T.J. McDonald – March 31, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, March 31, 2017

Safety T.J. McDonald

(Why the Dolphins? Why did you end of signing here?) – “I felt it was a great opportunity for me. (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase and everybody here they’ve just provided me with a great opportunity and the overall culture of the team right now, being on the rise, and a defense that they’re definitely making strides in being one of the top defenses and the offense is a really great offense. The whole attitude of this team plays ball the right way and it’s something that I want to be a part of.”

(I saw this week that you learned of your suspension while at the visit. Can you just revisit and recap the last few days of how that’s been learning about the suspension?) – “I’ve known about the suspension. It was just announced publicly (recently). I’ve known about it. I wasn’t trying to get over on the Dolphins and I think they know that as well. It was just something that I’m definitely paying the price for the mistakes that I’ve made, that I’m definitely going to own up to. It wasn’t … It was something that I’ve learned from. I’ve been a free agent. This whole entire time I’ve been on the street and just being a free agent, that’s something that’s been tough in my free agent year as far as that to happen. Teams knew about this. It wasn’t nothing new. It was just new to the media.”

(Did you have to give assurances to the Dolphins that, that kind of mistake will never happen again?) – “Yes, obviously words are only so much. For me, I definitely … This is something that will never happen again and I’ve learned (from it) and owned up to (it). I definitely want to grow from (it). (My) priorities changed, everything’s changed. This whole experience is something I’m definitely going to grow from. Whatever I can do to help this team is what I’m ready to do.”

(What did the Dolphins tell you about what they expect from you off the field going forward?) – “I just got to be hungry, stay clean and be open and honest about everything and make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future. I think that goes without being said, I don’t have … My back is up against the wall. I’m just happy to be able to move forward with this and be able to just get back to playing ball. It’s all about ball for me right now.”

(It’s a new experience for you going into a season where you’re ineligible for the first eight games. How are you viewing that, and how are viewing your opportunity to earn a roster spot when you will, by nature, be behind some guys, because you won’t be playing the first eight games?) – “Right. Also, for me, the good thing is … The only positive for me is I get to go into OTAs, still do all of camp, still do all of preseason. The one thing I can do is earn the respect for my work – through camp and OTAs – of my teammates and the coaches and provide a spark when I can. Week 9, I’ll be chomping at the bit.”

(How would you describe yourself as a player? More free safety? More strong safety? How would you describe your skillset?) – “I can play both. Personally, I’m definitely a physical player. I’m going to attack the ball. I’m going to be physical at all times, no matter where it is on the field. I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to go out there, be on the field and make an impact and do everything I can to help the team.”

(How well do you know S Reshad Jones as a player? He has come on strong the last few years. What do you know about him?) – “I definitely know that he’s a great player. I don’t know him personally, but I have a great respect for his game. He’s somebody that I’ve watched over the last couple years. I have a hell of a respect for him, because a lot of guys you see out here, they’re top draft picks and they have a big name coming out of college. At the end of the day, he’s there to strictly just play. He’s somebody that you can’t just turn his film on and not see stand out and be able to flash by the ball. I definitely have a lot of respect for him as a player.”

Adam Gase – March 28, 2017 (Annual Meeting) Download PDF version

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Head Coach Adam Gase

(Could you give us a rundown of what you think you accomplished in free agency?) – “I think the biggest thing that we were able to accomplish is for the most part, we kept our own guys. That was a big goal of ours. I think even starting last year, that was our discussion. It’s just that we had some very high-priced free agents the year before. This year, we were able to compete a little more. Losing Dion (Sims), that was tough for us because I feel like we were competitive in that market but with us adding Julius (Thomas) at the time, I think he was not only looking for financial security but also an opportunity to become a starter. That was a great opportunity for him and hard to pass up. Just us being able to keep our own guys and then add some veteran leadership and guys that have done some things on some winning teams and had production over their careers, I think that was important to us in free agency.”

(Have you told the linebackers where they are going to play?) – “No, because we haven’t seen them. I can’t start talking football with Kiko (Alonso). I can’t say ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ It’s legitimately CBA (rules). You have to be careful. If you see a guy, it cannot be about anything football-related, so we can’t speak to our players about anything football-related.”

(So LB Lawrence Timmons…?) – “He never came in and said ‘What am I playing or what do you see me as?’ In our defense, really everybody’s going to play one of those spots at some point. Our biggest decision right now that we’re working through is it better for us to play right or left linebacker – Sam and Will – because we’re basically three linebackers off the ball. When we had Koa (Misi) last year, it was a little different because we did do some things to where we created almost like a 3-4 type defense (with) an under front. We just have to see really who our bodies are heading into the spring and training camp and we’ll make those decisions. When you play nickel, everybody’s going to play Mike at some point.”

(With LB Lawrence Timmons, what is the best thing that he brings to your defense?) – “I think he’s another guy that adds speed to that linebacker level, which when you’re playing the team that keeps winning our division, it’s hard to get those guys down. Those guys are making tons of money off of run after catch and we’ve got to do a great job of being able to wrap those guys up and get them down because if we can’t do that, that’s what’s creating these explosive plays against some of these shorter throws. The ball is coming out so quick around the NFL that we need guys that can tackle at the safety and linebacker level. I think he really adds that dimension and then his leadership is really something that I’m excited about seeing. I think it hit him when I told him he’s probably going to be the fourth-oldest guy in our locker room and he’s only 30. We need more guys that have that experience of being in Super Bowls or being in playoff games and playing in big games.”

(You mentioned TE Dion Sims before. How would you assess your new tight end tandem with TE Julius Thomas and TE Anthony Fasano?) – “I’m interested to kind of see how it works out. Spring is going to be a little experimental for me because it has been a couple of years since I’ve been with Julius, so we’ll just kind of see where we can go from there. I have a good idea of what we want to do on offense with him. I do think it’s going to make a little bit of a difference for us because we were seeing a lot of base defense to our 11 personnel. Having him out there, if teams want to play base against us, there is a good chance the linebacker is going to be on Julius and if they want to do that, then he’ll be getting a lot of throws. We’ll work through this and adding Fasano was something that … I’m not sure if I’ve really evaluated a guy that’s as good of a run and pass protector as he is over the last few years. Route tree-wise, I’m just going to have to see where he’s at in this point of his career. I know he’s done it all and I have to figure out what he does best at this point.”

(What are the Bears getting with TE Dion Sims?) – “I think they’re getting a very tough, well-rounded tight end that can really do everything in the passing game, run game and he can do things in the receiving game. I know we didn’t really feature him. He had to do a few things where we sacrificed his ability to run routes by leaving him in protection sometimes; but he did a really good for us and he’s one of those guys that he’s a team guy all of the way. For us, we enjoyed having him around. Him being a Michigan State guy too, that’s always a fun part for me. He’s with a good group of guys and him going into the same system is going to be a benefit to him.”

(Is TE Dion Sims underrated as a receiver because of what he can do blocking?) – “It’s just the targets, the amount of targets that he had. He made some big catches for us in some big situations. He has the range that you want for a tight end to be able to go up and get a ball. There are some things that he’s good at and there are some things that you stayed away from; but it’s very few things.”

(Now that it’s happened, how big was it to be able to re-sign WR Kenny Stills?) – “I was very excited. Obviously it’s no secret that Kenny’s probably a guy that I connected with last year. I really appreciated the way that he came in and worked from Day 1. When you’re a first time head coach and you’re trying to develop a new program between (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Executive VP of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) and myself, we needed as many guys to just come in and don’t ask a ton of questions and just put your head down and grind and he did that. He did a lot of good things on game days, as well. (There are) a lot of the things during practice that people don’t see where he never missed a practice. I’m sure there were times in the spring … I know he had hamstring issues in the spring and he just kept working. I thought he was a great example for – I say younger guys, the problem is that they’re all 24. To be able to keep that group together and that’s our goals is how many years can we stay together with that receiving corps, with the quarterback and develop that continuity between those guys.”

