So I think it’s going to be a great game, AFC matchup. And it’s going to be a fun one.”

(What’s the feedback you’ve been receiving from coaches on your play, when you get your opportunities in that rotational role?) – “Being that we have such a quick turnaround, it’s like, the coaches really don’t talk about the game that we just did that much, I guess you can say. I definitely got good feedback after the game. I played hard. I try to always do my job at least to the best of my abilities. So regardless, my coach trusted me enough to know that I’m always going do my part, at least, to help the team regardless of what it is. And what I have to do – special teams, defense – it doesn’t matter. But just like moving on and moving forward, just because of the quick turnaround on a Thursday game, you don’t really have – today’s a really big recovery day for us being that we played in a game like that yesterday with a bunch of heat and guys were cramping up. I’m drinking pickle juice on the sideline because I’m feeling like I’m about to cramp and I usually don’t, so that’s how hot it was, because I usually don’t even feel that. Nah, I had to that extra during game and at halftime.”

(Do you like the taste?) – “Of what, pickle juice?”

(Yeah.) – “No, (laughter) I mean, some people do, but I don’t. Especially like the pickle juice wasn’t even cold. So, I mean, just think about drinking hot pickle juice. Right? It’s already bad but then you drink it hot. But other than that, I think you got to do whatever you got to do to not cramp.”

(You mentioned you didn’t play nearly every defensive snap. Some guys did…) – “Some guys did. Yeah, for sure. Like, I think I want to say Jevon Holland played 94 snaps the whole– that’s like, I don’t think I’ve ever played 90 snaps in one game before in my whole life. Maybe at LSU maybe, but I mean, that kid has a lot of energy. We all know that. And he played every play to the last play, like full to his best ability. Just having a guy like that, who can go that long and compete that long and who can stay consistent that long, it’s honestly a beautiful thing to see that we all don’t even really appreciate as much I think. But I think that he’s a great player, a great man, a great teammate. I love playing with him and just to see him do that and not come out. It’s like I didn’t even know he was tired during the game because he never said anything about it. Usually somebody’s like, ‘man, like it’s hot out here.’ The whole time he like ‘hey, we’ve got to lock in.’ It’s great to see, man. A young leader in our eyes. He’s got that ‘C’ on his chest for a reason. As a second-year player, that’s hard to do. Usually, like a second-year quarterback, maybe will get it, but you don’t see a lot of second-year safeties in the league with that, so that right there shows you a lot about him.”

(In talking to other guys on the team and describing QB Tua Tagovailoa, they say Tua is Tua. I was curious from somebody that’s in the building with him every day; you saw him last year, you’ve seen him now. What does that mean and how have you seen him grow into …?) – “Someone was saying this on the sideline, like Tua is growing up in front of everybody’s eyes. I’ve always knew the type of player Tua was. I love the type of person he is. He’s always, always, always positive. I’ve never seen Tua or heard Tua say anything negative about a person or individual since I’ve known him. And I even knew people who knew him at Alabama that were real close and they say the same thing. I told his parents – I met his pops the other day, and I was like, ‘y’all raised a great man.’ Not even a great football player, he’s a great man and individual. And just seeing him stick to his course, stick to the things that he knows, stick to his routine, stick to the script; every single day Tua comes in here and he’s a professional, regardless of what it is and he’s always encouraging people, always helping people. He’s a great person and I’m so glad and happy to see that. People are just seeing what he’s doing now and they’re excited about it, but they don’t really see the work that he’s putting in throughout the process. That’s why it’s a blessing that we do get to show people on game day, and especially on a Thursday night with everybody watching, what you can do. And Tua is just like I said, sticking to the script and doing the thing. It’s a beautiful process to see. I knew in OTAs, like watching Tua, I knew that with the offensive personnel and everything that we brought in with Mike (McDaniel) as the head coach, I knew that it was going to be a great thing and a great change for Tua because sometimes change is better and it can benefit and help. And in this situation, Tua’s been in the NFL, it’s starting to slow down for him a little more and we’re seeing what he’s doing now and he’s only in his third year. He’s going to continue to, I think, improve just because of the work ethic he has. You could tell Tua he’s doing good right now, but I bet you any money, he’s going to tell you he needs to get better. You know what I mean? It’s just the type of person he is and he’s just always been like that his whole life. He’s been a competitor, regardless of if it’s football, golf or ping pong or singing karaoke at his house… (laughter)

(Can he sing?) – “I’m telling y’all right now, he can sing his tail off. (laughter) Tua is a funny, man. Y’all don’t even know. I wish everybody knew. I’m just fortunate enough that I know. He can sing and he can sing any song. I’ve seen his dude sing some crazy stuff that you would never even know. And it just lets you know how good his energy is and how positive he is and how much of a great person he is and how his family raised him. I love Tua, man. I love Tua.”

