Miami Dolphins Press Conference 10-28-20 Tua, Karras, Ford, Shaheen, Flores

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Head Coach Brian Flores Conference Call with L.A. Rams Media

(Can you tell us about the Dolphins season so far? The improvement on defense, I’m there’s  more to it than just plugging in new guys.) – “This season has been up and down. We are 3-3. I think we are trying to just continue to improve on a week-to-week basis. A lot of young guys, a lot of new faces. We’re just trying to bring them all together on a weekly basis. I think we’ve got a good group. The guys work hard, learn how to play together and gel together really over the first six weeks. Hopefully we’ll just continue to improve. We need that this week against a very good team. (Rams Head Coach) Sean McVay has done a great job over there. Good players, good coaches, a lot of success over the last few years. It’ll be a tough task for us.”

(What went into the decision to go with QB Tua Tagovailoa at this point, and then how are you getting him ready for his first career start?) – “We just felt like it was the best move for the team now and moving forward. He’s a talented young man who works hard and it’s important to him. He’s had some steady improvements over the first six weeks from a practice standpoint. We felt like it was the best move. As far as getting ready, he’s prepared as if he was the starter really the entire year. (even though) he’s been the backup the entire year. If he just continues to do what he’s been doing, obviously he’s getting more practice reps and we’ll get him out there and see what he can do. Look, it’s a team game. I think we all know that. We need contributions from everyone – offense, defense, special teams. He’s a part of that. There are 11 guys on the field that need to execute at once on a play-to-play basis to have success. He’s one of the 11. We’re just trying to string good plays together and that starts in meetings and walk-throughs and practice, and hopefully it translates to the game.”

(What kind of challenges do you see the Rams defense presenting, and how is that generally speaking influencing your preparation especially, as it’s been mentioned with QB Tua Tagovailoa scheduled to make his first career start this week?) – “Defensively they pose a lot of problems. (They’re) talented, fast, disciplined, they tackle well. The first thing that comes to mind is Aaron Donald, and he’s a tremendous player. Mike Brockers is good, (Leonard) Floyd is playing well, Jalen Ramsey as you know. They have a lot of good players. (Taylor) Rapp. They have a group of guys playing well and again, it’s football so it’s never a one man show. You need 11 guys playing on one accord and I see that. Being a defensive coach who watches them defensively, I see a lot of good things. Kudos to their coaching staff and their players for putting the work in, and they are seeing the fruits of the work they are putting in obviously.”

(You saw QB Jared Goff in the Super Bowl, so you’ve seen a little bit of his progression. What are you seeing from him as you study the Rams this year?) – “I think he’s a very good quarterback. He’s a good quarterback. I know the last time I saw him, he was a very good quarterback then and he’s a very good quarterback now. I think you can see an improvement on a yearly basis. He’s getting the ball out quickly, making good decisions, basically overall having command of the offense, leadership on that team and production. The guy has been very productive. He can stand in the pocket and make throws, he can get outside the pocket and make throws. This is a very good player on a very good offense with a lot of good skill players, a good run game, a good pass game, a good boot game. A lot of issues. We have a lot to get ready for.”

(Your defense is playing pretty well right now, particularly on third down. I think you have the No. 1 third down efficiency.  What’s been the difference from last year to this year? Is it just another year in the system for your guys? And the cornerback, Xavien Howard, is playing well. Can you talk a little about him?) – “Yeah, Xavien Howard is playing well. Similarly to what I said about the Rams and their defense, I think the guys are working hard to communicate, working hard to be in the right places, working hard to tackle well and play together. I think that’s ultimately what you need to have to play good defense, to play good third down defense, to play good red zone defense, to play good two-minute defense. A lot of things have to come together. I think it’s a credit to the players and their willingness to work at practice, work at meetings and to give them a chance to have some success in the game. We’ll need that this week. Nobody cares about – there are no percentages come Sunday. It’s how you’re doing on Sunday, and that’s it. There’s no first – there is, but it really doesn’t matter until you – on Sunday. It’s how you execute on that particular day, winning your matchups on that particular day. I really don’t get too much into the statistics. It’s a week-to-week league, as we all know. One week you could do well and the next week, in that very same area for a myriad of reasons – matchups, schemes, injury, what you are good at or not good at. We don’t take anything for granted. We will try to prepare in a way that gives us the best chance for success. Hopefully we’ll play well on Sunday, but they pose a lot of issues. It will take a real good effort on our part.”