(What can you tell us as far as an update on QB Ryan Tannehill’s knee and his mobility? What kind of things has he been doing?) – “As far as I know, he’s been doing everything that he can do. There are no restrictions on him. His biggest thing right now is strengthening. That’s all he’s been doing and he’s doing everything that he normally does in the offseason. Nothing has changed for him. I guess I’m going to be more interested in just seeing how he’s going to feel more when we hit OTAs and see how comfortable he is where it’s really like a reactionary thing for him. I haven’t been able to watch him because of the rules. I’m not really going to get to ‘see him, see him,’ until that Phase II area, as far as being able to do something football-wise. From what I’ve been told from our training staff, he’s looked really good and he’s done everything they’ve asked him to do. He’s doing a lot of things on his own with other guys.”

(Is there any concern about him possibly losing his mobility?) – “I asked the same question and I did not get that kind of response of ‘You have to worry. You have to change the way that we’re playing with him.’ It sounds like he feels comfortable. How he feels, once again, it’s going to be more about … It’s more it’s going to be the eye test for all us. We’re going to stand out there and you guys are going to be out at OTAs at one point and be like ‘How does it look?’ It’s going to be really how are the reactionary-type plays going to look for him? I’m expecting him to look pretty close to what he was (before) he got injured.”

(How much growth do you expect in the second-year in the same offense from not just QB Ryan Tannehill but the weaponry?) – “I think that was part of a lot of the disappointment when Ryan did go down … It had slowed down for him. Even in that game, when you go back and watch that game, there are some throws in that game that were very … The timing was really good. You could tell. Everybody else was flying by him and he’s just playing at a slower speed. You could tell he knows exactly what he wants to do. I think the rest of the guys were starting to feel the same way. When you walk in on Day 1 and you already know almost everything you’re going to talk about, it really makes a big difference. And then when you go out and play, things should slow down for you.”

(Are you surprised that QB Jay Cutler hasn’t gotten a job yet and did you talk to him, with QB Ryan Tannehill’s knee and everything, about insurance bringing Cutler in to the Dolphins?) – “I had a very brief text message with him just saying, ‘If you need me for anything, just holler at me. If you need any advice on anything …’ I guess it was just more, ‘If you’re going somewhere and you needed to know about any organization or coaching staff, just holler at me and I’ll give you what I know.’ I never brought up anything about him coming with us because I like our situation. I love Jay, but I do like the situation that we’ve got going on right now at our place.”

(Does QB Jay Cutler wish to keep playing?) – “I can’t answer that. That’s a question for him.”

(Going back to QB Ryan Tannehill for a second, he’s going to wear a brace? That’s not going to affect him at all?) – “From my knowledge when we talked about the brace, it’s not going to be like a huge brace that he tried to wear before. It’s a lighter brace and he feels like he does have good mobility. He’s tested out quite a few braces to find out which ones felt the best. I know that was a big discussion from his aspect of ‘What am I going to wear?’ Because he doesn’t want to feel like he’s restricted too much. The biggest thing is we’re getting him to wear a brace, so that’s a good step for us. Knowing him, he’d probably … If he feels that the mobility’s not there, I’m just a little nervous about him taking that thing off and throwing it to the side.”

(So QB Ryan Tannehill actually went through a set of braces? This one, no. This one, no. Do you know how many?) – “When we were getting through that back half of the season, he was harassing quite a few people in the building that he wanted to play in that playoff game. So he was testing all kinds of things and trying to figure out what was going to be best for him. He may or may not have gotten some practice reps at some point. So we saw him move around with some bodies around him and he felt good with the brace that he was wearing at the end of the season. I know he’s still kind of … I know after that he was even looking to see if there was something else that was even better for him.”

(QB Ryan Tannehill may or may not have gotten practice reps at the end of the season?) – “Possibly.”

(So did QB Ryan Tannehill get practice reps at the end of the season or didn’t he?) – “Yes, we threw him in there on some scout team stuff just to see how he would feel. It was more for we wanted to see what happened if we made it to the next round, if there was a legitimate chance for him (to play). We didn’t want to do too much. We just kind of wanted to see him move around and it was just a few reps. We didn’t want to make it a huge deal. He was pushing us that he wanted to play.”

(You would never really know, but your gut feeling: Do you think QB Ryan Tannehill probably would have played if you had won your first playoff game? What’s your gut feeling?) — “I think it would have been really hard for us to keep him off the field for that game. It probably would have come down to us as a coaching staff making a decision about what was best for him. That would have been a tough one for us because you want to do what’s best for the team. You want to do what’s best for the organization, but when your starting quarterback is basically saying ‘I can go,’ and I don’t know if you guys have ever seen Ryan get mad but he’s very persuasive. I know he comes across as very mild-mannered, but there’s a side to him. There’s a competitive side to him that not a lot of people get to see. That’s what you want out of your starting quarterback.”

(When you coached TE Martellus Bennett in Chicago, what challenges were there as a coach, but also, how did he open up your playbook and your creativity because of his skill set?) – “Well, his ability to do everything as a tight end is rare. He was an outstanding blocker in the run game, very good at pass protection, which I think he hated that more than anything because that prevented him from going out on routes, which that’s what he wants to do. Then his variety he could do on his route tree was very impressive. He can stretch the field and he’s very big. He causes a lot of problems when he goes up in the seam. He’s a big body. He doesn’t have to be open to try to throw him the ball because he can get in front of the defender and they can’t run through him. If you give him a chance to run after the catch, he’s very tough to get down. He has very unique run skills for a guy that size. The challenges that ‘Marty’ always brought for me was he’s very intelligent and he asks a lot of really good questions so he’s not going to let you get away with, ‘Hey, just run it this way.’ He’s going to ask you why. Sometimes as a coach, you want to move on to the next thing but it’s really a good thing because then that allows the other guys to feel like they can ask the same questions. I always appreciated that about him, the fact that he wanted to know why he had to do something or why we were doing it a certain way. He always had suggestions and comments about certain concepts we do and as a coach, you just look at it as a way to get better and make your offense better.”

(Do you think some people look at that as why TE Martellus Bennett is a “challenging guy” to have in the locker room. Do people misinterpret him?) – “A lot of people … If people have an issue with him, it’s just probably because ‘Marty’ doesn’t have much of a filter. He’s just going to say what he wants to say. If you get offended, he’s not really going to care, so you just have to have thick skin.”

(Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said yesterday that QB Tom Brady told him that he believes he could play another six to seven years. When you heard that or if this is the first time you’re hearing it, what are your thoughts?) – “I don’t even know how to … If he can play that long, that’s great. He’s great for the league. I think that our organization, we can’t be an organization to run and hide. We should want to go against the best team every year and the fact that they’re in our division, we should look at that as a great challenge. That’s what we’re trying to do. We know that our goal has to be win the division because if we do that, we’re probably pretty good.”

(Personnel-wise on your offensive line, do you feel like you’re set? That’s your group?) – “We’re always going to look to add. Whether it be the draft or somebody shakes free, we’re always going to try to see if we can be competitive (and) create competition throughout training camp and the spring. Things are so fluid. You’ll hit June and all of a sudden somebody will pop free. You’ll be on vacation and somebody will pop free and you’ll have to talk about it. Then training camp rolls around and some unexpected opportunity, to steal (Executive VP of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum)’s line, ‘could possibly happen.’ We’re at where we’re at right now and obviously the next thing we have is going to be the draft. We’ll see how that shakes out.”

(Jermon Bushrod, two things on him. One, it didn’t seem like he had that great of a season last year. Are there some things maybe you could tell us to help explain that?) – “He played 17 games last year. He rated out second-highest on our offensive line. He played pretty good for us. For a guy that it’s first time he ever played right guard – he played left tackle his whole career – I thought he did a pretty good job. We’re looking to get better from last year because he’s coming in knowing what to do. We can actually treat him like a veteran player. He had to take a lot of reps last year. For a guy that was 32 years old, he was averaging about three or four less reps a day than (Laremy) Tunsil, who is 10 years younger. He was taking a lot of reps. This year, hopefully the fact that he’s played that position is going to help us because now we’ll be able to get him into the game to where he’ll be able to take less reps during the week and know what to do mentally. That’s the hardest thing. When you move from the left side to the right side, it really does mess with your head a little bit because it’s a completely different vantage point. I think this is going to be a chance for us to get better at that position.”

