Miami Dolphins Press Conference 12-2-20: Tua, Sanders, Rowe, Flores

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

K Jason Sanders

(I found what is possibly the greatest statistic of all time. Your career field goal percentage is better than Michael Jordan’s career free throw percentage, which is a shocking number. What are your thoughts on that?) – “(laughter) The fact that you know that information is kind of funny to me, but I don’t know. I don’t know how you can compare it. You’re comparing someone who’s only done it for three years to somebody that’s done it for a very long time. I’m just happy with where I’m at right now. I’ve been kicking the ball really well and I’m just excited to see where it’s going to go, so I’ve got four or five more weeks to just focus on one game at a time.”

(I’m going to come at you with some more stats – maybe not quite as good as the previous ones – but I was looking at some kickoff return yardage against stats and you guys lead the league with just 16.8 yards allowed per return. I was curious what overall contributes to getting stops on kickoffs and what’s your goal when your plan as a kicker is to not punch it out of the back of the end zone? Like what’s your target point when you’re kicking off not going for a touchback?) – “You got two kicks – you can try and pound it out of the end zone or you can try and hang it up for a little more hang time and make it a returnable ball; but we’ve got a lot of thanks to our cover guys. We have a lot of good guys on kickoff, so they’ve been doing a lot of good work this year and you’ve got to give props to (Special Teams Coordinator Danny) Crossman, too. Everything we do is a play from Crossman.”

(I know that sometimes like with soccer players, they will train using an especially small target in order to help their accuracy and you being now the most accurate kicker in Dolphins history, I couldn’t help but wonder what do you do to improve your accuracy? Do you have any special drills that are out of the ordinary or do you train on an especially small goalpost? How do you perfect it?) – “It all starts with picking a small target in your background, so when I’m kicking field goals, I like to define a small target in the stadium. It could be a pole, it could be lettering on the stadium. But in the offseason I’m doing the same drills I do basically now, so the only difference in the offseason to now is there’s a couple days that I might just kick at a pole so I’m aiming at a smaller target. But other than that, I just want to treat every time I’m kicking the ball, I just want to treat it the same swing. So I don’t want to develop a short field goal swing or a long field goal swing. I want to be able to have that same swing going through every kick.”

(I imagine there are some other teams out there, some other field goal kickers that don’t provide a sense of security or safety knowing that when the kicker trots out, three points will not be an option; but it’s not that for you. I think your teammates probably have a little bit more comfort when you come out on the field, your coaches, too. Do you have a sense of pride in maybe providing that for your teammates and the coaches?) – “Yeah, but it also makes it a lot easier to kick field goals when you have a snapper that’s giving you a great ball all the time and in case of a bad ball, you’ve got Matt (Haack), who is arguably one of the better holders in the league that puts the ball down almost perfectly. So when you have a good team working with you, it makes me be able to focus on kicking the ball and not other factors that might affect the kick. So I think a lot of the focus on me, myself; but because I have good people surrounding me, it makes it that much easier, too.”

(Just wanted to follow up on that note. I remember as a rookie, we had talked to former Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi about you not having that kind of stability in college. How much of a factor really is that, as we’ve you have such better success here in the NFL than you did in college?) – “I struggled a lot in college my first two years. I didn’t really find my stride until my junior year; but when I found it, it all fell back on confidence. Each kick, running out on the field, if you truly believe that you’re going to make that kick or you’re still confident in yourself, then chances are you’re going to go out there and do a good job. Right now, I can’t go out there thinking ‘tough winds, I might not make this kick.’ So that’s kind of what’s helped me a lot this season, is just trusting myself and just worrying about myself instead of everything else.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

QB Tua Tagovailoa

(Even though you didn’t play or start, the cameras still love to follow you around on the sidelines, so I wanted to get your perspective on what it was like being back on the sideline, any conversations you might have had with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick after scores and just how that overall experience went for you this past Sunday?)  – “That’s was obviously my first game not playing after being named the starter; but I think it was a good learning experience too. I think you can always learn. If you’re not playing, if you’re playing – also in practices, if you’re getting reps or not – I think you can always use those as learning curves.”

