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Transcripts: Press Conference (12/27)


Opening Statement: "It's good to see everybody. I really appreciate you being here. We're dug in deep for our preparations for a very good Miami Dolphins team. [They're] a great football team, a challenge in so many ways – all three phases. [They're] a very talented team; a tough team; a very physical team; a very fast team; very well coached team, and they execute at the highest level. We have the biggest challenge we've had so far this year, and we're excited about it, and we're looking forward to the game. What questions do you have?"

How much of a motivation factor is it knowing that if you win you clinch the No. 1 seed?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "It's an exciting situation to be in. You get into this time of the year, [and] you play yourself into these types of a game where you have an opportunity where the game means so much, where winning one game brings such a big reward because of what you've done up until this point, and that's an earned thing, and the Dolphins have earned the same thing. So, it's that kind of a game."

You played such a high-powered offense last week in San Francisco, and you're getting the same thing this week. Schematically, does it help you playing San Francisco, or are they different animals?*_(Todd Karpovich)_* "They're the same in some ways and different other ways. [The] passing game is kind of different in the way they're structured and organized, [and] the way their reads work. But the level is very similar, and a lot of the plays are the same. Really across the NFL, they are. But also, within the system, there's a lot of similarities. I think their level of execution is very similar, the physicality is very similar, and the timing is very similar." 

Was there anything unique you did in practice to emulate WR Tyreek Hill's speed or the speed of the entire offense?*_(Kyle Phoenix) _*"Yes. We have fast guys, and they run as fast as they can, so that's kind of how we do it." (laughter)

S Kyle Hamilton was named the AFC Defensive Player of the week. Specifically on his second interception from Monday's game, what do you see when you watch that play again?*_(Bo Smolka)_* "Well, we just watched it again this morning with the team. I noticed when [Kyle Hamilton] was down there, he kind of played there for a minute. So, I don't know if he was playing possum or what. Maybe that was it. Maybe that's why he got the interception. He came all out on a blitz; they high loaded him – it was a good call. He got up and pursued. That's kind of what I make of it. The defense is playing at a really high level in terms of effort, and everybody has been running to the ball at really the highest level, and that's kind of how that happened."

Are there any updates on S Kyle Hamilton's chances to play this week?*_(Childs Walker)_* "We're less than 48 hours from the game [on Monday night]. We're just kind of working through all those kind things right now."

The last time you played the Dolphins, there was the fourth quarter comeback. It seems like since that point, it was the turning point for that defense. Does that game have any ramifications for this game just because that was the last time you played the Dolphins?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "Well, schematically, it sure does. You have to study it. They did some great things against us in the passing game. [They] made some huge plays; it was a massive comeback. Obviously, it was a tough pill to swallow for us, and all credit to them for the way they executed and made those plays. We learned a lot. We learned a lot about ourselves [and] our coverages. We weren't anywhere near where we needed to be execution-wise at the time, and they're capable of doing that to anybody at any time. So that's why we have to prepare at the highest level and try to be at our best."

You were optimistic about TE Mark Andrews rehabbing and his injury not necessarily being a season ender. Is his rehab going as well as you've hoped so far?*_ (Kyle Phoenix) _*"Yes. I've heard of no setbacks. I think [Mark Andrews] is on schedule as far as I've heard. [He's] maybe a little ahead of schedule – I don't know really if that's accurate to say. But I've seen him in there working, and he's in great spirits, and we're hopeful. Our job is to get to that point. That's what we have to do is get to the point where we're still playing when he comes back, and it's going to take everything we have."

With the way the defense played, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald's name is in a lot of places this week. Is it sort of fun to see the wider world recognize in him what you did back when he was an assistant for you?*_(Childs Walker)_* "Yes, absolutely. I'm excited for all our coaches. I think we have a great coaching staff. I've said that many times. I'm really proud of the guys. I love the way they work, [and] the way they work together. They're all very, very good coaches. [They're] very smart [and] very dedicated coaches. [Defensive Coordinator] Mike [Macdonald], since you brought him up, is doing great. [Offensive coordinator] Todd [Monken] is doing great. [Assistant head coach/defensive line] Anthony Weaver does a great job. [Special teams coordinator] Chris Horton does a great job. I can name so many guys that I think are worthy of respect, really every single coach; guys like [running backs coach] Willie Taggart on the staff that are amazing. Numerous young guys that are going to be head coaches in this league, so yes, it's really cool."