(The second part of my question was G/T Jermon Bushrod sounded, at least near the end of the season, that he was at least considering retiring. Were you guys trying to talk him into coming back or how did that go?) – “It was more … He waited about a week after the season to come talk to me and I could tell that he wasn’t going to retire. I told him I would like him to think about it for a month before he made a decision because I knew he had just watched … He was talking about the Pittsburgh-Kansas City playoff game. And I (thought), ‘He still wants to do it. I can tell.’ Just the way he was talking about everything. So he waited and then I saw him and I said, ‘You want to go another round, don’t you?’ He goes, ‘Absolutely.’ So after that, it was just kind of seeing where everything fell into place. What you do is, when you go into free agency, you kind of stack your free agents with everybody else and see where your guys stack up. He fit into what we wanted to do.”

(Let me guess. Was T Ja’Wuan James the top-rated offensive lineman? Alright give it up. Who was it?) – “Our No. 1 guy happened to only play a few games.”

(So staying with the offensive line, C Mike Pouncey – your No. 1 guy – the right hip is surgically repaired. The left hip is surgically repaired. He’s had it the last couple of years. What confidence do you have that he can go through a 16 game season and do you need a veteran backup at that spot?) – “I’m going to have a lot of confidence because of who it is. I’m not going to turn my back on who I think is the best center in football. I’ll roll the dice with him for as long as I can because that’s how good he is. That’s how much he means to our organization. We’re always going to have good contingency plans if something happens. No one is ever going to be as good as him. It’s just a fact. He’s that good. He makes that big of a difference for us but if he’s not out there, we do make a couple of moves as far as what we do with who’s playing that spot – whether it’s one of the guys that’s going to be on that second tier of lineman bumping up to his spot, or if we move a guy that’s going to be on the starting offensive line and we bump a guy over from guard to center – we’ll have plans. (Offensive Line Coach) Chris (Foerster) did a good job of getting multiple guys ready last year. Hopefully we can get even more guys ready to play center this year. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Mike’s out there for his – I always tell him 16-plus games. That’s the goal from here on out. That’s the only thing I’m going to talk to him about. I’m not going to talk to him about not missing games. It’s not going to come from a negative light for me. I’m going to talk about playing 16-plus games next year.”

(Will the contingency plan be on the roster now?) – “Yes. If we add something in the draft … I never know how that’s going to happen. There are always guard/center-type guys. So it could come from there.”

(Do you take a different approach with C Mike Pouncey during OTAs and training camp to ensure that he can stay healthy?) – “Possibly. You’ll see him out there in bubble wrap. Mike doesn’t need a lot of practice reps. We’re going to do what we need to do to make sure he’s ready. After that, it’s going to be … I’m going to find out how many snaps we need him to take, if any; and then my goal is to get him out there on Sunday.”

(What did you guys see from C/G Ted Larsen and is he projected as a left guard?) – “It was interesting when we started looking at him playing in Chicago. He’s played in this offense before because basically we’re mirror images of each other. They started doing some more outside-zone scheme and we were able to see what he looked like doing that. We’ve had some guys that actually have coached him with some other teams before that said a lot of good things about him. We felt like he fit what we were looking for and I’m interested to see just kind of how … You don’t know a guy until you really get into training camp and the competitive situations. From everything I’ve heard, he’s our type of guy. I’m just excited to get that group going and seeing what we can make out of it this year.”

(I’m sure these guys can play left or right but ideally would you guys prefer to allow G/T Jermon Bushrod to keep playing the same position?) – “You’d like to do that because the last thing you’d want to do is move him and then now it’s another guy learning another position, so we’re going to try to keep ‘Bush’ at right (guard) if we can. We’ll see if something changes, it changes; but right now, I don’t foresee that.”

(I wanted to ask you another question about TE Martellus Bennett. He’s new in Green Bay so I haven’t really had a chance to meet him yet. I was wondering if you could help me understand. Is he misunderstood in his career or the challenges real?) – “I guess I didn’t have any challenges with him so it wasn’t something that I was really worried about. If you shoot him straight and let him go make plays for you, you’re going to be in good shape.”

(A little bit on that topic: You worked with QB Jay Cutler and he had maybe his best season. Do you still think he has something to offer a team now? And if so, what?) – “I do, because obviously, my experience with him was very good. I guess I don’t get all the hatred towards him. I see a guy that worked hard and did everything he could to try to help his team win and sacrificed his body. To me, he was an athletic quarterback that could throw the ball and when you got to third down, you could call the worst play possible, and he was going to get you the conversion. He made a lot of the things that we did look really good. I guess I just don’t get it. I think he has a lot to offer a team. I think he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL, but that’s just my opinion.”

(Could QB Jay Cutler be a good backup too?) – “I think it’s not as easy as people would think it would be when you’ve been a starter for your entire career and then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to be a backup.’ It’s just going to have to be something (where) if that’s the role – in his mind – that’s what he wanted to do, then he’d probably be good. But if that’s not where his mind is at, then it’s probably just not as … I wouldn’t see him wanting to do that.”

(I think we all get to go to Las Vegas in 2020. So, everyone here is invited. I think the Dolphins are scheduled to play in Vegas in 2020. The question would be what challenges, if any, might face a coach in bringing their squad to Vegas?) – “That’s hard. That’s going to be like … We’ll figure that one out when it comes up. I guess I’m glad that we’re a couple years away. If we’re talking about it in 2020 – and we’re all sitting at this same table – it’s probably a good thing. (laughter) So, we’ll wait until then. Being where we’re at (in South Florida), obviously, there are a lot of distractions, but I think everything is … You take it for what it is. At the end of the day, you’re always hoping guys will understand, ‘It’s a business trip. Focus on what we’re here to do.’ Every game is so important in the NFL and it’s just getting bigger and bigger every year. So you’d hope guys would just be professionals and be able to handle the environment that they’re going into.”

(You mentioned that – Owner Stephen Ross mentioned that – the distraction aspect of being in Miami. Do you guys factor that in when you’re doing draft evaluations and free agent signings and things of that nature?) – “It is something that we have to talk about because it’s real. South Beach is far enough away, but it is close enough, if that makes any sense. We’ve seen some guys get caught up in some things down there to where all of a sudden you got a guy going M.I.A. and you’re trying to figure out what’s your next step and (ask), ‘Can guys handle being down here?’ There are a lot of things to do. That’s why when you don’t win in Miami, it gets empty real fast, because there are a lot of things going on. So, we do factor that in, the draft especially, because when you’ve got these young guys coming in, they can be pulled one direction really quickly. Fort Lauderdale is not … There are a lot of things to do around there (too). So, it’s not like we’re too far away from it. There is so much going on around there.”

(Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay has mentioned you a couple of times as somebody who has … He has picked your ear a little bit about navigating through your first season as a coach, I guess particularly being a young head coach. What kind of advice have you given him as he goes into this?) – “My conversations with him … The biggest thing we’ve talked about was the mistakes I felt like I made last year. I don’t have anything groundbreaking for him. I would just go through what I went through personally as far as what I did in the spring, where I felt like I could’ve managed my time better, things I should’ve emphasized more with my coaching staff, just so when we did get to the season, the time management would have been better. That’s really the biggest things that we’ve talked about. Sean is smart. I’m probably not the only one he has talked to. He has probably combed most of the league trying to figure out what’s the best way to go about this first year. You’ve got to learn on the fly a little bit. The fact that he’s doing that, it’s going to give him a little bit more of an advantage than probably a couple of us had last year.”

(What would you identify as maybe your biggest hurdle in your first year – something that caught you by surprise?) – “Time management. You don’t realize how many people walk in and out of your office, how many things you’re going to have to deal with that you never really anticipated until you go through it. Then you have to start managing those type of things and that’s when you start to figure it out a little bit.”