(Your victory over San Francisco caught the attention of people out here in the west; but we were aware that the 49ers were going through some injuries and some things. What was the significance of that game from the Dolphins standpoint? What did you learn about your team?) – “Look, we played well that day. We had good energy, good execution. We played well. They’ve got a good team; but on that particular day, we played well and won the game. I was proud of our efforts that day, but that was a few weeks ago. It really has no bearing on what we do moving forward. Our players know that and the Rams know that also. I’m sure they won’t be thinking about the 49ers game come Sunday. They’ll be worried about trying to execute and playing well against us.”

(One last question about QB Tua Tagovailoa. What did you guys like about him in the pre-draft process that made you select him? What were some of the things that you thought would make him a good NFL quarterback?) – “His leadership. He’s got a lot of intangibles we look for – leadership, he’s smart, hardworking, competitive. Athletically, he was accurate in college. Mobile in the pocket. For me, leadership is a big thing at that position. I would say that was high on my list as far as the process of – the evaluation process of really all of the quarterbacks. We’ll see. He’s shown himself pretty well in practice so far. He’s a young player, so he’s got a lot to learn; but he’s a sponge and he’s willing to learn and wants to get better. Those are really – normally when you have those, that type of character, you can improve over the course of your career. Hopefully we’ll start that on Sunday.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

TE Adam Shaheen

(Any big plans for that first big check to come in?) – “(laughter) I’m just putting it away probably. Maybe we’ll bust it out after the season’s over. We’ve still got work to do.”

(Can you give us a little context of how this came about? Did you ask your agent to sniff around for maybe an extension? Did they approach you? How did it happen?) – “As far as I know, they approached me and I’m just really happy with it. But we’re onto Rams week, so that’s kind of where our focus has been at still. But obviously I’m very excited about being here for the extended future.”

(When it comes to Rams week, how do things change now after you’ve been with a set quarterback the first six games and you’ve got QB Tua Tagovailoa at practice today?) – “As far as the tight ends, it doesn’t matter who’s back there. Our job is to go out and execute what we have to do – blocking and in the pass game – and that’s what we’re going to do.”

(Congratulations on the contract. Why do you think things have fallen into place and you found a home here as opposed to Chicago?) – “Just after the trade, just really kept working, kept getting healthier and just had a great opportunity. I’ve tried to make the most of that and it’s worked out so far. But I’ve still got a lot of work to do, like I said.”

(Hal just kind of took my question about the difference between Miami and Chicago. Believe me, I’d rather live in South Florida, too, so congratulations on the contract. But we’re all writing QB Tua Tagovailoa stories and I guess neither one of you has been here for a long time, but what have been your observations about his leadership approach and personality, especially since he found out he’d be the starter?) – “I think he’s kind of tried to approach it every week like he is the starter, so this week is hopefully kind of a seamless transition for him and he goes out there and shows what he’s got. It’ll be great.”

(I know RB Patrick Laird was the lucky one to get the first catch from QB Tua Tagovailoa. Is there any conversation about who gets the first touchdown? Have you guys talked about that?) – “No, that’s not something we’ve talked about. (laughter)”

(I’m curious how much response have you gotten from friends, family, people at home about the upcoming game? It’s kind of the talk of certainly the local media and nationally as well. It’s one of the biggest storylines of the week. What kind of interaction have you had with your buddies about Tua Time?) – “A couple people have reached out; but for the most part, my friends and family and know not to reach out too much to me because I’m not going to give them much. (laughter) So that’s really all.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

C Ted Karras

(I’ll start off a little weird. Under center with a left-handed quarterback, does he grab the ball any differently from you under center?) – “(laughter) I don’t know the nuances with that. Obviously we’ve taken a lot of snaps over the last four months. It’s been smooth and it’s our goal to continue to keep it that way. It’s been great.”

(How excited is the team to see finally what QB Tua Tagovailoa can do on the field?) – “The team is excited. It’s an exciting week. We’ve got a great opponent coming into the town. Big challenge for us as an o-line and had a great start to the week practicing today, and got to build off it and keep working tomorrow.”