(Were you on the field for the butt punt and how much fun have you guys had with that over the past 24 hours?) – “So yes, I was on the field on the butt punt. They loaded the box up – actually, like, I know this might sound crazy, but I think the butt punt might have helped us because in that situation, they loaded up the box. They brought their corners in which brings our gunners in and they’re out there like, ‘oh, let’s rush, let’s rush them, we’re about to block this.’ And they didn’t even rush us. Like maybe they brought like a little pressure maybe up in the A-gap on the snapper. That’s normally what people do. But like on the outside, they weren’t really rushing hard. Usually people are rushing hard in that situation. They wanted to load the box up and keep everybody packed in. Usually, when we’re backed up, punt. The punter knows like, ‘we’ve got to do a one-step punt.’ You know, we got to get the ball out quick. So usually he’s not hitting his best ball. So the fact that with the time – the ball stayed in the air for, I don’t know, four seconds. I don’t know how long, two or three seconds and if we punt that ball, they get way better field position. I mean, Thomas (Morstead) had one of the best punts I’ve ever seen on a kickoff. The ball stayed in the air so long and then the returner gave us extra time by running, trying to chase the field, so it honestly worked out in our favor as crazy as it sounds. I mean, during the time you’re like, ‘oh damn like they need to only get in field goal range now.’ But we never blinked. We moved on from it and actually like I said, I think it worked in our favor as crazy as it sounds. You don’t ever want to give up a safety or be in a situation like that, but I think that the way the game was rolling and the way everything happened, it worked in our favor.”

(So you’re going to put that in the playbook?) – “Only when we need it. (laughter)”

WR River Cracraft

(Two games, two touchdowns. Can you kind of walk us through the 11-yard touchdown pass yesterday?) – “Yeah, it was a play we had drawn up for Jaylen (Waddle) all week and Tua threw a dart in there. I was just happy – when you get your number called, to be able to come through and I was really happy with the results on that play. So, yeah, looking forward to hopefully dialing up a couple more of those.”

(When you say the play was dialed up for WR Jaylen Waddle, you mean, like you were running the route that Jaylen would have usually ran?) – “Well, yeah. Jaylen took us down the whole field. (laughter) So I think that was that was his touchdown and I was just happy to be able to make the play for the guys.”

(Can you explain emotionally what it’s been like for you to not make the 53 but then every week you’re elevated to play?) – “Yeah, I think the guys do a really good job of not making me feel like I’m up and down. I feel like I’m a part of the team and that’s the way it’s been from Day 1. So it’s nothing to me. I go about my business every week, assuming I’m up and you have to practice every week with the mentality that you’re going to be up, so if I just continue to do that, I think everything will fall into place.”

(What’s the latest that has been communicated to you, as now three practice squad elevations have been used?) – “It’s the day after the game, so nothing has been communicated, which is totally fine. I’m going to keep going about my business. And like I said, everything will fall into place. I’m not worried about it.”

(What did you think of the ball QB Tua Tagovailoa delivered on that touchdown?) – “It was a dart, man. Tua is a dangerous man back there and I was glad to be on the other end of it.”

(How do you feel about making as much of the time you have as possible? You look at the amount of opportunities you’ve had and production, it’s pretty high production.) – “Yeah, I think it’s just right place, right time. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. There’s been many times throughout my career where that hasn’t been the case. So I’m just real happy and real fortunate that I’ve been able to get those.”

(There was a report before the game that as part of kind of week preparation, QB Tua Tagovailoa has been gathering the pass catchers after practice, working on some kind of fine tuning stuff. Just what do you think the offense has gotten out of that, those post-practice sessions?) – “It’s just leadership. Tua has brought that from the day that I got here, from reaching out to me before I even showed up to OTAs. He reached out to me and just said ‘excited about the year’ and stuff like that. That’s a leader right there and to see his progression throughout the season and what he’s done with the guys, I think it’s real progress from what I’ve heard about last year. And yeah, I mean, he’s a leader, man, and we’re all sticking behind him.”

(What was the mood like on the sidelines? I mean, you guys, they were running twice as many plays as you guys and yet you pull back a win in just really trying conditions, as you know. What was the mood like on the sideline?) – “We had to rely on our defense this week. Last week, I think the offense was heavily relied on and the defense was kind of called upon this this week. They showed up and they got us to win. And special teams is going to be another one of those units I’m sure in the future that’s going to be relied on for the win as well.”

(How is the confidence level – it must be up there for the team?) – “You can never get too high, never too low. So we’re 1-0 this past game and we’re trying to be 1-0 this week. I think that’s needs to be the mentality going into Cincinnati on a short week and a real quick turnaround.”