(How did you and Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay become close?) – “There’is a group of us that we’re all about the same age, so when you go to the Combine and you’re all offensive assistants or scouting assistants, everybody is hanging out when you’re watching … I’m not trying to downplay the offensive line, but the skill guys, we’d all be sitting in the end zone and there’d be (Offensive Coordinator) Clyde Christensen and there’d be like a herd of all these guys in their mid-twenties sitting around him listening to Peyton Manning stories. That’s kind of how most of us met each other. Some guys have gone on to college. Some guys stay in the pros. So, there’s a good group of us that have hung around long enough to where we’ve become coordinators or head coaches.”

(You mentioned the draft. Where do you stand philosophically on taking a player with some black marks on his record like Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon for example?) – “Really, I lean on (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Executive VP of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum and) our scouts to do exactly what they do such a great job of (which) is going through every ounce of information. I think every guy you have to look at individually. I know that has really been the philosophy of our organization to make sure we just don’t go off of what we hear from one person or one thing that’s out there. We really try to do a good job of combing everything. You don’t want to say, ‘This means never,’ because all of a sudden, every situation seems like it’s different. The good thing is when you’re in coaching a lot of times, you’re really more on the backburner on a lot of these things. You have to decide whether or not, ‘Okay, understand if this is a situation – if this is what you’re going to have to deal with, with the player, deal with publicly or with the media – you have to understand what you’re getting yourself into. Right now, I’m so far away from really knowing where we’re at on a lot of these things where I’ll be more up-to-date here in the next couple weeks.”

(Do you take more guys off the board for medical or for character?) – “Probably medical. I think that’s where you can run into some issues. You think you’re in good shape and you start talking to them about a whole bunch of guys and then all of a sudden guys feel like somebody is not in good shape and he gets pulled off the board. Those are the disappointing ones – when you lose a guy due to medical. I just don’t remember there being so many guys that we took off the board for character issues, at least last year. I don’t remember that happening too much last year.”

(I know you only coached him for a year, but WR Alshon Jeffery, what does he do for a quarterback? What do you think he can do for QB Carson Wentz in Philadelphia?) – “Alshon might be the only player that I’ve ever coached when I called the play to the quarterback (and) I said, ‘I don’t care what their coverage is, throw it up.’ He has a unique body. His wingspan and the range that he has to catch a ball is unique. I don’t think I’ve ever coached a player that had the body type he had. He has an unbelievable ability to go up and get the ball. He makes a quarterback’s life very easy because he is so big. He’ll surprise you because when you walk up to him, you think he’s like 6’5” and when you watch him on tape, and he’s 6’2”. He does have great hands. He’s a really good route-runner, which people don’t realize, because you’re focused so much on the fact that he can run a go route and he’ll make a big play.”

(What does that mean for a young quarterback in his second year to have a guy like WR Alshon Jeffery?) – “You don’t have to think, you can just throw it up. You can legitimately throw it up and there can be two guys on him and he’ll go get the ball.”

(Obviously, you guys spent so much time and effort making sure that all the guys that were on your team last year were rewarded or taken care of. How difficult is the situation for you regarding WR Jarvis Landry, where he was kind of at the top of the list and he’s the last one that remains?) – “I think we’re always going to do the right thing and work to keep our guys within our organization. There is a big picture that not everybody really looks at sometimes, and we have to do a good job of making sure that we do what we need to do in the right order, the right way. We have a good plan moving forward. We know what we need to do and how we need to structure everything to make sure that we can work all this out. I said earlier, our goal is to make sure that these three guys (Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker) stay together for a long period of time and to make sure they stay with the quarterback to develop a great continuity between those guys. We’ll get to things like that when we know it’s the right time for us. It’s just right now, we are what we are. We’ll see how everything plays out when some of these situations come up.”

(Are you concerned about WR Jarvis Landry possibly skipping OTAs?) – “No. No, I’m not.”

(Why are you not concerned about WR Jarvis Landry possibly skipping OTAs?) – “I’m not because he’s a football player that loves being part of our program. He’ll be there, trust me.”

(You talked about QB Ryan Tannehill earlier, but what update can you give us on his health and going forward what you expect from him?) – “Right now, everything looks good and we’re moving forward just like we did last year heading into the offseason. I don’t see any kind of adjustment we’re really going to be making. He feels good. Basically, he’s going to be playing with a knee brace this year, which we feel like is not going to limit his mobility, so we should be in the same place we were last year.”

(Hearing you speak, it’s obvious that you have great respect for C Mike Pouncey. How important do you think it is for your football team to keep him on the field game days?) – “I think any time you’ve got one of the elite players at a position, it’s very important; but at the same time, we’ll make adjustments if something happens to him to where we have to pull in a guy, whoever his backup is going to be this year. We’ve got the next-man-up philosophy, so if somebody goes down, the next guy is going to come up, and we’re going to figure out a way to win that way.”

(You made the playoffs last season. What can you take from at least getting there to take another step next season?) – “I think just the experience of being in that game was great for our guys but they also know that it doesn’t mean anything going into this season. We have to do it all over again. We’re going to be 0-0 at the start. We have to prove ourselves all over again. Nobody is really going to care what we did last season when we head into this season.

(What is this ‘New Miami’ and where did it come from?) – “New Miami what? I wasn’t here before. I don’t know.” (laughter)

(I’m talking about from the players. When everybody re-signed, their hashtag was ‘New Miami.’) – “I think we’ve done a good job from the front office on down communicating to our players that our goal is to build our team from within and keep our own guys and not go out and chase guys outside in free agency. We feel like if we draft right, which with (General Manager) Chris (Grier) running our draft and our scouts doing what they do and after going through that process last year; you talk about as a coach just being able to completely walk away from the situation because you have so much faith and trust in that crew. They do such a good job that you know you’re going to get the right kind of players. You know that you’re going to get our kind of players, the guys that we keep talking about that we want. We feel like those guys are going to be here for second contracts for us. That’s really our goal is how many guys can we keep re-signing that are our guys. When you keep bringing guys back, you can’t be naïve and say you’re never going to sign anybody outside the building. I can’t say that’s never going to happen; but the fact that we like our guys, they perform well for us and they do what we need them to do, it makes life – those transitions from one year to the next – it makes life very easy for myself because they know me. They understand how we’re going to do things. They understand how our coaching staff is going to work. They understand how our building works. They know our program. The less in-and-out you have where guys don’t know how to do things our way, your transition from year-to-year goes a lot quicker. You start rolling in the spring right away. You get going on that first day and it’s competitive; guys are doing things right. You don’t have to worry about constantly re-teaching them everything. It’s more of the refreshers. You’re able to come in there, play fast, and execute.”

(So do you believe that you can get WR Leonte Carroo right? And how?) – “I do. I do think we can. He did a lot good things early in the season. I think as the year went on, it was tough when DeVante came back. He was less involved. I think sometimes I personally, you lose track sometimes of when a guy is your fourth or fifth receiver. The reason they’re in that spot is they’re behind really good players and they’re probably a little more limited as far as what you want to do than you put in your brain. You’re always thinking they should be able to do everything because they’re backing up all three spots. Really, it’s not fair to him to where we know what his strengths are; we know what his weaknesses are. We need to lean on his strengths more, which I don’t think I did a very good job with last year. I have a better idea of how we do want to use him this year going forward. If something were to happen with one of those guys outside, we definitely know how we want to use him to his strengths. We feel like we have a good idea of what those strengths are. So when you have a guy that’s smart, an extremely hard worker and he does have a desire to be a guy that ends up starting for us at some point in his career. That’s a tough lineup to crack. But the fact that that’s his mindset, I feel like we have a great opportunity to get him better this year.”

(Does any of that mean asking WR Leonte Carroo to do less? You know what I am saying? Like don’t learn everything but learn something really well?) – “Yes, I think that’s going to be a little bit more of what we’re going to lean on this year. I think I really threw too much at our guys trying to get them to do too much last year. I thought that was part of our poor start. (It was) too much for them and we kind of scaled back somewhat when we hit that Pittsburgh game and said, ‘Alright, here’s what we’re going to do.’ We really focused on the finer details of everything and guys did a great job of doing the things that we asked them to do and they perfected it. We had a way better result. That’s probably what we’re going to (do), start off that way and build from there.”