(The question South Florida has is how are you feeling, and what do you think the likelihood is we’ll see you this weekend?) – “I’m feeling good. I think that’s a question for ‘Coach Flo’ (Brian Flores) and our head trainer (Kyle Johnston). But yeah, as a competitor you always want to go out there and you want to be able to play. But ‘Flo’ and our medical staff, I would say they have the best interests for us. I would say they wouldn’t put me out there if they felt like it would be harmful for myself. I’m just taking it one day at a time and trusting those guys.”

(How did the injury occur? Was it one of those where you were following through on delivering a pass and hit someone’s helmet? Or was it some other way that it occurred? There was one mention that I saw that said that you came close to playing last Sunday and in the end, obviously you did not. Is that accurate?) – “Well, I got my hand dinged up when I tried to make a pass; but like I said, I wanted to play. But that was for the best for me and just looking for the longevity of everything. I just don’t want to put myself in danger and put the team at risk as well with me being in there and kind of suffering with my thumb. Like I said, I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to get better with everything. ‘Flo’ (Brian Flores) and our medical staff, they’ll get us all right.”

(When you get an injury on your throwing hand, you wonder if it’s affecting your grip or your throwing. How much does it impact both of those things for you and have you had to adjust anything during practices?) – “Yeah. I had to wrap my hand and just kind of get used to the wrap and whatnot. Other than that, I’m just trying to get into the rhythm again with some of the guys, and continue to learn from ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick), continue to learn from coaches. I’m just trying to work hard still. “

(Sometimes when a player may have a bad game, you focus on the film where you played bad. Do you think that you needed to watch more of the Arizona game, where you were having some success? I did think that throwing into coverage or throwing into tight windows was a little bit over-talked about a little bit; but during that game, you were making contested throws. Do you need to see some of yourself having success to move forward and rebuild your confidence back up?) – “I would say no. To really answer that question, it’s a little difficult to look at pass success because the teams you are looking forward to playing are never usually the same as far as personnel, as far as coverages – and if it is the same coverages, then it’s probably variation of coverages. I would say if you’re looking back at post-film, it’s usually things that you can work on. For me, it’s more so the team that we’re going up against now, this week, and what we can do against them.”

(You mentioned you hurt your hand when throwing a pass. Did you clip someone’s helmet when that happened? And just kind of this week, you would’ve been playing QB Joe Burrow had he not gotten hurt and were to play. Are you kind of disappointed that matchup won’t happen?) – “Like I said, I got it dinged in practice when I made a throw. But yeah, when I heard about Joe’s injury, I reached out to him. Injuries like that, they are never fun. Those are – you never wish that on anybody. I got to reach out to him and I know he would love to be able to go out there and compete against us. That’s tough. I just sent him my prayers and whatnot. I wished him the best as well.”

(Head Coach Brian Flores said something earlier today that I thought was kind of interesting. He said I think once you think you’re over the hump is when you go back under the hump. Sometimes he gives me these statements that really make me think. It kind of reminds me of Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban a little bit. How does Flores’ messaging and the way he tries to keep the team focused and mentally in the right place kind of compare to your experiences with Coach Saban?) – “I would say it’s a little difficult to compare the two. I have tremendous respect for Coach Saban, and I have tremendous respect for ‘Coach Flo’ (Brian Flores). But they are two different people, two different personalities. How they go about doing things is different. I would say the way ‘Flo’ gets his message out to us is he says it, but you can also see it through his actions. Being out there in practice, just the passion he has in coaching us and then also in our team meetings, too.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

S Eric Rowe

(I have a question for you about Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer. You’ve obviously been with him here for the last couple of years and you had a relationship with him in New England previously. I was just curious if there was maybe one or two things that he does that makes him stand out in a unique way that has helped this Dolphins defense be so productive this season?) – “Yeah, I’ve been with him for – yeah, I would say probably pretty much my career now that I think about it. But yeah, a couple things about him, the attention to detail is really the same as ‘Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores). Like him and ‘Flo’ are basically the same person. They have the same mindset, the energy they bring every day, the attention to detail within the defense, any scheme, technique, fundamentals, all that. So really it’s just the consistency since – it would’ve been the spring, but we just had training camp – but since training camp, just the details of everybody’s fundamentals, whatever the scheme is, define things and just consistently executing it.”

