Miami Dolphins Press Conference 11-2-20, Flores, McCain, Karass, and Van Ginkel

Monday, November 2, 2020

C Ted Karras

(In terms of the performance that you guys had against the Rams, do you think that silenced a lot of people who thought you guys weren’t prepared to handle Rams DT Aaron Donald?) – “There’s a lot to work on on offense. It was definitely not our best performance, but we didn’t let them wreck the game. We did enough to win, but our defense and special teams kind of bailed us out. We have to put more onus as an o-line and as an offensive unit to be more productive than we were yesterday.”

(I’m wondering, after a few home games in front of the crowd such as they are; what your thoughts are about home-field advantage and how it has changed this year with sort of crowds we are dealing with or lack of crowds altogether?) – “Yeah, I love the crowd at home. Obviously the crowd, fans in the stands and a little bit of heat is definitely an advantage for us. My family really enjoys the limited capacity – the seats for our family members have been fantastic – so there’s been a lot of positives for that, but as we get down the stretch, if we want to open it up and really have a full stadium in there for some of these big games coming up, that wouldn’t be bad either – it might be bad. (laughter)”

(You talked about needing to be more productive. There was no drive yesterday that lasted more than six plays and no drive that really lasted more than 33 yards, I believe. What wasn’t working for you guys offensively and how can you guys improve?) – “I think it was we’re still learning and trying to get a rhythm with what we’re doing. It was one of the weirder games that I’ve been a part of. Our defense played outstanding and Jakeem’s big punt return was a huge plus. We didn’t run many plays, we didn’t make a lot of first downs, and I had plays that I wish I could have back. I felt like it wasn’t my best performance. I think everyone up front feels that way on offense. So we’ll get back to work Wednesday and we’ve got a big challenge going out to Arizona on Sunday.”

(Non-football question for you. We were just talking about Head Coach Brian Flores about this a few minutes ago. Tomorrow is a big day for the country. How do you feel about politics? Do you talk politics with teammates or is that something you absolutely stay away from?) – “I don’t absolutely stay away from – I would stay away from it with you guys, (laughter) but with my teammates, we have good discussions. I’ll be voting in Broward County tomorrow. I’m excited – a little nervous – going on voting day, but I think it’s a big day for the future of our country.”

(I was wondering if you could give us a peer assessment on QB Tua Tagovailoa and then also obviously that first drive didn’t go as anyone would’ve planned, but a few drives later, what that meant you think for him to throw that touchdown there and also a few good plays on that drive.) – “Yeah, (Tua Tagovailoa) battled it out all game. Obviously yeah, that first drive was tough. As an o-line – we talked today – we have to do way more to help him be comfortable and get in a rhythm. We did enough to win. (He is) 1-0 as a starting QB and that’s all that matters.”

(I’ve got two questions, if that’s all right. And if not, then you only have to answer one if you want to. The first one was a follow-up on QB Tua Tagovailoa. Was he feeling some nerves there at the beginning? Some anxiousness? And two, the pass pro has been actually good, but the run blocking has left a little to be desired. Why do you think there is such a disparity, discrepancy between what you guys are doing in pass protection and run blocking?) – “The first question – I thought he handled himself like a true professional. I’m anxious and nervous before every game as well. This is a high-stakes league with guys that’ll make you look bad if you let them. And the second one – we take a lot of pride in both pass and run blocking. It’s kind of just been everyone taking a turn in some of the run schemes – missing or not finishing enough – and we have to come back and get to work and do a lot better in that department, and that’s something that we’re going to be focusing on all week.”

(I was sort of piggybacking on what the previous question was addressing in terms of the run blocking. Do you feel like – and I’ve asked you this question before – do you feel like you guys have established or identified what’s the best run identity for you guys?) – “Not yesterday we didn’t, but I think we’re getting there. We’ve had some games, but we need to be more consistent. We need to have a consistent rushing attack and be a well-balanced offense, especially with a young quarterback back there. That’s a luxury that we want to give him, and as an o-lineman throughout our careers, you want to be a good run blocker and you want to get your backs over 100 yards and that usually – if you can rush 20-25 times a game and have a good 4.0 yard average, usually you’re going to win the game, so that’s what we’re striving for.”