RB Raheem Mostert is a guy that is big in the Dolphins' offensive attack. Can you talk about him? He's kind of a late bloomer in his career who's really become one of the best running backs in the league.*_(Cliff Brown)_* "No doubt, we had [Raheem Mostert] here. We had him here, [and] unfortunately, he got off the hook. We let him get away. We let him off the hook. Their [running] backs, and you talk about Raheem Mostert, he's the lead guy, but they use all three guys, and they're all three very similar. They're all very fast. They're very physical. They run downhill; they can get the edge. They're all good in the passing game. That's probably why they're there. That's why Coach [Mike McDaniel] has them there, and they all do a great job. Seeing Raheem's success after being here for that period of time he was here is really neat to see." 

Given the communication and leadership aspect of the center position, with how they have to have the rapport of the quarterback and make some calls at the line, how much do you look into a player's personality and leadership qualities when they're being scouted? What has C Tyler Linderbaum been like in that area when it comes to being vocal and his leadership?*_(Jeff Zrebiec) _*"Yes. It's an interesting dilemma with centers because a lot of times, guys who play center in the NFL don't always play center in college. Tyler [Linderbaum] was one of the rare guys who played center in college and knew he was going to be a center in the NFL. [It's] probably because there are such good players in college [that] they don't put them at center. It's a different position in the NFL because more is demanded of them, athletically. But the other part of it [is] you can definitely measure [those qualities] from a guy when he's a center in college, and he had all those traits, obviously. You do look at it, and it really is important. I think we have the best."


On the motivation behind winning the game against the Miami Dolphins to lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs: "[There's] a lot of motivation, but I believe we were already motivated. Like I always say, we're chasing right now. I believe we're locked in."

On if the win over the San Francisco 49ers has elevated the team's confidence:"No. Our confidence – I can't tell you where we are right now. I'd say we're very confident, but I don't believe it elevated or decreased our confidence. We're just keeping a level head. I believe we know what we're capable of. We just have to keep showing it day in and day out [and] just keep getting better each and every practice."

On Dolphins CB Jalen Ramsey's comments about him being the hardest player to defend in the NFL and if he has a relationship with Ramsey: "Yes. [Jalen Ramsey's] my guy. What we say in Florida, if we're cool with somebody, we say, '[Mess] with them.' That's my boy. [I] mess with him. That's my guy. He's a great corner – [a] future [Pro Football] Hall of Fame cornerback. I accept that. That's respect. I respect his game as well. I appreciate the comment."

On what being locked in and focused as a team this season means to him and continuing that:"Locked in [is] just trying to get better each and every day [and] just treating practice as a game. Everything we do, we treat it as a game. Then, when we get out on the field, [we] try not to make any mistakes even though it's impossible sometimes in an NFL game. We try to be mistake free, and that's pretty much how we show them we're locked in."

On what he has done to improve on not fumbling the ball as much as he did at the beginning of the season:"I can't call it – just protecting the ball. I think I said it a couple weeks ago – our No. 1 job on offense is to protect the ball. We can't move on with drives without the football. We can't score touchdowns without the ball in our possession. The biggest thing for me was just protecting the ball, and I believe I've been doing a pretty good job at it."

On if he feels more comfortable in the pocket escaping pressure this year as opposed to previous seasons:"I'm comfortable, but I critique myself more than anybody else would. I pretty much go back and watch old games [that] we lost, not the games we won, and see mistakes I might have had or things I may not have seen during the game and pretty much just get a feel for the game when I'm in it now. That's just how I go about things."