(Staying with that theme a little bit, you described what Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer is like in terms of his approach day to day. How would you describe his approach on game day and calling plays, calling formations? How would you describe that?) – “It’s aggressive. He definitely has an aggressive mindset, which I like. I like being the aggressor instead of being passive and kind of just playing back. He wants to dictate what the offense does, so kind of have the defense run the game. With any team, it doesn’t matter; that’s usually the game plan is be aggressive.”

(I wasn’t paying attention to the last question, but I have to ask about CB Nik Needham. I’m not sure if that was asked already. Somebody give me a yes, somebody give a no. Anything? Nik Needham has obviously been a player that’s developed a lot in the last two seasons, also with that pick on Sunday. What can you say about him as a player, the way he’s developed over the last two years and what he does for you guys in that nickel role?) – “From last year, I remember training camp. He was undrafted and he was out there making plays kind of consistently against our offense. That kind of gets you on the radar. I’m like, ‘all right, who is this guy?’ He was undrafted out of El Paso. Not going to lie, when he first came in, he was overweight. He didn’t move too well but he kept making plays. Now fast forward to now, he can play inside, outside. He always has the tough task whether it’s covering like (Jamison) Crowder in the slot. I think this week Tyler Boyd is in the slot. He’s a really good receiver. He’s always up to it, so his development; he’s a key piece of the defense.”

(That’s funny you brought up the overweight because he admitted to that in training camp that he cut out fast food, so maybe that’s something we should all do. I got a question not about the current team, but a couple weeks ago on throwback day, you wore those cleats – Jake Scott, Dick Anderson. Did you know about Jake Scott before you got to the Dolphins? Like growing up around football, was that like someone you modeled or was that someone you learned about and studied when you got to this franchise? If you could just speak on his impact on the Dolphins and you obviously to make those cleats.) – “It was someone I learned (about) when I got signed here and on our wall in our defensive room, it’s got the No-Name Defense and it has Jake Scott, Dick Anderson – it’s a small room, so it’s probably like four or five guys. So when I got here, I was like ‘No-Name Defense, what is that?’ So I studied up and looked it up and I was like, ‘Dick Anderson and Jake Scott, man these two guys were the real deal.’ The stats they had, All-Pro, Pro Bowls, one of them was the Super Bowl MVP. So that’s someone you got to pay homage to. And then I kind of watched a little bit of old film, how they played their game and I was just impressed.”

(What do you make of the Bengals quarterback situation and what sort of opportunities does that present for the defense this week?) – “Yeah, he’s a new guy for this year playing-wise. It’s kind of sad what happened to Joe Burrow. He was off to a really great start to his first year. But it’s kind of how the NFL goes unfortunately – injuries – so whoever is up is up. But Brandon Allen, we’ve got one game film out of him; but he has an arm. He’s an NFL quarterback, so I don’t downplay anybody. If you’re an NFL quarterback, you’re in the league, you can play. We’ve still got to come with it he could pick us apart just like anybody else.”

(You, as a rookie, were able to start all 16 games which is pretty rare. How were you able to do that and how tough was that last month for you?) – “As a rookie?”

(Yeah.) – “Oh no, I didn’t start all 16 games. (laughter)”

(I’m sorry, you played all 16 games, right? You appeared in all 16 games?) – “You can say that. I was on special teams, got a couple snaps here and there. I didn’t really start playing playing until like, the last five games. But if you want to talk about that rookie wall thing – I think that’s where you’re going – yeah, I talked to Brandon (Jones) about it because I hit my wall my second year. That’s when I played all 16 and the playoffs and that’s when I hit it and I was like, ‘oh my God, this wall is real. I’m mentally and physically just out of it.’ But I talked to Brandon about it and tried to give him a couple tips on how to keep it going because December is the most important month of the year for football because everybody is trying to make that run, make that jump; so if you’re going with that, yeah. I wish I played all 16 my rookie year. (laughter)”

(I was curious coming up on Sunday for My Cause, My Cleats, if you’ve got anything you’re wearing and something you want to kind of get the message out on?) – “Yeah, I’m supporting – it’s a group called IJM – International Justice Mission. What they do is they focus on child slavery and obviously in different parts of the country where either human trafficking, child slavery, sex trafficking; all that. They focus on saving those kids, adults; it doesn’t matter because there’s a lot of stuff going on in other countries that obviously doesn’t really get in the news too much so I wanted to support them on my cleats.”