(Every game has its own plan and for this most recent game, I’m guessing because it was QB Tua Tagovailoa’s first-ever start, and because the Rams have a very strong pass rush, that the plan was to try to run the ball and have a lot of short passing. If that wasn’t the plan, it would be surprising to me based on what I saw. How much do you think the plan can be expanded as the season moves forward?) – “I think we can have options to do whatever we want. We’ve got to find how we’re going to click now with a new offensive rhythm and keep moving forward. A lot of it is like I said earlier, we’ve got to finish blocks better. I had a few that I wasn’t pleased with myself and I know a lot of other guys are, too. It takes 11 guys on offense doing their job every play, and we’ve just got to finish better and keep grinding. (We are) 4-3 going to the desert – I’m very excited so we’re looking forward to it.

Monday, November 2, 2020

LB Andrew Van Ginkel

(I’m sure someone else is going to ask you about your fumble return; but I want to ask you about the gash you got on your face. What happened? Did you catch a cleat to the head, it looked like you were bleeding pretty good?) – “Yeah, I just caught a cleat to my helmet, and then my helmet came up. It’s nothing too serious. Just a little bloody.”

(Where would you put that in terms of pain from football you’ve experienced?) – “I don’t know. Honestly, it was just numb so I didn’t really feel too much pain. I wouldn’t say it was up there. Probably on the lower end. I’ve definitely had some injuries that were a lot worse.”

(What was going through your mind when you saw the football? Running down the field, I saw you taking a couple glimpses up at the scoreboard as well too. Take us through that moment and what was that like for you celebrating afterwards as well?) – “I didn’t even know what to feel. I was just numb. I was so ecstatic. When I picked it up, I was just thinking I can’t get caught. I just took off running as fast as I could, and just seeing (Seattle’s) D.K. (Metcalf) the other day, that was going through my head. (laughter) I just gave it everything I had to get to the end zone.”

(Focusing on the defense as a whole, as big as your play was, there was so many other big plays. What were your thought on the entire group’s performance. It really kept you guys in the game for the entirety yesterday.) – “I thought the defense played great, and it’s something we can continue to build off of. There were so many plays that we wish we could have back that didn’t really go our way. I dropped a pick, or whatever the case may be. There’s just little corrections that many fans or a lot of outsiders don’t see. We’ve just got to continue to build and continue to get better off of it.”

(You still played 25 reps on special teams, and that is one of the themes on this team is a lot of guys who play offense and defense will play prominently on special teams. I’m just curious if you can walk us through that mindset of contributing in all three phases and not taking special teams any lighter than you do any of your defensive assignments?) – “Right. That’s a big portion of the game that doesn’t get as much appreciation for it. I know ‘Coach Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores) takes pride in that, so I take pride in that as well. It’s a big part of the game. Any time you can flip the field or score touchdowns, it’s a huge momentum swing. It’s just part of the game that goes unappreciated. I take pride in that.”

(How much fun are you guys having playing defense right now, especially when you see the confusion you’re creating on a guy like QB Jared Goff like you did yesterday?) – “It’s a blast. The coaches do a heck of a job putting us in the right spots to succeed and to be able to make plays like this. Any time we can make a play and just go out there and have fun, that’s what we enjoy doing. It’s awesome.”

(You made your NFL debut 50 weeks ago or something like that – last November. There certainly was not the same amount of fan fair as QB Tua Tagovailoa making his debut. Did you have a chance at all before the game or after the game to talk to him, to maybe calm his nerves, and how do you think he handled the moment?) – “Getting your first start or first playing time is definitely not easy. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of things that go into it. For me, it’s just going out there and doing the little things right, and just relying on your practice and what you’ve been doing to get to that point. It’s something that you’ll continue to get better and improve on.”