(I wanted to ask you about Rams DT Aaron Donald. When you study, what do you notice about how often he lines up over center or the guard or in between the center and the guard and more importantly than that, what’s a good plan to have a chance against this guy?) – “He lines up just about everywhere on the front. Obviously, the premier player of the NFL on defense and the plan is we’ve got to have sound fundamentals and technique and give our best effort and obviously preparing in the week is a big part of that. And when it comes down to it when we’re out there Sunday afternoon, we’re going to have to perform our best when it counts the most.”

(Have you noticed anything different about QB Tua Tagovailoa this week just kind of since he’s been named the starter and is there anything about his demeanor or his leadership that’s changed?) – “No, he’s been a strong leader since he got in the building here in July. Obviously he prepares really hard. He’s a great person and a great teammate, and it’s going to be a very exciting weekend for us and for Miami Dolphins Nation.”

(What has been the talk among the other guys on the line regarding the quarterback change and maybe the need to give the rookie that much time? I’m sure you want to give every quarterback time, but what’s been the talk among you guys and just how do you expect QB Tua Tagovailoa to respond to the pressure of his first NFL start?) – “It’s on us as an o-line, as it is every week, to make the quarterback feel comfortable, and the first start in the NFL is a big milestone and something that we take seriously. Obviously like I said, we’ve got to perform our best when it counts the most and keep the pocket clean and allow him to be successful. We’ve got to handle our job first.”

(When you face a guy like Rams DT Aaron Donald, is there something you have to tell the guys around you? Maybe some of the rookies about not letting the allure of him getting too big and how do you go about just defending a guy like that?) – “In this league, there’s going to be a lot of good players; but he’s obviously at the top of his craft. I’d say one thing we can’t – a big mistake would be to lose account of where he is on the field, so every play we’ve got to know where he is. They’ve got a lot of great players there on defense and it’s going to come down to execution and fundamentals and then who wants it more in the end, so it’s going to be a big challenge this week and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Looking forward to it.”

(After it was revealed that QB Tua Tagovailoa was going to become the starter, there were a lot of folks with opinions – some of them on national television. Dan Orlovsky from ESPN – you probably heard – that he said his big concern was that his opinion is that the Dolphins offensive line play has been poor. What are your thoughts on that line of thinking and that opinion?) – “Well, what hurt me more was Mina Kimes agreeing with him. I’m a big fan of Mina and that kind of dug deep there; but it is what it is. Everyone has their opinion and that’s what they’re paid to do, is give their opinion. The great thing is we get to go play the game, so all opinions won’t matter at that point. It’s just what’s on the tape.”

(I’m going to try not to hurt your feelings with this question. I wanted to ask you technique-wise, how does having a left-handed quarterback affect the line’s technique? Are you guys having to kind of flip-flop things or is it business as usual?) – “It’s business as usual. I’m sure there’s some nuance stuff. That’s with (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) and ‘Coach Marshall’ (Offensive Line Coach Steve Marshall) and all the offensive stuff; but we’ve got some good continuity starting and we’ve started to get a little bit of a rhythm as far as an o-line standpoint and it’s business as usual. We’re ramping it up and we’ve got a 10-game stretch to see what we’re all about here in 2020.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

QB Tua Tagovailoa

(How did you spend the bye week? I know it was time to prepare for the Rams. How exactly did you use that time?) – “Yeah, I was up here a lot. I spent a lot of my time up here at the facility just watching some film but also working out. I would say I got with some of the guys as well, just so we could work on some timing with certain things, certain routes. Really, the only off day I had was Sunday.”

(It’s only human nature to have at least a little … about the hip. So I’m wondering, what do you anticipate that first hit is going to feel like, especially because it’s been a long time coming?) – “Yeah, it’s been a long time coming but that’s just the nature of the game. I don’t know what the hit is going to feel like. Every hit is different that you take in football. I’m really not too sure. I don’t think you can ever prepare for hits. It’s just something you have to go out knowing it’s going to happen – whether it’s the first play of the game, the first quarter or maybe third, second or fourth. You just never know.”