(Two-parter for you if I could. First, the style of defense you guys do where you’re confusing people at the line where you’re not really showing them who’s coming, what do you guys call that? I know some people call it “amoeba” – I’m not sure if you call it the same thing. And second, when you hear Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer call that defense for you what does that do for you as a safety? What do you sort of feel?) – “You’re talking about like when everybody’s all up on the line?”

(Yeah, when everybody’s all on the line and they don’t know who’s the Mike, they don’t know who’s coming. You guys are all kind of standing up to try to confuse them on who’s blitzing and who’s dropping in coverage?) – “I don’t want to give you the play call just in case anybody hears us say that on the field; (laughter) but yeah, when we’re up there we have different variations where we try to give the same look, but obviously different pressure where we’re all coming or we’re dropping back or only he’s coming or maybe I’m coming. But as a safety, if I get that look where based on wherever the tight end’s at, if I get that look then sometimes I’m coming, sometimes I’m not coming, sometimes we’re dropping into a zone. It really works well because it gets kind of everybody on their toes. It’s not like we’re coming every single time we’re all lined up, so you got to keep the offense thinking.”

(Sometimes Head Coach Brian Flores gives us a quote that kind of makes us stop and think. Yesterday Coach said “you can’t to where you want to get without handling what’s right in front of you” and I’m kind of wondering how often does he sort of set a tone, deliver a message, reset the mindset with conversations or phrases like that?) – “It’s every week – let’s say like Mondays when we’re looking to the new opponent. It’s every week, it’s always kind of ‘don’t look ahead of whoever we got.’ Like last week, the Jets are 0-10 and it’s easy to just look past them, but it’s the NFL. If you don’t play your game, you’re going to get beat. It’s not high school ball where you just out-talent the other person, right? So every week he says ‘don’t look past whoever we’ve got. We’ve got to put our all into it.’ That only makes us better. If you look past someone, obviously you’re not going to play your best game and you’re not going to get better; and when it comes to let’s say, more challenging teams, we’re not going to be prepared. So each week we’ve just got to get better and that’s kind of the message he just preaches every Monday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. (laughter)”

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Head Coach Brian Flores Conference Call with Cincinnati Media

(Just overall thoughts on what you see when you look at the Cincinnati team.) – “I see a very tough, competitive group. Well-coached. Let’s just start in the kicking game. I think Dan Simmons is probably one of the top special teams coordinators in the league. They’ve got a very good group there. It’s definitely a strength on their team. Obviously they had a big day in the kicking game last week with the kickoff return and the fake punt, and almost broke the punt return at the end of the game to win it, so that’ll be a major challenge. Offensively I know we’re dealing with some injuries. Obviously the quarterback and the running back, but definitely some skill players out there in the perimeter – A.J. Green, Tee Higgins, obviously (Tyler) Boyd, some good young players there. So I think it’ll be a challenge. Defensively I think (Defensive Coordinator) Lou (Anarumo) does a great job mixing – especially when they get into the long-yardage situations, mixing in the mug pressures. They’ve got some good young players. Jessie Bates, I like him a lot just kind of studying him. Will Jackson obviously is very talented. (Logan) Wilson is a young linebacker who’s also very talented. (Germaine) Pratt and (Josh) Bynes, they’re playing well. Carl Lawson over there on the edge, he’s a good player over there. There are some talented guys. You also have Mike Daniels in there. He’s been a good player for a long time. To me, the record is misleading. I know all the pundits, talking heads; but what I see is some talented players and a good coach and it’ll be a tough, tough challenge.”