(How much of advantage is it going to be for you that you’re not learning your team this year? You talked about the fast start. You know your team. You know that DE Cameron Wake shouldn’t be sitting on the bench. You know stuff. How much of an advantage is that?) – “I think it gives us a better chance to, like you said, start off in a better fashion. (Starting off) 1-4 is not ideal. It makes it very difficult. It just helps the continuity. It helps our guys work on more of the fine details of everything instead of trying to figure out, ‘Where do I go?’ So that’s going to be something that I’m very excited to see in the spring, to see how far we’ve come over one season. You’re really going to find out if you really are truly who you think you are because guys are going to try to get better or they’re going to be content where they are. I don’t see the guys that we have on our roster being the kind of guys that are going to be complacent. I don’t feel that and I don’t see that. I’m really excited to see what happens when we get going.”

(At the same time, how difficult is it to resist maybe the temptation to sort of peek at what your competitors in your division are doing, in particular the one that just won the Super Bowl and how active they’ve been?) – “We can’t worry about it. We have to worry about what we’re doing and focus on getting better ourselves. If we’re going to start worrying about what other teams are doing, it’s mental clutter. It’s not going to help us at all. We have to figure out a way to get better ourselves and when it’s time to play those guys on whatever week they decide to put us against them those two times, we have to compete better than what we did last year. I mean, we can’t spot them 20 and 24 points and wonder why we lost. So we have to play better against those guys and that’s going to have to be that week. We have to get up to that point. We have to keep getting better each week and when we have an opportunity to against them, play well against them.”

(NFL Executive VP of Football Operations Troy Vincent – on the NFL conference call – said he’d like to see the officials keep their flags in their pocket more on celebration calls. I was wondering if that happens, could that be an advantage for the Dolphins, because I think WR Jarvis Landry and RB Damien Williams sometimes…) – “I know (Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Darren) Rizzi will be excited, because he is tired of kicking off from the 20 (yard line). It was bad when we were watching the celebration tape, and I’m like, ‘We’re on there like five times.’ The taunting. I’m going, ‘This is not good.’ Everybody is probably looking at me like we’re the most undisciplined team in football. I look at it as there are negatives to some of the things that happened last year with our taunting and personal fouls, but you know what? That’s a little bit of who we were. We were the team that everybody kept saying what we couldn’t do, and that was the attitude we brought every week. That’s why I never said anything because I wanted our guys to be who they were.  I wanted our guys to make sure that they played with everything they possibly had, and those guys did. If that meant we got a 15-yard penalty because Jarvis got some celebration penalty or taunting penalty, we were going to live with it. I wasn’t going to say anything because I wanted to make sure our guys played with every ounce of passion they had.”

(What concerned you about the defense that you know has to be addressed to be better?) – “We have to be better in the run defense. It was disappointing the fact that it does take all three phases playing together to be really good statistically – whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. We didn’t help offensively because the snaps became increasingly large. We’re coming out of games and our defense has 81 snaps, but there are a lot of three-and-outs in there, it’s because we’re doing a really bad job on offense. There were times where we should have been better on defense against the run. We didn’t execute correctly as far as what we were doing schematically. We were off key as far as what our run fits were. We didn’t tackle as well as we needed to in certain games. We have to really improve in that area, but it’s going to be all phases, really, working together. I do think by adding some pieces and doing a good job in our draft, whether it be drafting somebody in that front seven that can help us and add to that group. I really do like our group that we have, and I know a lot of guys are banging us for having smaller defensive ends, but if we do what we’re talking about doing as far as setting the edge and doing things the right way and understand that not every down is going to be a pass, that’s going to help us. We have to find ways to make sure (Ndamukong) Suh is not double-teamed the entire game. That means whoever is playing opposite him, he has to make plays. When he’s singled up, he has to make plays. That’s why we’re going to put a lot of pressure on Jordan (Phillips) this year. We feel like the talent is there. We feel like he’s doing a lot of things the right way. We thought last year at the end of the year, he was doing things the right way. We were heading in the right direction. We feel like we have a good group and then adding (Lawrence) Timmons to our linebacker corps and if we keep Kiko (Alonso) healthy, we feel like we have guys that can tackle and make plays back there. It’s lined up for us to improve. We need to still add some pieces if we can through the draft to try to help our depth. Adding William (Hayes) is going to help us as well. When you add a defensive end that can really do a good job stopping the run, that may be helpful.”

(You’ve done a lot of work in upgrading the linebacker corps. The secondary group, although the numbers were decent – 15th in pass defense – that has been a problem area in the past. How would you rate the current secondary and how do you plan on upgrading and evaluating the talent that’s coming in?) – “I think you always look to add anybody you can in the secondary, especially when you’re going into the draft. If you can add – whether it be a safety or a corner – that’s always going to … Eventually these guys play. It’s unbelievable how many corners you can possibly go through. There are just not enough of these guys. I just look at Denver when we were there, it changed our whole program. We got lucky with Chris Harris. We got (Aqib) Talib and then (Brandon) Roby. All of a sudden you’re playing man-to-man the entire game and that’s it, because those three guys can play as good of man-to-man coverage as you can ask DBs to play. With what we ask our guys to do, we play a lot of … It’s very close to man-to-man defense. We know we have guys that are able to play that. We have to get some corrections as far as some of the routes that we get beat on, and we need to do a better job in certain things but I feel like our corners can get better from what we did last year. If we can add to that group, great. I like our safeties. Getting Reshad (Jones) back, to me, I think if he’s not the best safety in the league, he’s one of them. Having him back on the field is going to be huge for us. Adding Nate (Allen) is going to really help us as well. (We will) see if any of these young guys can come up and do something. I feel like we’ve got two guys that can play both down in the box and in the middle of the field. I feel like just by getting healthy, it’s going to help us. (Byron) Maxwell was actually playing really well there towards the end of the year before he got hurt. After the Cincinnati game, he came back. Tennessee wasn’t … He had to get thrown in there a little bit, and then Pittsburgh game he played really well. And then after that, he had a lot of really good games after that.”

(How would you evaluate the development of a guy like CB Xavien Howard?) – “’X’ did a good job with the things that we asked him to do. There was one thing that you’re never really sure with corners of whether or not they can tackle. We were able to check that box very quickly. We know he can play man-to-man coverage, which in this league is a premium on guys, especially on third down. There are some things that we do need to get better with him – his overall knowledge of football. When you come from the conference that he came from – and they’re so spread out – it’s wide-open passing game. When you get in the NFL, all of a sudden you start getting these stacks and bunches and teams are doing all these different types of concepts, so some of these things he has never seen before. There is a learning curve there. Him not really having a training camp and then missing a ton of time during the season, that probably hurt him, because he was really learning on the fly from week to week and trying to figure out, ‘How does this work with this defense called?’ So, we have some development to do there. This spring is going to be big for him and training camp, just to keep him learning and developing as far as what he’s seeing throughout his career. The longer he plays, the better he’s going to get.”

(You said DT Jordan Phillips started doing a lot of things right toward the end of the year. Specifically, what did you see change?) – “He was aware that it wasn’t necessarily about him just making a play. It was more about, ‘Okay, I have to do my job because my job affects the guy next to me and the guys behind me.’ Sometimes you forget that as a defensive tackle. (Ndamukong) Suh is such a rare player that people don’t understand when he makes that decision that he may go outside the scheme, he makes the play. But he rarely goes outside the scheme. He does his job 99.9 percent of the time. It’ll be a rare time where he just decides, ‘Alright, I know I have to make a play here,’ and he makes it. Because he understands, ‘Okay, I have to do this, because the guy next to me is expecting me to do this. The guys behind me are expecting me to do this. The safeties are expecting me to do this.’ He has that type of knowledge of the defense, which is rare for a defensive tackle. I think Jordan was starting to realize that towards the end of the year, ‘It’s not just about me trying to make a play. It’s actually I have to understand the guy next to me, the guys behind me.’ That’s what defensive tackles do. They allow other guys to make plays. That’s why they’re almost the forgotten soldiers on the field where no one gives them enough credit for helping other guys make plays.”