(When we talk about a defensive identity, I know it’s an on-going process and it will continue throughout the rest of the season, but what do you think this defense’s identity is now? When you think about the things you’re doing really well, what are the main things that come to mind?) – “I would say our energy. Week in and week out, coach said a few weeks back – just playing for one another, and having fun, and brining the energy. Whenever someone makes a play, go be with them and celebrate. I’d say that’s a big part, building momentum and relying on one another. I think energy is a huge part of it.”

(After the game yesterday, Rams DL Michael Brockers was very complimentary of your guys’ defense and his perspective from the sideline just wondering how you guys were continuing to apply that pressure on QB Jared Goff. In your role, how appreciative can you be that the cornerbacks, specifically CB Byron Jones and CB Xavien Howard, it seems like for the majority of the game they were getting their assignments done?) – “It’s awesome. You can’t have a pass rush if you don’t have DBs guarding or covering guys in the secondary. It goes hand and hand, and vice versa. Just seeing them lock their guys down, getting picks and pass deflections is huge. Knowing that upfront we can go and get after the quarterback. I’d say it works hand and hand together.”

(There was a really nice photo of you and Head Coach Brian Flores on the sideline after you came off with the touchdown on the Dolphins Instagram page. I just wanted to ask what was that moment like for you and coach, and some more of the celebration you got from the teammates from the sideline?) – “It was awesome, just seeing how happy he was for me and just living in the moment. It was a big play in the game and a big momentum shift. Just seeing all of the teammates and coach, just coming around me, it’s awesome. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Monday, November 2, 2020

Head Coach Brian Flores

(From the beginning when you got here, you talked about team football and all three phases of the game complementing one another. For a lot of people, that’s a vision and a goal; but it seems like your team has found a way to do that in the last month. What has that process been like?) – “I think probably the word you use it for is coach speak. I really believe in it, though. I’ve seen it. I believe that that’s the way the game is supposed to be played. No phase is more important than the other. Nobody’s job is more important than anybody else’s and that’s from ownership to the people who clean to everyone in between. It’s a total team effort. I think the phases can complement each other if you place an emphasis on it, and that’s something we’ve talked about here and as you mentioned, that I’ve talked about with you guys and I’ve talked about it with the team. I think you get what you emphasize and it’s something we emphasize and it’s starting to show up on the field a little bit; but we have to continue to emphasize it and continue to make it – stress its importance so that it’s not just coach speak and it’s not just in one ear and out of the other like what happens to a lot of people, and one can actually play that way on Sundays.”

(After watching the tape, what did you think of how QB Tua Tagovailoa played? And also, with RB/WR Malcolm Perry, was him being active yesterday a function of WR Lynn Bowden Jr. had a baby and Malcolm’s practiced well? Or was the chemistry that he and Tagovailoa had in training camp, where they had several long completions, did that factor into your and Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey’s thinking about him playing yesterday?) – “Malcolm practiced well, so we wanted to give him an opportunity. We thought he played well in his limited snaps. (With Tagaovailoa), like everyone else, (he had) some good plays, some bad plays. We’re making the corrections now. A lot of things we can get fixed. For his first time out, again, some good and some bad. Hopefully we see some improvement next week.”

(You’ve been eloquent and passionate about some of the issues with social justice and such. I have a question for you regarding an election-based story we’re doing tomorrow. I’m wondering in what ways do you see a difference in this election in the willingness of players to speak out and try to be more of a part of the conversation than they’ve been in the past?) – “I think players are always part of the conversation, or those conversations are behind had, I should say. I think they’re difficult conversations to have and I think they’re important conversations to have. I think the players understand that. I think they also understand that they have a platform and they can use that platform to encourage people to go out and vote; but also, encourage people to listen to one another, to unite and come together more so than divide. I think that’s important to a lot of the players. I think they want better for this world. I think, to a man, you hear that over and over again. I think a football locker room, and I know it’s been said and I see it, that in a football locker room, there’s a lot of different guys from different backgrounds and somehow we all come together and have those conversations and learn about one another. I think a lot of guys feel that and they want that for everyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not the case; but I think we all, us in our locker room and in our little bubble, we see that it can happen, and I think that’s why guys are maybe a little bit more outspoken right now, along with what’s going on in the world. I think the George Floyd situation obviously struck a chord with everyone. People are still feeling the effects of that and I would say that would be at the top of the list of why people and our guys are much more vocal.”