(I noticed that you were on social and posted a video where you had a sweatshirt that said Humble Over Hype. It stood out to me because obviously you’ve had a lot of hype coming into the league. How have you sort of managed everybody talking about you and sort of keeping yourself even-keeled?) – “I think what helps for me is my family. My family is not too big on the hype and whatnot. It’s more so just being a good son for them. A lot of the times, when I do come home and I talk to my parents on the phone, they don’t really necessary want to know about how football went. They just want to know how everything is with me as a person, just how my day was and things like that. I think what also helps me too is the coaches here and my teammates. You get joked on and whatnot and just the competition that you have with the guys at the facility. I don’t think anyone here at this organization can kind of get too caught up in any of the hype. Everyone is just so focused on what they’ve got to do to help the team be successful.”

(Your relationship with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick you characterized as a father-son relationship. How has it been this week as far as ‘Fitz’ supporting you and do you feel he’ll support you on the sidelines on Sunday?) – “It’s the same thing as when ‘Fitz’ was playing. Nothing really feels any different. Now that I’m in, the only thing that’s different is that I’m getting the reps now. With ‘Fitz,’ after a series – when we have our first team series, second team series, third team series – I come off to the sideline and ‘Fitz’ always has something that he wants to say to me, whether it has to do with protection, with what he would look at as far as progression reads and how he would read certain things out. That can make it easier for me, hopefully, come time on Sunday.”

(What’s your thoughts on facing a guy like DT Aaron Donald, a DB like CB Jalen Ramsey and players on that defense on Sunday?) – “I think it’s really exciting for our offense and our team. It will show what kind of team we kind of have after a bye week and whatnot; but we know what we’re going up against. We’re going up against one of the top NFL defenses in the league and it’s not just Jalen Ramsey, it’s not just Aaron Donald. You guys have Leonard Floyd, you’ve got (Michael) Brockers, (Kenny) Young and then Troy Hill and guys on the back end. They’re very sound defensively. We’re really trying our best to prepare as well as we can against these guys. Their DC (defensive coordinator) and their OC (offensive coordinator) and their head coach, they all know what they’re doing, so we know this isn’t going to be any easier from here on out.”

(Back in Indianapolis, I had a chance to talk to your former teammate S Xavier McKinney about some of the interactions you guys had post-practice in what you saw and what he saw. Come to find out we heard from S Bobby McCain, he said the same thing about you and him this past training camp. I’m curious what those conversations were like and what you’re able to glean from Bobby as far as his defensive perspective on your game?) – “I think the best thing for me to do is get into the mind of those DBs, of those safeties. Like what are they thinking in a 3×1 set? Just things like that. What are some little things that can help me better my game and improve my game, whether it’s my eyes or whether it’s staring down a guy and then throwing it somewhere else. It’s just trying to get a little edge on what to look out for when it’s time for a game situation.”

(At the quarterback position, obviously leadership is arguably the most important element. What is your – now that you’re the starter – what is your leadership plan?) – “I think my leadership plan is just to be the same Tua I’ve always been. I don’t got to go out yelling at guys. That’s just not the way I lead. I’m just going to be me – how I am on the sideline, how I am off the field, that’s pretty much how I’m going to be on the field. There might be certain instances where we might get into it a little bit with the receivers or the linemen, but everyone is just so competitive here that that’s just the nature of how the game goes sometimes.”

(Knowing Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey and just all the experience he has both in college and the NFL, how much do you think your relationship will help in your development just knowing all the reps that he has in the league?) – “You look at the resume of (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) – he’s been in the NFL, he’s been in college, he’s been a head coach, he’s been an OC (offensive coordinator). You know this is someone who knows what he’s talking about, and he knows what he’s talking about when he talks about the defense and he knows what he’s talking about offensively. So for me, it’s just a great opportunity to be able to learn under someone like Chan, and I think the really good thing about Chan is he puts all of us as an offense, that he feels like, into the best situation possible. So whether it’s play calls or just trying to maneuver guys into areas to put the offense in a good position, I think he does a great job at it.”