TE Durham Smythe

(What was your perspective on watching QB Tua Tagovailoa between having to exit, coming back in and then delivering in the second half?) – “I think, above all else, it’s what everyone else saw. It’s just that he he’s a battler. He’s going to battle for this team. Obviously if his back was aching or whatever it was, he fought through that and then came back and made some big plays for us in the second half. It’s a credit to him. I think, as the crowd got into it and everything, I think everyone saw that that brought a lot of energy to us.”

(There was a report before the game that as part of kind of the daily preparation this year, QB Tua Tagovailoa has been gathering the pass catchers post-practice, fine-tuning some stuff with the routes and the playbook and whatnot. What have you gotten out of that? And being someone that has been with Tua in the past couple years, how have you seen him really grow into that leadership role?) – “Yeah, he’s a smart guy, first and foremost. In referring to working with guys after practice and stuff, that’s a player by player basis thing. Dating back to training camp, if there was something that was a little off during practice, he’d pull you aside and get some extra reps at it. So he’s a smart guy in regards to that. And then in terms of him stepping up into a leadership role, he’s been on a pretty linear progression, I felt like, the last three years in terms of his performance in general. That’s something that kind of naturally comes. As you continue to grow and perform better and get older in this league, the leadership, especially at that position, kind of comes with it. So there’s not really anything that he has to do differently than what he’s been doing. It just kind of comes naturally once things start falling together.”

(How much appreciation do you have for a guy like WR River Cracraft, who obviously had to be disappointed not to make the 53, but he keeps working hard, gets elevated and all he has done is produce for you guys?) – “Yeah, I mean, you love to see stories like that. Obviously, he’s a great guy and he’s been through a lot in this league. He’s been cut a lot of times, has been on a few different teams, and he continues to perform for us. He does a lot of things that a lot of people don’t see. I mean, obviously he’s scored two touchdowns now. But he’s getting in there, he’s blocking guys, which a lot of guys in this league don’t like to do at that position. So he does a lot of the dirty work and obviously now it’s cool to see him get some stats in the stat book and a couple touchdowns. But I have nothing but respect for him and how he’s going about his business over the last couple of months.”

(Are you guys on offense doing anything special for these defenders that were out there for 80, 90 plays?) – “I actually didn’t even realize how wild the discrepancy was between how many plays we had and they had until this morning. We’ll give them a pat on the back and some extra rest before Thursday. We’re obviously proud that they’re out there for however many – 90 snaps? And they gave up 17 points. That’s impressive.”

(I guess, in that regard, just how critical is it to rest and recover on a short week and turn this around for Cincinnati?) – “Yeah, absolutely. Thursday games are definitely unique. And that’s really what it is. I mean, you got to get back right after the game and start the re-gen process and we’ll do that over the next couple of days. Hopefully everyone’s feeling up in terms of health and everything by Thursday and then we’ll get after it.”

(When you do have such a quick turnaround, you talked about the 24-hour rule and kind of cutting that. I guess at what point do you like start diving into Cincinnati film?) – “Yeah, this morning. I mean, that’s kind of how it is. Most Mondays are like that but specifically  on a short week, you enjoy the win last night and then this morning you got to turn the page quick because a Monday is like a normal Thursday for us on a regular week. So you turn the page.”

LB Jerome Baker

(I was looking back at snap counts for the defense. I figured this was the most a lot of you guys have ever played in the NFL game in terms of snaps. And this wasn’t. You’ve actually played more. Can you compare Sunday’s game in terms of the heat and the toll it took on you guys? Can you compare that personally to any other games that you played?) – “I’ve had some rough games before. I think that was last year in New England. I was dying in New England years ago. I think it was last year or two years ago … It comes with it. It happens. But at the end of the day ,it’s kind of one of those things that we got to get off the field on defense. You can’t really blame anybody or say anything. So it is what it is. It’s part of the game. We’re professionals and you’ve got to just focus on next week.”

(Is there anything that sticks out with the first couple of red zone trips compared to the ones at the end of the game? The first two seemed like you guys ran some blitzes, maybe a guy was left a little open or not as covered as closely. What stuck out to you about those final two red zone stops?) – “I think it’s just really a communication thing. The more we communicate, the better we can play. A lot of times we’re in a scramble and just trying to figure it out, but if we communicate better and lock in a little bit better, we’ll figure it out. If we don’t communicate in the red zone – in the field, it might be a 10-yard gain but in the red zone, it’s a touchdown. That’s really the biggest difference. So we got to communicate a little better and it’ll work out for us.”