(I wanted to ask you about your defense. Last season, you guys finished last in scoring defense, last in yards allowed. This year, you’re already first in scoring defense and top five in a lot of other categories. How do you feel about the vision of your defense? Everybody playing well, playing together, the new pieces – how do you feel like it’s all coming together so far, knowing that you have a lot more to go?) – “This morning – I’m very leery about statistics right now because I look at the stats from yesterday’s game and we gave up this many yards passing and this many yards rushing. When you look at it, it felt like we got dominated and I didn’t feel that way during the game. Look, this is a week-to-week league. I’m not – we’ve got to just focus on today and focus on improving today and focus on getting better in practice this week, and not worry about the statistics. Just worry about the next play and the next practice. Hopefully our guys understand that. We’ve got a tough opponent this week. We’ve just got to play good football, and that starts in practice.”

(A year ago today, you guys were 0-7, and a lot of things were being said about you guys. Since then, you guys have been 9-7 over the last 16 games. I wanted to get your view on what you think is the heart of that turnaround and are you where you expected to be?) – “I think the heart of it is the players. They are the ones who are out there on the field. They are the ones who are out there practicing and preparing. The credit goes to them. I know I’m not out there tackling anybody. Nobody wants to see that. (laughter) The credit goes to those guys. It’s football and you’re never really where you want to be. There has never been a perfect game played. There is always room for improvement; but I do think these guys are improving. I think they’re coming together. I think they are building relationships and I think you see that on the field. When you see Jakeem (Grant) make and his big return and guys are flipping out on the sideline, it makes you want to build that rapport on the team. I think that’s grown over the last year-plus. Hopefully it continues to grow. You can never get enough of that.”

(An T Austin Jackson question. Does he need some more time or is he ready to practice or close?) – “He’s doing everything he can to get back as soon as he can. I know he’s eligible and I understand the question to come off and start practicing, but we’ll see. We have a couple of more workouts, a couple more rehabs before we make a decision on that and whether or not he’s going to practice. I’m not going to say he’s close or not close. I don’t want to put a timetable on it. He’s doing everything he can to get back. He’s making improvements.”

(We’ve had a lot of conversations over the last few days about QB Tua Tagovailoa. I wanted to ask you about the 10 guys surrounding him. Do you feel like they did enough of their own job yesterday, and if not, how much might that influence your thinking as we near the trade deadline on how active you might be?) – “I thought the other 10 guys played well in spurts and they didn’t play well in other spurts. I think at the end of the day, we need to get all 11 guys playing well from play to play. When they get that consistent … that’s something we’ve talked about and stressed today in these meetings, really in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams. The second part of that question was about the trade deadline. The trade deadline is what, tomorrow? I’m sure there are going to be rumors swirling around, who we are trading for and things of that nature. (General Manager) Chris (Grier) handles all of that. I’ll be getting ready for the Cardinals. I honestly won’t have too much information on that. Chris handles it and as soon as I’m off of this call, I’ll be trying to figure out a way to get Kyler Murray, and (DeAndre) Hopkins, and (Chase) Edmonds and that group contained or limited. Try. We’ll try to do that.”

(I’m sure you’ve heard that the Cardinals had two players test positive over the weekend. I have no idea what is proper in a case like this, whether you would have contact with the Cardinals or concerns about that, or whether it changes anything or what you do at all. Secondly, what is your election plan? Have you already voted or are you going to vote tomorrow?) – “I already voted. Mail-in ballot. It’s in and accounted for. As far as Arizona and their COVID situation, I haven’t talked to anyone over there. I haven’t talked to (Head Coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) or anyone over there, or anyone from the league for that matter. We’re just going to do business as we normally do it. We’ll prepare the way we normally prepare, and prepare to travel the way we always have for an away game. We’ll try to get ready to play against a very good football team.”