(I’d like to ask you about being a left-handed quarterback. It’s unbelievably rare in this league now. I’m wondering if you have some thoughts on why it’s so rare and in doing research, I found that there have been some notable left-handed quarterbacks who coaches were so reluctant to coach them, that they may have asked them to change positions or what have you. And I know you’re a right-hander. I don’t know if anyone ever asked you, ‘hey, why don’t you start throwing right-handed?’ But can you just describe your progression as you came up as a lefty?) – “Yeah, I do everything right (handed). I eat with my right, swing the bat with my right, golf with my right, do all that. But anything that has to do with shooting, throwing; it’s left. And I think lefties are so rare in football because all of them are in baseball. (laughter) So I think that’s why it’s so rare. It’s also probably a lot difficult as probably an OC (offensive coordinator) and probably a little difficult for the receivers as well because the ball spins a different way; but luckily I’m surrounded by professionals that can adjust pretty quick to the ball.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

WR Isaiah Ford

(When QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was starting, he did a really wonderful job explaining in detail what it was that was unique about him. I remember some story about he pointed out something in the stands and he was so relaxed and so comfortable with who he is. Can you take that idea of uniqueness and what you’ve learned about QB Tua Tagovailoa – whether it’s personality, leadership style – that seems to be unique to who he is?) – “I think he’s done a great job at observing the things that ‘Fitz’ does, whether it’s things like that, taking command of the huddle or coming to us outside of the huddle when we’re on the side, talking through things of what we’re seeing and kind of getting on the same page. I think he brings his own charisma or level of comfort that he has in the huddle when he is coming in and taking command and control of everything.”

(We just spoke to QB Tua Tagovailoa and along the way, he had mentioned that how being a left-handed quarterback, the ball comes out and spins in the opposite direction. He said ‘luckily I’m surrounded by professionals who can adjust quickly.’ As one of those professionals, what is it like adjusting to the rotation of the ball, and if the balls comes out differently in any other way?) – “I think it’s just about seeing it all the way in your hands. I think that’s something that most receivers will go back to maybe if they have a drop or anything like that – getting back to the basics, watching the ball all the way into your hands, securing it with your eyes and into the tuck. I think it will be just a little more focusing on that and then once you’re out there in the flow of the game and everything, that all takes care of itself.”

(I know you’ve been here long enough that you’ve seen a handful of starting quarterbacks here and going through them. I wanted to see how has QB Tua Tagovailoa’s preparation towards game week or with you guys is maybe different than other guys you’ve played with, or maybe how it’s the same?) – “He’s done a great job coming in. I would say watching what Ryan (Fitzpatrick) did when it came to being prepared and preparing early in the week and things like that. I think having the ability to watch him, he’s kind of picked up the same things. Whether it’s early in the week he’s watching early downs or third downs or red area or whatever it is, it’s kind of staying ahead of his preparation and getting to practice and knowing everything and being comfortable with the plan that we have put in.”

(I know RB Patrick Laird caught the first pass and put his gloves up on Instagram, trying to give it away and stuff. Anything with the players about QB Tua Tagovailoa’s first touchdown, who is going to get that ball, give me some details here.) – “(laughter) We’ve got nothing. Hopefully I can get one and I’ll keep the ball from him. No, I’d give him the ball if it was me; but no, we have no plans.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Head Coach Brian Flores

(I wanted to get your thoughts on the thinking behind extending TE Adam Shaheen.) – “I think he’s come in obviously via trade and he’s really worked hard. I think he’s been productive over the first six weeks of the season. We just felt like he was somebody we wanted to keep around for a few more years. There were some discussions ongoing and those guys were able to strike a deal.”

(What are some things you’re looking to see from QB Tua Tagovailoa and the offense in practice today?) – “The same thing we’re always looking for. Good communication, cohesiveness along the offensive line and our run blocking and run assignments. The same thing in our play-action and drop-backs. Then good overall execution. I think we need a good look from our scout team. The Rams are a very good defense. They’re fast, they tackle well, they don’t give up very many big plays, so this is going to be a tough test. So we need a good look from our scout team but offensively, good communication, good fundamentals, good technique, and then good overall execution to start the week off and try to build on that throughout the week. Obviously that starts in meetings, which we’ll do that this morning, take that to the walkthrough and then hopefully execute in practice.”