(What kind of jump would you hope or expect to see from CB Xavien Howard next year?) – “It’s tough for me to predict anything. I just want to see him be able to go through an entire spring and stay healthy and just keep learning football (and) seeing as many concepts as possible. I think that’s what we need him to do. That’s how he’s going to get better is just keep playing and going against our receivers. That’s a good matchup day-in and day-out when we have a bunch of young guys that can compete and see different concepts. It’s a fun thing to go through in the spring.”

(How do you as a coach maintain your stress levels? Have you started to think about that?) – “You’re talking about me personally or our players?”

(You as a coach. It’s a stressful world.) – “I don’t know. You do the best you can to put the right things in your body nutrition-wise and things like that. You try to get some sleep. The offseason is big trying to cut back on your hours. During the season, it’s a grind. It is what it is. It’s been like that for a long time. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you so you just put your head down and keep working.”

(You had a bunch of guys come in this year come in, succeed and get paid. Do you have a philosophy or mindset for how to handle those guys? Not specific to your guys, but some guys want to get paid.) – “Well, that’s just kind of the toughest part of the equation is how’s it going to be the next step? How’s it going to look? We feel like we’ve been around these guys long enough to where we feel like we know the kind of person that we’re also getting. At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s a person sitting at this table to where if somebody offered you more money, you wouldn’t take it. Whether or not that’s going to change you, that becomes kind of a personality evaluation. We feel like the guys that we either brought in or kept, we feel like they were the right people for us. We felt like they were in it for the right reasons. We feel like there is a love for either our organization, the coaching staff, their teammates, football in general, that we really like. We feel like moving forward, the focus isn’t on, ‘Hey, I got paid so I’m going to shut it down.’ I don’t think we’ve got those type of guys. I don’t think there’s … if there was a guy like that, he isn’t going to survive very long in our locker room because we have enough guys that are about winning. I think there is a high percentage of guys (where) that’s the only focus they have right now. That’s what we wanted to create when we started this thing last year, so we’re just going to keep trying to build from where we’re at and keep adding guys that that’s what it’s about.”

(What is the plan for my friend LB Koa Misi?) – “We did a restructure. We re-negotiated his contract. He wants to be here. He wants to have a chance to compete with the guys that we have right now on our roster. I think the thing that we did do last year that was probably not the best thing was we had specific packages for him that we worked on. He gets injured (and) we spent a lot of time on those things that really he only could do. We just have to make sure we do a good job of using our time wisely. If he’s healthy and he’s able to contribute for us, it’s a big plus for us because he is a good player. We probably have to … We’ve talked about it with him as far as what we need to do to help him tackling-wise because he is a face-first guy, and that’s why obviously he had the issues with the neck. We have to make some adjustments there. The fact that a guy wants to be here and we’re going to give him an opportunity to compete for a spot, I don’t see any harm in that. He’s a guy I like being around. That’s why he’s back.”

(Does that make LB Koa Misi Plan A or does that preclude another addition there or how does that work?) – “We’re always going to be looking to compete and get better and bring in the best guys we can possibly bring in at every position to try to … You want to create competition. We don’t want anyone to feel like, ‘Oh, I’m good.’ Most professional athletes, they want to feel like there is always someone coming up behind them. It’s kind of like that adrenaline rush knowing that, ‘I have to keep getting better.’ I don’t have to worry about him competing in practice. I don’t have to worry about him trying to get better. He just wants that opportunity. If he stays healthy, he’ll make the most of it.”

(With Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke, what went into your decision to make him defensive coordinator?) – “When we hired (former Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph), it was kind of … I knew Matt was going to come with him. There was a good chance. There was a little scare that he might have almost (gone) somewhere else. We were really anticipating Vance leaving after one year. I know (you guys) don’t believe me but that was the thought process behind that. We wanted to have a guy that was ready to be the next guy. The reason was because how many times have you seen an offensive head coach who starts changing coordinators and all of a sudden it’s 4-3 and now it’s 3-4 and then it’s this and then this terminology changes. We wanted to create a situation to where our players didn’t feel like we were always changing terminology, we weren’t changing schemes, we weren’t changing our whole philosophy on defense. We wanted to keep things similar to where guys could … the transition would be easier. It was one of the first things (Owner) Mr. (Stephen) Ross said to us was, ‘I want to create an environment to where people actually come after our coaches. That’s what we need to create. That’s when we know we’re actually moving in the right direction.’ Well in the first year, we lose a guy to become a head coach, so we had to have a plan. We knew we were going to hire guys like this that would possibly leave. Matt is able to step in. Guys respect him. Guys know him. We’re not bringing in somebody off the street. We’re promoting one of our own guys, which stays consistent really with what we’re doing with our players as well. Now it’s about who’s the next guy two or three years down the road if Matt leaves? So we’re always looking for that contingency plan. That’s not to say that Matt is going to call it exactly the way ‘V.J.’ (Vance Joseph) does, but there’s a lot of – what he leans on might be different than what ‘V.J.’ did – but the terminology is not changing. A lot of things are staying the same.”

(With the Wide 9, did you guys scrap that at the end of the season? Is that the approach you’re going to continue to use?) – “We’re going to make some adjustments. Obviously, that would be bad ball on our part if we didn’t make any adjustments. There are some things we know that we need to do differently and we’ll make those adjustments throughout the spring and training camp. We feel like there are some things we can lean on to help our guys to feel better than I guess what we’ve learned going through last season. Going back and looking at things, we know there are some things that we want to do a little different, whether it be executing the scheme, doing something different, changing some things up. We’re not going to try to hang exclusive like, ‘This is the only thing we’re doing.’ So we’re going to try to mix in some things there, but at the end of the day, that is our base to start.”

(Would you like to have some competition in camp for P Matt Darr and K Andrew Franks or are you completely satisfied?) – “We’ll see how all that works out. I think if you talk to every special teams coach in the league, they want competition for every spot on special teams. It just kind of gets tough when you’re trying to create that 90-man roster. I want to rip on (Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Darren) Rizzi right now so bad but I just can’t think of anything good. (laughter)”

(Do you have the memes of him freaking out all over the office?) – “Who, (Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach) Rizzi? No. I always just try to stay out of the way of him because he’s flying all over the field. I’m always trying to just make sure I don’t get run over by him.”

(So are you happy with the running back room? Are those the guys that you’re rolling with? Because last year you had RB Arian Foster in that room. It seemed like you had a couple of extra guys. But then you finished with the three. So are the three…?) – “I really love the three guys that we had at the end of the year (Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams). There is a high trust level for me with that group. There is occasionally where I want to possibly hurt (Kenyan) Drake every once in a while; but he’s my guy so (laughter) … He does so many good things but he always does one thing that will – whether it be on or off the field – that will test me every once in a while, which I kind of like it. But the two guys that I’ve got coming up behind them though with Senorise (Perry) and Storm (Johnson), I’m really interested to see what they can bring in spring and in training camp. I’ve been around Senorise before. I know what he brings to the table. I want to give him an opportunity. Storm was a guy that coming out, there was a whole bunch of us that thought he had a really great skill set, and being able to give him an opportunity with us having five guys, I really like the way that those five work together and they’re all trying to get each other better and they work extremely hard in practice. There are a lot of times where people probably don’t pay attention during the season. For two practice squad guys, they were always kind of pushing it to keep those other guys going as well. That group, there’s something that’s special about that group. They do a good job together.”

(Have you thought about the very small possibility that RB Damien Williams could actually get a big offer somewhere?) – “Yes. You always … you’re aware of it. I’m not going to try to over … I’m not going to push it to anybody. I mean you guys all know that I love Damien (Williams). I love what he brings in every facet – special teams, offense, third downs. Just (his) attitude. I just like being around him. When that guy steps on the field, that guy is all football.”

(You mentioned that you though former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph would just be one and done. What stood out about him during his one year with you?) – “I think the command he had in our defensive meeting room. There were some big personalities in there and he did a great job controlling that room and getting guys to understand it’s about (the) team. That’s not an easy thing to do sometimes in your first year, to get a bunch of guys realizing that everybody has to do their job for the other guy to have success and he did a good job of that. We had some tough games, but at the same time we had some really good games. He did a good job of keeping that group together and focused and we fought all the way to the end. That’s really what you want your defensive coordinator to do is implement that program. I never had to worry about much. I was just trying to figure out how to get the offense right and keep the team going in the right direction.”