(What’s been the biggest difference for you guys this year?) – “Can you elaborate on that a little bit? There’s a lot of differences. COVID is a big difference. (laughter)”

(Just in terms of you guys are actually competing for a playoff spot this year. What do you feel like has been the difference in just kind of getting you over that hump and kind of heading in a different direction this year?) – “I think our guys, they work hard; but I think guys work hard really across the board. I think they’re tough, they’re smart, they’re competitive. I think we’ve got good coaches. We try to put them in good positions. I think we try to play complementary football. I see a lot of the same things with the Bengals. Every year is a little bit different. Every game in this league comes down to three, four or five plays. We’ve been able to make some of those plays. I know I’ve watched pretty much every game here and some of these games with the Bengals have come down to that as well. Last week obviously being one of them. I don’t think there’s any specific one thing; I just think our guys have worked hard. Our coaches work hard and we just try to get games to the fourth quarter and then make plays in those critical situations.”

(How much has the experience that you got in the front office with the Patriots helped you as you’ve navigated free agency, the draft, to build a football team in the image that you want?) – “I think a lot of the experiences I’ve had throughout my career have helped me. I spent four years in personnel, so that time was very valuable to me and worked with a lot of really good people during that time. Obviously Scott Pioli, John Robinson in Tennessee – there’s a lot of names so I’m not going to go through all of them – but I worked with a lot of good people, learned a lot from that time and that’s certainly helped me in this role; but I’m lucky. (General Manager) Chris Grier does a great job and his staff – (Assistant General Manager) Marvin Allen and (Vice President of Football Administration) Brandon Shore – so from a personnel standpoint, I’d say they handle most of it. But I’d say in my role, when I walk in there, it’s not like I’m – I’ve kind of seen it through their lens as well as the coaching lens, so I think it’s been helpful.”

(When you have a young coach trying to orchestrate a rebuild, people always talk about the team has to learn how to win. I’m just curious last year, after the 0-7 start, was there a moment, a play, a series, a game where you felt “okay, we’re over the hump?” This is something that just truly told you that you were moving in the right direction?) – “In this league, I don’t think you’re ever really over the hump. There’s just so many good teams. The league is built for parity, so a lot of good players. I think once you think you’re over the hump is when you go back under the hump. I think we just take it week-to-week. Every week is a challenge. Every day we just try to improve and get better. I think when you take that approach, the results take care of themselves. That’s kind of the message I give to the players, the coaches, really everyone in the organization. Yeah, you do need to learn how to win in this league. I think there’s something to that. I’m not sure – if I had the formula, I’d probably bottle it up, but I don’t. But I think part of that is just working every week, preparing every week and good meetings, good walkthroughs, good practice, good routines on the field, off the field and then let the chips fall where they fall.”

(Can you talk a little bit about the ageless wonder in QB Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback?) – “Ryan (Fitzpatrick) is a very good leader, talented player, smart, gritty, tough. He really embodies a lot of the characteristics we’re looking for in a Dolphin. He can handle adversity, (is) mentally tough. It’s been great working with him I would say these last two years. He’s been a great mentor to Tua (Tagovailoa) and a lot of other young players. It’s one thing as a coach to try to teach these young guys and mentor them and teach them how to be a pro; it’s another thing when you have a guy like Ryan in the locker room, in the huddle with them, really saying a lot of the same things. He’s been a very, very valuable piece to the growth of some of our young players, I would say.”

(As you’re trying to build your culture, the culture you’re looking for with your organization, how important is it to get guys like LB Kyle Van Noy and guys like that that you know that you’ve been with that you know understand the culture? How important is it to have guys like that to be your sergeant-in-arms and such?) – “It’s always nice to get guys that you’ve worked with before. And in a lot of ways, those guys, they become – you said ‘sergeants,’ but they find leadership roles within the team. They understand how I’m wired, for sure, personally, because obviously I’ve had personal relationships with a couple of these guys I’m referencing. Elandon Roberts is part of that as well. And they can kind of share some of that history with the guys who don’t know me as well. I think that’s been good. So when I lose it on someone, they can tell them, ‘that’s not as bad as it was.’ So that part of it has been good.”

(What’s the biggest change in you and the way that you go do things in Year 2 that’s helped you than it did in Year 1 maybe?) – “I don’t know if I could point to one thing. I think – I feel like I’ve grown. I don’t know if I could point to one thing. I’m trying to think of something.”