(Is there some concern about the game possibly having to be pushed back, or at what point do you worry about that? Or does the league inform you as soon as possible?) – “We just follow the league’s lead on that. They’ll let us know if there are any changes, postponements or things of that nature. As of right now, we’re scheduled to play Sunday at 2:25 Arizona time. That’s the information I have now. It’s 2020, so we all have to be ready to adjust and be flexible; and if that’s the case, that’s what we’ll do. If they want us to play Saturday, Monday, tomorrow, that’s what we’ll do.

Monday, November 2, 2020

S Bobby McCain

(I think a lot of us saw that you were mic’d up in a clip from the team this morning. When the defense has such a good performance like you guys did yesterday, just how happy and in the moment were you, realizing that this is what you guys are capable of?) – “Just excited just because we know the preparation that we put in each and every day in the week. So going out there and having that performance, it just shows you that it pays off – the hard work pays off throughout the week. The long meetings and the hot practices, everything pays off.”

(I found a fun stat. Over the last three games, you guys have allowed 0-of-14 passes over 20 yards to go completed. I know you won’t brag on yourself too much but I’m just curious how much pride you personally take in that and what’s the overall ingredients for preventing deep passes from going complete on your defense?) – “Just playing good football. That’s one of the pillars that we have here is just defending the deep part of the field. If you can do that and you can keep guys in front of you and make tackles – make sure tackles and take out all of the leaky yardage – it’ll make you play better as a defense.”

(I know last season was last season but you’ve definitely come a long way as a defense from then until now. Last in scoring defense and last in yards last year to now first in scoring defense and in the middle of the pack but still top five in a lot of statistical categories. For you, how does it feel to kind of see everything coming together with the new pieces and you guys having some success, still knowing you have a lot to do?) – “Like you said, at the end – we still have a lot of work to do and we can be better. We try not to (focus) on statistics and worry about what people say about us and where we’re ranked here and where we’re ranked there. As I say each and every week, it’s coming out and being better. If you were better than you were last week, then you’re doing pretty damn good.”

(You’ve been fortunate enough or unfortunate enough to be coached by three different head coaches and be part of a number of different regimes. This is kind of the first Dolphins team that has played complementary football on a consistent basis. Not just one game but you guys have done it for like a month now. What is the difference? How did you get here?) – “Just preparation. I just want to correct you, I’m very fortunate – very, very fortunate – to be able to be here with the Dolphins during the tenure of my career, and it’s taught me a lot of lessons. So just understanding the preparation that we have and whatever we do each and every week, it pays dividends on Sundays at 1 o’clock. We know, the guys know, but no one outside of this building knows how hard we work. No one outside this building knows how much it takes and the amount of mental stress that we go through throughout the week just to be out there on Sundays. It really just shows the defense, and as a team collectively, playing complementary football that if you do what you’re supposed to do throughout the week and you just keep working and keep getting better, the results will happen.”

(I think it was QB Tua Tagovailoa who told us yesterday that you went up to him after his fumble and kind of got his head right. A, if that’s accurate, why was it important for you as a leader to go and do that; and B, what was the exact message that you gave him?) – “I just went up to him and I told him, ‘we’ve got you all. Clear your mind.’ I know it’s his first series as a starter, so I told him, ‘just clear your mind and we’ve got y’all. Don’t even trip. Don’t worry about it.’ I’m not exactly sure the exact words but it was something of that nature. It was ‘clear your mind, go to the bench and we’ve got your back each and every time, so don’t even worry about the turnovers.’”

(I guess looking ahead to Sunday for Arizona, you’ve got a guy like QB Kyler Murray. How does that change maybe how aggressive that you guys can be as a defense when you’ve got a guy that can use his legs like he can?) – “We know the Cardinals have a really good team. And we’ve got a really good team. It’ll be a good battle. It’ll be a good game. We’re going to go up there to Arizona out west and try to get a W. We know what they’re capable of. We know Kyler Murray is a really good quarterback, emerging quarterback, in this league. They’ve got D-Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and (Christian) Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald and (Kenyan) Drake isn’t playing but they’ve got a number of guys who can do a lot of things. It’s a good test for us. We’re going to come and have a good week of practice and at the end of the day, it won’t be about them; it’ll be about us.”