(You’re kind of thin at defensive tackle. Is that something you feel like you can wait on for the draft? Or do you look at it as you need to add a veteran?) – “If the right opportunity comes, we’ll always look to add a veteran. We’ll see if that comes about here over the … obviously we’ve got some time here before the season starts. We’ll see how it goes with the draft and after that even. Sometimes guys pop where they’re willing either to take less money or somebody gets cut because of the draft. There is still so much time to just … Any time that we get a chance to add a guy in that spot that we like, we’ll probably do it.”

(What does TE Thomas Duarte have to do to get himself a role on offense?) — “I think he just keeps improving from what he showed last year. I feel really good with him in the passing game. I know he’s working really hard to become a better run blocker. He’s going to consistently stay in the weight room and try to figure out ways to increase his weight and his physical stature, which I think he’s done a good job with. He’s become a thicker, bigger guy throughout the season and now when we head into training camp, that’s really going to be the key for him. When we put the pads on, how does he do? How does he handle his physicality going against these defensive ends one on one? We have a lot of time. He’s got a lot of traits that we really like.”

(How did TE Dion Sims develop as a pass catcher?) – “He was good. He did a good job. He made some big plays for us in some critical situations. The one that kind of always runs in my mind is the first time we played New England. We had a big third down and Ryan (Tannehill) threw him a high ball outside of his – basically a little high and outside – and he went up and got it. It’s a skill set that I don’t think a lot of people realize that he’s actually pretty good at.”

(With G/T Laremy Tunsil, what made you guys certain that he can take that next step as a left tackle in the NFL?) – “We’ve seen him enough. I mean we drafted him in the first round because we felt like he was an elite left tackle. We felt like we had a special player there. When we watched him practice at left tackle, it just looks different. When you watch him, he doesn’t look like a guy his size. He moves so smooth. His confidence when he goes to left tackle, it changes. You can tell he knows that’s where he belongs. ‘B.A.’ (Branden Albert) did a great job for us. He gave us everything he had and he was a great leader for us, but it was time for us to get Laremy (Tunsil) out to that left tackle spot and move on.”

(Do you think him playing guard for a year will help him at left tackle?) – “Yes, I do. Because he understands what goes on between the guard and the tackle and makes him understand the whole picture instead of just one guy’s job. So I think that’s going to benefit him down the road.”

Stephen Ross, Tom Garfinkel and Mike Tannenbaum – March 27, 2017 (Annual Meeting) Download PDF version

Monday, March 27, 2017

Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner Stephen Ross, President Tom Garfinkel and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum

Stephen Ross:

(The Dolphins were the only team to vote against a Raiders move to Las Vegas. Can you tell us why?) – “I think – as I told you before – I think when you own a team, you’re a steward of that team and you have obligations to the community. I think you don’t move a team if you’ve really exhausted all of the possibilities, and I don’t believe they did.”

(Did you meet with the Miami Open officials to discuss an alternative to keeping the tournament in Miami and if so, what were your thoughts about that?) – “When I read that the Miami Open might leave and I spoke with them, if it’s an alternative between staying on Key Biscayne or leaving, I wanted to present them a position that I thought it could work at our stadium.”

(How long do you think it would take you to build a tennis facility?) – “No time.”

(No time meaning?) – “A year.”

(So it’s not much of a challenge for you?) – “Small.”

(Not quite on the scale of the Hard Rock Stadium renovations, right?) – “Hardly. And we would take advantage of the stadium renovations. We spent a lot of money there. It has really become an entertainment capital between what we’re doing with the soccer and other entertainment acts and the football. What we’re doing there, you guys haven’t seen the completed product. That’s in process now and it’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be a real showcase.”

(Do you think that a tennis facility would have multiple uses outside of just the tournament?) – “Yes, I think we would be building a grandstand court. We’re just exploring it. It’s not like it’s there. If they can stay in Key Biscayne, they’d probably prefer to stay in Key Biscayne. I think it’s a great alternative, but it’s also, I think, important to the people in Miami that they don’t lose the tournament somewhere else. I think that’s what’s key, just like they lost the golf tournament somewhere else. We’re looking to do what’s going to be good for South Florida. I think you can see by the stadium what we’ve done and the activity we’re doing and having El Clasico. The beneficiary is really South Florida.”

(Do you have any sort of timetable as to when that might come to a head with the tennis tournament?) – “No, not really.”

(I believe you guys are not voting on any future Super Bowls this week. Is that right?) – “No.”

(Do you start any kind of grassroots, ground-level campaigning with the other owners?) – “We’re always campaigning for South Florida. They should all want to be in South Florida. It’s never ending. When you can sell South Florida, sell it. It’s not a hard sell.”

Tom Garfinkel:

(The Dolphins are one of the nominees for Sports Team of the Year and also Hard Rock Stadium for Facility of the Year for the SportsBusiness Journal. I wanted to ask you what that means for you and the organization.) – “It’s a great honor. We still feel like we have a long way to go, but I think to be mentioned in the same company as some of those other teams is certainly an honor. I think it’s a testament to Steve (Ross)’ vision and his commitment to what he has done with the stadium and with the organization and obviously Mike (Tannenbaum), (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and everybody else in the organization to be considered in that company. I think it’s a nice thing for us, but we still feel like we have a long way to go.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Where do things stand with LB Zach Brown? Is there still a possibility that he could become a Dolphin, or have you moved on from that?) – “Philosophically, we talk about this all the time,  from a big picture, strategic standpoint – Tom, Steve, Adam and Chris – we’re going to be opportunistic. We want to take care of our own and then be opportunistic. The lion’s share of our focus right now is on the draft. If and when the right opportunity came along, we would certainly evaluate it appropriately, but we’re focused, really, on the draft. If something came along, we would certainly look at it.”

(What do you feel like you’ve done locking up LB Kiko Alonso and signing LB Lawrence Timmons? Do you feel like you’ve overhauled that linebacker unit successfully?) – ”I feel like we’re heading in the right direction, but again, if there is the right player at the right price – be it the draft, free agency – that’s a position that even though I think we’ve done some things well, I’d say we’re encouraged. It’s something we’ll continue to take a look at, again, if the right opportunity came along.”

(Do you have a strong feeling one way or the other on the proposal to eliminate the roster cut to 75?) – “We’re going to look at that over the next couple of days. We have a couple of more days until that vote takes place. Washington proposed that a year ago. I don’t think it went very far from a vote standpoint; but we’ll look at it. I know the idea of it is … I understand the reasoning behind it is to have more players available for the fourth (preseason) game. We haven’t formalized our position quite yet.”

(Your plan this offseason was to take care of your own guys. WR Jarvis Landry is still out there. How successful would you say your plan has been so far?) – “Again, philosophically – organizationally – that’s something we feel really convicted about. You go back a little over a year between Mike Pouncey and obviously the quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) and then Cam Wake, Reshad Jones, Kiko Alonso – that was really important to us. We want to do that, and again, be opportunistic. With Jarvis, (we are) really excited he’s a Dolphin. He was drafted, coached here, (had) 288 catches in his first three years. We’re really glad he’s here. From a policy standpoint, we wouldn’t comment on any negotiations, but we’re glad that Jarvis is a Dolphin.”

(I know it’s a challenge not to comment, but you feel like you’ve made efforts to make sure that your hometown guys are taken care of?) – “No question. I think going back to last year, (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) has talked quite a bit about (how) we’ve asked a lot of our guys and we had some success last year. Again, we’re going to start 0-0. We have a long, long way to go; but there were a lot of guys that played well that were drafted here, coached here, got better here, and we want to reward those guys and take care of them first.”