(Is there a way to measure that growth and how you’ve kind of – in the way you say ‘Okay, I’m doing this a lot better than I did last year. I really like the way I’ve developed as a coach.’) – “I just think anytime you go through experiences, you get better – whether it’s something as simple as scheduling, days off, shells practice versus padded practices, do we defer the coin toss, do we take the ball, do we want to take a timeout in this situation. There’s several things that I guess I’m a little bit more comfortable with than I was a year ago – in a lot of areas. Not just on the field but in my relationships and the relationships I have with our equipment staff and our training staff and our personnel staff. I think I’ve grown from that standpoint. There’s so much to this job that to pinpoint one thing and say ‘Hey, that’s it,’ it’s hard to say that. I’m always trying to get better. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I work hard to get them.”

(You’ve got a couple of rookies playing side by side on the right side of your offensive line. How are those guys holding up and how are they developing?) – “Well, we really have three rookies playing a good number of snaps. The two guys on the right side, like you mentioned – Solomon Kindley and Robert Hunt – then Austin Jackson over on the left. We really like all three guys. They’re young, they’re talented, they compete, it’s important to them and I think they’ve gotten better over the course of the year. Look, any time you can get game snaps under your belt and feel the speed and feel the power and see the different schemes that opposing defenses present – and obviously this week will be certainly a challenge from that standpoint, the way Lou (Anarumo) challenges protections – I think that only helps these guys. Look, we’re about helping young players improve and develop, really at all positions. Obviously o-line is a very important position and we’re playing with some young guys. They have their ups and their downs and we’ll just try to keep working with them and helping them get better.”

(One of the guys you mentioned when you were running down the Bengals defensive players – DE Carl Lawson – is near the top of the league in pressures and hurries but doesn’t quite finish as much as you would like. What do you like about his game and where does he rank in the hierarchy of the elite edge rushers in this league?) – “Look, I like the player. I think anytime you can affect the quarterback, that’s a good thing. While the sacks are the big stat, I often – I don’t want to say debate – with our media about statistics and sacks. I’ll say it again. One player can have 1,000 snaps in a season and he’s judged off – let’s say he gets 10 sacks or 15 sacks. That’s one percent of his plays. I think we can all do the math and we’re judging him off of one percent of his plays. I just think that’s – I’m always going to – I like judging the 99 percent. So when there’s hurries and there’s run stops and there’s edges being set and he’s dropping into coverage, those are the things I’m looking at, to include the sacks. But literally, we can all do the math. Twenty sacks is an All-Pro year and it’s two percent of the snaps. Again, we can all do the math. It might be less – I’m not even sure, it may be less than two percent. I’m not that good at math. (laughter) But I do know that there’s more plays – just from a comparison standpoint, I think he’s a good player. I think the pressures are a big part of that. I think the run stops are a big part of that. I think his edge setting – I like his violent play style. I think all of those things are part of it. There’s a couple of other guys who are in that mode as well. I don’t know how many interceptions Jessie Bates has but this is a good player, I’ll tell you that right now. And I don’t really care how many interceptions he has. This is a damn good player. Some people, if those are the stats that you look at – I’m just a little different, I guess.”

(The way you can morph from 3-4 to 4-3 and the different looks and principles and everything with it, you have to have intelligent, versatile football players and you’ve always been exposed to that concept up in New England. So you seem to be going along those exact same lines. Is it coming to where you’re satisfied or getting closer to where you want to be in terms of intelligent, versatile football players for your defense?) – “I don’t know if satisfied is ever a word I would use. (laughter) I think Chris (Grier) and our personnel department, I think they’ve done a great job of bringing in guys who are tough and smart and competitive and love to play. We’re trying to coach them up the best we can. We want to be versatile. We want to give our opponents different looks and apply pressure in different ways. Our players work hard to try to get that accomplished. It’s not always perfect but they work hard at it and I appreciate them for working hard at it. I think when it hits and when we execute it, it’s been – we’ve had some success. It’s been the other way also and we try to make those corrections. But they work hard to get it right and I think our personnel staff has done a nice job of bringing in good players via free agency, the draft, etc. Hopefully we can continue to do that and we’ll just keep trying to coach them the best we can.”