On why he respects Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa so much and what prompted him to reach out to Tagovailoa back when he was in college:"Tua [Tagovailoa]'s a phenomenal player. I don't know if [Alabama] was playing Georgia in the [CFP] National Championship Game when I think they took one quarterback out and put him in. [Tua then] threw the game-winning touchdown. After that, I was like, 'He's amazing.' I just fell in love with his game then and his poise in the games in situations. I believed he was going to win the Heisman [Trophy] one year. I messaged him, and I was like, 'You need to win a Heisman. I voted for you.' His game is great. He's a phenomenal quarterback. He just has to keep doing what he's doing – just not this week."

On what stood out when he played the Dolphins in 2022 when the Ravens built up a big lead and lost it in the fourth quarter:"That's it. We had the big lead, and it just went away. That's pretty much what I took away from the game was an 'L.' Hopefully this year, it'll be a lot different."

On how much of the outside noise does the team look at or listen to in the locker room:"I really don't pay attention to it. It was how [Mike Florio] presented it. That's what made me [think], 'You really feel this way?' We're an NFL team as well. We're not a high school team going up against an NFL team. [He said], 'Beat the dog [crap] out of them.' I was like, '[Dang].' I just felt some way about that. [I'm] not taking anything away from him. He's just doing his job. That's his opinion. I just didn't like how he said it. That's all."

On his comfort level and communication at this point in the season:"Our chemistry's just building. Just being in the [offensive] system a lot more [is] making me a lot [more] comfortable. Just seeing different defenses [is] making our job a lot easier."

On if he sees similarities in the Ravens defense he faces every day and the Vic Fangio Dolphins defense he's getting ready to face this week:"The defensive line is phenomenal – I'll say – for the Dolphins. [Their] secondary is phenomenal, as well, [and their] linebackers. Yes, I see similarities. Even though I'm not playing against the offense, their offense is explosive. So, yes, I definitely see similarities."

On if he sees similarities in the Ravens defense he faces every day and this Vic Fangio Dolphins defense he's getting ready to face this week:"The defensive line is phenomenal – I'll say – for the Dolphins. [Their] secondary is phenomenal, as well, [and their] linebackers. Yes, I see similarities. Even though I'm not playing against the offense, their offense is explosive. So, yes, I definitely see similarities."

On if the weekly obsession about the league MVP is ridiculous:"I mean, people, they've got to do their job. They've got to have something to talk about on the talk shows, so I really don't know what to call it. I'm just focusing on trying to win, so I really don't pay much attention to it."

On how the defense's bravado, confidence and swagger translates to the rest of the team:"Because they talk trash all day to us, even when we're going against each other in practice, so we pretty much feel how those guys feel on offense – for the opposing team – sometimes. So, we get a whiff of that, [and] we were like, 'Yes, we've got to talk trash back,' [and] we've got to start beating them [to] the punch [and] beating them at their own game. Our defense is phenomenal. But I like the confidence in our defense. It definitely gives us a confidence to go out there and make plays and stuff like that happen. Especially if we have a big play against them, it's like, 'Oh, yeah, we can do this week in and week out.' But keeping a level head is the most important thing for us right now, because now the narrative is changing. It was just, 'This team is … The Ravens; we don't know about the Ravens.' Now it's, 'Oh, they're the No. 1 team.' So, we're not paying [any] mind to that. I feel like that's bait – that's clickbait. And like I said, we're trying to make it to February, so we're going to take it a game at a time."

On why he believes this team performs its best under pressure and when the stakes are high:"Because I believe we've got a bunch of guys who've been doubted, a bunch of guys who've got things to prove – on our team – on both sides of the ball. So, I believe, anytime we're the underdogs, we're going to always rise to the occasion. But we've got to stay locked in to do that."

On if he views himself as one of the Ravens with something to prove:"To myself, absolutely, absolutely."

On not being considered the underdogs by pundits this week:"We're the underdogs. We're the underdogs." (Reporter: "Why do you feel that way?") "Because we're the underdogs."

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