(Honestly, getting out of bed this morning, was it that much harder? How do you feel right now? Is your body telling you that you were in a draining game yesterday?) – “I mean, it’s one of those things that we’re professionals. You’re going to feel sore, you’re going to feel tired. But at the end of the day, we all love this game. We all know what we signed up for. So just getting up and getting to work, it’s a little easier when you’re winning. I wouldn’t say it was bad. I wouldn’t say it was the worst I’ve ever felt. Of course, I was tired. But I know what it takes to get back to normal. So it’s a part of the game and I’m down for the challenge.”

(S Jevon Holland played nearly 100 snaps total between a few on special teams and the defense. What are your thoughts on him, his stamina, and that dawg in him?) – “I mean, that’s the main thing – the guy’s a dawg, man. He doesn’t really care about anything. He throws his body in there. He will run 100 yards on one play. Whatever it is that our defense needs, he’ll do it. He really came into this year and he’s definitely been a leader for our team, our defense. So it’s just really, that’s the work he puts in. Now we just expect from him every game now. I’m definitely happy for him.”

(How do you assess the day on defense where you give up a lot of yards, but you hold them to 19 points?) – “As a defensive player, of course, we’re not happy about that. If we get off the field more, we have less snaps and it’s just a trickledown effect. If we just lock in and do a little better, it’d be easier on a lot of us. So am I happy with the performance we had? It’s whatever. At the end the day, we won. So that’s all that matters. We definitely got to just play better Thursday. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”

(What’s your approach to kind of this week on a short week getting ready for Cincinnati?) – “Everything just speeds up. The recovery, you got to lock in on your recovery. You got to come in. There’s really no off days. You got to just come in, watch film and get it done. It’s one of those things where it is Thursday night, so you’re going to be the only one playing. So when it actually comes down to it, you’re going to have the energy. You’re going be fine. It just really is a mentality of you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You can’t say you’re sore or you’re tired. You got to go in there, perform and get it done. Those next few days, you will have a little time to rest. I’m sure all of us would be fine. We’re ready to go. It’s still early in the season, too. It’s not like it’s Week 13 or 14. It’s still early, so we’ll be fine.”

(Are you excited to be going back to Ohio?) – “Oh, yeah, definitely. I’m definitely really excited to play against Joe (Burrow). That’s my boy right there. So definitely, it’s going to be a fun one. And, of course, we’re going to talk a little stuff. But it’s all love and I’m definitely excited to play against him.”

(What’s going to go into that recovery aspect over these three days before you travel?) – “For me, it’s a lot of sleep. I sleep quite a bit. It’s really the ice tank for me. I tried to get into cryo, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that one yet. (laughter) So the cold tank is where I will stay at.”

(I was just curious, you being with QB Tua Tagovailoa for three years, we hear a lot like Tua is Tua. What does that mean and how have you seen him really grown into himself and his third season?) – “Yeah, I think Tua get a lot of – let’s just say stuff from the media and other people. But if you’ve been in this building and you’ve seen Tua work, the guy puts in a lot of work. He truly wants to get better every day. You can see over these first few years, you can see the flashes of this guy’s going to be special. I’m just happy this year he really just showed it to the world. It’s kind of one of the things, we all kind of knew it was there and just now everybody else is seeing it. I’m definitely happy for him. He’s a great guy, a great player, a great teammate. You just can’t help but to be happy for him.”

(What stands out to you about QB Joe Burrow?) – “What stands out? The guy is a competitor. That was the main thing. He had some guys in front of them or whatever but he didn’t care. He just came in and worked. Een going back to high school, when he played in the state championship game, the guy just found a way to just make plays and win games. So it’s going to definitely be a fun one Thursday. I know last year he had a great year, so I’m just happy for him. But I’m also excited just to play against him.”

(Did you expect QB Joe Burrow to get to where he is?) – “Oh, yeah. I mean, just his whole personality, the way he goes about his business, it’s kind of hard not to see that. So early on, you can just see that he wants to win and he will do whatever to win. He plays with swagger. When you just play with him, you can just feel that we’re good. He’s going to get us there. It’s just a credit to him and credit to him, how he was brought up and everything he’s been through. So just all credit to him.”

(We’ve heard stories with him at Ohio State being extremely competitive with basketball. Do you have a story like just something, even if it’s not football related, but some of you remember about QB Joe Burrow?) – “We used to have these mat drills and you had basically one-on-one pull the tire or whatever. The guy was going so hard. Like quarterbacks don’t really do that type of stuff too often. But man, Joe, he was going after it. He just wanted to win. Just to see that drive, that passion he had, it’s hard not to be happy for him and it really rubs off on everybody else. He just always had that passion and he just wants to win and Thursday, I’m trying to stop that. (laughter)

Head Coach Mike McDaniel

(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.”