Brian Flores – December 2, 2020 Download PDF version

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Head Coach Brian Flores

(This isn’t a QB Tua Tagovailoa question, this is a RB/WR Malcolm Perry question and also a follow up on something you said last week regarding the slot position, and how you don’t necessarily – I don’t know if I’m expounding on what you said – kind of believe in the slot. You believe in having other players or kind of having other guys fill in for that role. Considering you come from the Patriots, who kind of revolutionized how the slot was used, where does that belief come from?) – “I’m not necessarily sure I said I don’t believe in the slot position. I think you can play with different guys in that position. I think it’s literally a spot on the field, not necessarily a position. I think we are talking about between the numbers – that place on the field between the numbers and the hash, which people call the alley in the kicking game, they call it the slot in the passing game, some people call it the seam defensively. I just see it as a spot on the field. Obviously you see it as a position – an actual position. Maybe we just need to come to an understanding on how we see that. I don’t necessarily see it as a position, I see it as space on the field. I think that space can be filled by a number of different positions. You can put a running back there, you can put a tight end there, like I’ve said. You can put a receiver there. For us, you’ve seen DeVante (Parker) in there, you’ve seen Jakeem (Grant) in there, you’ve seen Malcolm Perry in there, you’ve seen a number of different players there – (Mike) Gesicki, running backs. So to say I don’t believe in that part of the field, I think is – I believe in all parts of the field. Maybe one day we can sit down and talk about the field dimensions and that will be one conversation, and then particular players and their skillsets will be another conversation.”

(I know you like to be straightforward about things, but yesterday when we were talking to Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer, I asked him about how you broke the news to him about how you would like for him to be defensive coordinator. He described a conversation that sounded incredibly brief, actually. My two-part question is, was it really as brief as what he described? And two, what was it that you saw in Josh that made you believe that he was the right man for the job?) – “I don’t know what your guys’ conversation was, but I’ve worked with Josh for a long time. He’s a very good teacher of the game, he’s got a lot of good knowledge. We’ve had years worth of conversations about defense and coverage and structures and fronts and protections and pressures. I don’t know how long it’s been – 14 or 15 years – of these same conversations. I think he’s very knowledgeable, I think he’s a very good teacher. I think he relates and tries to build relationships. I think he’s done a very good job for us this year. I think all of that – I’m not even talking about the fact that we’ve coached in games together. He and I communicate well together. He communicates with the other coaches very well. He’s a good coach. I would say from that standpoint, it was brief. I thought he would do a great job and I think he is doing that.”

(I want to get your view or philosophy on receiver separation and maybe how significant you feel like that is to an offense.) – “I think it’s – receiver separation, I know they’ve got the Next Gen Stats and he had half a millimeter of separation or something like that. They’ve got all of those statistics; but a lot of times, a guy like DeVante (Parker), who is a big body, he is long. There might be a guy right on him, but if you throw it inside – if the guy is on his back and you throw it inside – his arm length is the separation. While it might be a millimeter or centimeter based on the Next Gen Stats, you can get that ball in there. Again, it’s case by case. As a defender, you want to have tight coverage. As a quarterback, I think you just need to know the frames or the builds of your receivers. If you’ve got a smaller guy, that separation or the coverage being tighter, you might have to fit that one into a tighter window versus just getting the ball out in front of a taller, longer receiver. To me, it’s all case by case. I think if you look at a lot of statistics, they talk a lot about separation or flight of the ball in the air and you’ve got all of these statistics; but the practical application of some of those things are different when you are on the field, I would say. But yes, as much as you can separate from a defender, it always helps. I think when you start getting into the ‘what is enough separation?’ That’s when it gets subjective in a lot of ways.”