(How do you feel about the matchup between DT Aaron Donald and the offensive line, in particular the interior guys?) – “Look, Aaron Donald is a great player. He really is. I think we all know that he’s one of the best defensive players in the league. He’s consistently been that for a number of years now. But they’ve got a lot of other good players. Obviously he’s probably their best player, but they’ve got a lot of good players there – (Leonard) Floyd, (Michael) Brockers, John Johnson, obviously Jalen Ramsey. Our offensive line, it’s not just five-on-one. Let’s be clear on that. They know that. We’ve talked to them about that already. Obviously we have to play close attention to Aaron Donald and he’s a very, very great player; but they’ve got a very good team over there. I have a lot of respect for Donald. They’ve got some good players over there and we’ll have to handle all of them because they can all make plays.”

(It seems like Sunday might be the first time that QB Tua Tagovailoa gets physically tackled. Is there any curiosity or thoughts about that, and maybe how he’ll react to that?) – “No. I think from a health standpoint, we feel good about where he is. He’s going to get hit in the game. We know that. So no – it’s actually not something I’ve even thought of until you just brought it up. Our focus is on having a good meeting, having a good practice and we’ll try to go out and execute in practice today and just string along good days this week.”

(I wanted to ask you about how comfortable you were with how your team conducted itself during the bye. Was the level of compliance what you thought it might be?) – “I mean we talked to them about just being responsible, keeping your distance, wearing a mask. I imagine, I hope that they were all responsible and did the right things. So far so good as far as from a testing standpoint; but again, like I’ve said since training camp, you can do everything right and it can still affect the team, your family, etc. I’m hoping we did everything right. You just never know. There’s a lot of people in the building and we don’t have eyes on everyone; but I think we’re all trying to be responsible and do the right things. So far so good; but I think for me, the thought is even if we do everything right, it can still show up. All we can do is put our best foot forward and I think there’s some peace in knowing that you at least did that. If something happens then it happens, and that’s out of our hands.”

(I know you talk a lot about the 1/11th and being a team and not just the quarterback position. Is there something that you tell QB Tua Tagovailoa to help him understand that he doesn’t have to win the game or do it all for you guys in his first start?) – “I just think that each player understands that already. I think when you’re on a team, you’re in a locker room and you’re on the practice field, it’s pretty obvious that if no one blocks for you, that’s not going to work out. It’s not going to work out for a quarterback, a running back or a receiver, or if somebody lines up incorrectly defensively, they are going to hit a big play. To me, those things are obvious, especially when you’re in it on a play-to-play basis. We talk about it extensively. Everyone has to take care of their assignment and handle their responsibility for it all to work. It takes 11. It’s something we talk about. Maybe I’m the lone guy on this, but I think it’s pretty obvious on the field that if your o-line doesn’t block, you’re going to get sacked. If your o-line doesn’t block, you’re not going to have a good play. If the receiver just stands there when he’s supposed to run a route, when you throw it to him, it’s going to be incomplete. I think we kind of all understand that everyone has to do their part. If we do that, then we give ourselves a chance to be successful. But, it’s a team game. I hope everybody gets that. I say it enough.”

(One more on QB Tua Tagovailoa, was there some convincing that he had to do or any reassuring that he had to do to let you guys know, ‘hey, I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to go, I’m ready to play and be at my full strength?’) – “No.”

(Are you expecting QB Tua Tagovailoa – sometimes rookies might not say a lot or lead, even in meetings or whatever. Have you seen his demeanor change at all now that he’s the one, and were you expecting or are you expecting him to step up differently?) – “Tua – look, I think it’s a leadership positon. Once you step into that role and you step into the huddle and everyone is listening to your voice, listening to you call the play. From that standpoint, when he’s been in there as the second-team quarterback, he’s assumed that role. But I think when you’re in there as the No. 1 guy, you assume a little bit bigger role. That’s just natural to the position. I think everyone kind of knows that. I think he’s just being himself, which is what we try to tell all of the players. Be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. Just try to be authentic. I think that’s another thing that’s important to the position, really any position. Just be yourself, be authentic, be who you are and then we’ve all got to bring different personalities and try to come together on a play, after play, after play basis, and try to execute our fundamentals, our technique and try to have a good play. One good play and then try to string good plays together. Specific to Tua and trying to do more, I think being with the first team, that naturally – you use it a little bit more; but I think he’s being who he’s been since we got him.”