(A lot of things happened around the league – the Ravens game is now on a Wednesday and Denver is without quarterbacks, San Francisco is moving. You guys were not at the facility like everybody the last two days. What’s been the biggest hurdle for you riding – the big picture hurdle of what’s going on this year?) – “I don’t call it a hurdle. I would just say these are the cards we’ve been dealt and we’ve got to play this hand. Everyone’s dealing with the pandemic. Everyone is doing things differently than they did a year ago. People weren’t wearing masks and distancing and not spending the holidays together, and I think those are the hurdles. It’s very different than it was a year ago and I think as a league, we’re trying to do everything we can to keep the players safe first and foremost, to keep the coaches safe, keep the people within our organizations safe, and try to do what we all love to do which is play and coach football. I guess I don’t see them as hurdles. There’s just maybe a little bit of adversity; but again, that’s never hurt anyone and we just try to find different ways to move forward and teach the players and coach the players, and players getting better and improving and just play the hand we’re dealt.”

(I was hoping I could get some kind of an update on QB Tua Tagovailoa. How did his treatment go the last few days and do you anticipate him practicing fully today?) – “Tua’s been rehabbing. He’s been getting treatment. He’s working hard to get back in there. We’ll see about today when we get out there. Again, I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you he’s going to practice fully; but we’ve got to get out there and do that before we can say that. He’s doing everything he can and we’ll evaluate it as we go.”

(Another practice question – in terms of the two rookies who weren’t able to go last week, do you expect RB Salvon Ahmed and G Solomon Kindley to be out there today?) – “Again, both guys doing – really working to get out there as soon as they can. We hope to get them both out there and we’ll see. We’ll see in a couple hours. I meet with the trainers after I do media for this specific reason, (laughter) so I don’t have the information for you guys right now. That’s a 9:15 meeting. (laughter)”

(I was asked this question this week and I honestly don’t know the answer. How much do you involve yourself in play-calling offensively, defensively and is it just you involved in the preparation or do you call for specific things on situations like third-and-6 or do you say “blitz now?” What’s your hand in play-calling?) – “So somebody asked you this question about what I do and you didn’t have the answer?”

(I did not have the answer.) – “That’s interesting. (laughter)”

(But I generally don’t, which is why I ask the questions.) – “So – I’m sorry, I was just kind of taken aback. (laughter) So the question is how much input…?”

(Yes.) – “I think on a week-to-week basis, it’s different. Again, we do a lot of work over the course of the week, so I’m involved on the offense, I’m involved defensively, I’m involved in the kicking game, situations, game management. So there’s a lot of things that are already talked about, and I think no different than anyone else on the offensive staff or the defensive staff or in the kicking game or from a game management standpoint, I offer suggestions. No different than (Running Backs Coach) Eric Studesville offers suggestions and (Linebackers Coach) Anthony Campanile offers suggestions and says, ‘hey, maybe we should do this or this’ depending on game. It’s case-by-case. I would say I let my coaches coach and I’m not sitting there going, ‘hey, call this, call that.’ Because at the end of the day – because I’m working all three sides of the ball and game management – (Offensive Coordinator) Chan’s (Gailey) spent more time on offense and seen more of it. (Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer) has spent more time on defense, he’s seen more of it. (Special Teams Coordinator) Danny (Crossman) has spent more time on the kicking game. So for me to sit there and say, ‘hey, I know better on any of those,’ I think is – it doesn’t really – we all have the same amount of hours. Let’s say they spend those hours all on one side of the ball, I trust that they’re going to have the answers we’re looking for in their respective side of the ball. I’ll make suggestions, but at the end of the day, I try to let those guys coach and then obviously occasionally I’ll make my thoughts known. But I think it’s worked out for the most part.”

(With the running back situation, I know you guys are getting a little healthier. I don’t know if RB Myles Gaskin is going to come back, but if he does, do you anticipate him resuming his lead back, starting – I don’t know what you want to call it – role that he had for much of the season before he got hurt?) – “I think it would depend on what he shows in practice. He practiced some last week. When you’re out a few weeks, there’s a conditioning element, there’s a getting back to it element, there’s a physical element; so the idea that a guy could just walk back in and is the same player he was before the injury, normally it takes a little – a week or two weeks to get back to hopefully back to where he was. But we take that into consideration. I hope a guy like Myles does, or could, get right back to form quickly; but I don’t think there’s any assumptions that it’ll be that way. We’ve got some other backs. We normally rotate them, so we’ll see. But it all starts in practice. If he goes out there and practices well and we feel like he can take the majority of the carries like he was prior to injury, then that could be the case, but we’ll see.”