(Beyond rewarding them, do you believe that core is enough to continue to compete for a playoff spot and maybe more?) – “Again, we’re going to 0-0. Last year, obviously, we were encouraged by winning 10 games, but that doesn’t have much bearing on this year, and I’ve been on both ends of that in my career. But those are really good players and people in our locker room. Reshad Jones got hurt last year, but he was a meaningful contributor to our team. Mike Pouncey got hurt last year; (but) he was a meaningful contributor. We’re trying to build a program that’s sustainable, and it’s meaningful to be a Dolphin. We were trying to send that message, but these were players at the end of the day we thought could help us win – Kiko Alonso and the rest of those guys. We still feel like we have a long way to go, but I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”

(What would be your comfort level at the guard position if you go into the season with G Ted Larsen who you signed and G/T Jermon Burshod, who you brought back?) – “You guys have heard me say this quite a bit: the offseason is a continuum. You want to go into the draft with as much flexibility as possible. I don’t think if we sat here a year ago any of us would’ve thought we would have Laremy Tunsil as our first-round pick. I certainly didn’t. So, who knows where we’re going to be in a month, and that’s what is so much fun about what we do. If we have the opportunity to upgrade a position – add depth and competition – we’re certainly open to doing that.”

(You have made a number of trades this offseason. Following up on trades you made last year and the year before that, how viable is that to helping you improve your roster?) – “I think it’s an underrated aspect, but I also think it’s really important that you have 31 trade partners and you really want to come up with solutions that work well for both teams. You go back to the trade last year with Philadelphia, for example. I don’t want to speak for them, but I think they’re pretty happy with Carson Wentz. For us to get (Laremy) Tunsil, (Byron) Maxwell and Kiko (Alonso), we feel good about that. I think it’s really important to be a good listener and to understand what the other side wants to do. Be it Julius Thomas or Branden Albert, hopefully those are trades that in Jacksonville they feel good about those trades as well, and we can work again with them in the future. In a cap system, you have finite resources to get better, so I think trades (are) an area that you have to look at as a viable way to help yourself.”

(We are three weeks removed from the start of the offseason program and DE Dion Jordan is still on the roster. Are we at a point where it’s safe to assume he will be there for the start of the program?) – “Our roster is always up for discussion.”

(How would you describe the way DE Dion Jordan has or has not met the organization’s expectations in recent times?) – “Look, obviously from when he was selected to today, it’s not a move that has worked out. That’s pretty obvious. We’ll keep evaluating our roster and make moves when we feel it is appropriate.”

(Do you think that DE Dion Jordan can help you as a linebacker or a defensive end?)  – “Like I said, we’re going to keep evaluating our options there. When we have an update, we’ll let you guys know.”

Stephen Ross:

(Separate from the Raiders leaving Oakland as far as Las Vegas is concerned, do you have any opinions or concerns about the league doing business there?) – “I think there will be some challenges. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet those challenges. Just like playing in Miami – the challenges with the players – I think you’ll have to have a lot of discipline in making sure that things don’t get out of hand.”

(The offseason is obviously about improving the team. I recognize that it’s not over, but where we are at this point, have the Dolphins made up the gap, or some of the gap, on the New England Patriots?) – “We have our program and we’ve decided how to go about it with both free agency and the draft. I think that we feel comfortable where we are. We have a young team and we’ve added some players that have a little more experience in positions. With the draft coming up, we’re probably going to stay a very young team still.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Could you address that as well?) – “I like (Owner) Steve (Ross)’s answer. Look, all you can do is control your own team. We have 31 other teams that are competitors obviously. New England has done a tremendous job for a long time. They’re in our division, but we’re trying to build the best program for us and that’s all that we can control and that’s enough on our plate: to worry about what we can do and put the best team out there for this year and the foreseeable future. We’ll play them twice in the fall and we’ll go from there but we can’t sit there and say ‘Hey, they made move A, so we are going to make move B.’ We’ve got to build and do what we feel is in our best interest.”

Stephen Ross:

(You’ve spent most of you tenure here getting the big fish or pursuing the big fish. What was it like this offseason where it was about focusing on your own guys and continuing to invest in them?) – “You can see how the team has developed. The chemistry of the team is totally different. The chemistry of the organization is totally different. I think that you look and see where you are. I think people really feel that we are making a lot of progress. I think we’ve had conversations on how do we continue that progress and this is the path we’ve picked.”

(I know that we are joking about it but Michigan does have a lot of talent. Do you find that it is going to be okay for you to suggest maybe a Michigan guy?) – “Sure, I’d love to see a Michigan guy wearing the Dolphins colors. We were up there for their Pro Day last Friday and its great being up there, but I’ve told (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) that he doesn’t have to listen to me when I tell him who to pick (laughter), so therefore it’s really a decision that they make. I think (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) do a great job and we have a great department in scouting and they are very thorough. I think if you look at our draft picks last year, I think that really showed you an awful lot of the direction in which they wanted to go. Really, it was a good draft and I think we’ll continue to have a good draft.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“And you’re underestimating the fact that our head coach is from Michigan State and it’s great for us to watch Adam (Gase) and Steve (Ross) have robust discussions about that (laughter).”

Stephen Ross

(So if Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is sitting there at 22, you’re not going to say anything?) – “Well, of course (laughter). You’re right I’m going to say something, but I’m not going to be the one that makes that decision.”

(What about if Michigan State’s Malik McDowell’s there?) – “No, I mean these guys do a good job. I think you want to look when you talk about the Dolphins, what you’ve seen is you’ve seen our front office and the coaches working together like you haven’t seen in a long period of time – certainly not like since I’ve owned the team. But when you talk to people that have been around there, they haven’t seen that type of chemistry in decades. So I think this is really the difference and I think when you talk to people, when I talk to people, the one thing that makes a winning organization is when everybody’s on the same page. I think that’s what’s really interesting. They like working with each other. I know all you guys make your phone calls and you talk to them, so I think you’re hearing it from me but you know it yourself. I think that’s the big difference in the Miami Dolphins today.”

Tom Garfinkel

(Can you follow up on that? Your observations about the organizational structure, why it’s working relative to Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase?) – “I think it’s a matter of values. I think people share the same values so when we’re all in the room and I listen to the conversations that are taking place, there’s a lot of healthy debate but there’s a lot of respect and there are similar philosophies and values on what they want to do. From my standpoint just observing – I’m not a part of those discussions but when I’m in the room listening to them sometimes – I think there’s a lot of mutual respect and healthy debate and personalities that work well together and I think it’s because they have similar values.”

(Could you update us on ticket sales, where more or less things are there?) – “Right now we’re ahead of pace from where we were last year. I think everything is positive. Renewals have been very positive, well ahead of last year at this time. New season ticket deposits we just started taking have been positive so we expect to be up at the start of the season from where we were last year in season tickets. And we expect to sell out every game. Things have been real positive.”

Stephen Ross:

“Tom (Garfinkel) has done a great job. I mean the organization there, I think when you look at totality of our organization and how it’s viewed as a sports organization and the things we’re doing, I think it’s great for Miami and I think it’s becoming the envy of most cities.”

(What are your thoughts on the proposal to give teams the option to not use the color rush uniforms?) – “Well, that’s something we’ll discuss. (laughter) I’m not a big fan of it but other people are. I think really the coach weighs in an awful lot on that.”

(There are always a lot of reasons why plays, free agents especially, want to come and play in South Florida. But with this particular offseason, did you sense that Head Coach Adam Gase was a big draw for them? That it was a big factor?) – “I think the things we’re doing as an organization. I think the word is getting out there. Gase, it’s amazing how around the country the respect – everybody talks about Gase as being a great head coach – and what our organization is doing today in a lot of different areas. I think it’s also showing how we really go out of our way to really care about the players. I think our business combine we had there up in New York was an incredible success. The players loved it. We had 16 players (and) we’ll probably have 40 next year. They were raving. The notes I got about it from the players and the things that we’re doing and really trying to enhance the whole environment and their careers, both on and off the field, I think it’s unique. It’s great for the brand, it’s great for the players and it’s great for the team.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“Just to add to that, I think we’re all really encouraged by (the business combine). It has really exceeded expectations. Just from where Chris (Grier) and I sit in the world, it really resonated with the agents and agents seeing how much we care about our players, not just now but into the future. I can’t tell you how many calls we got from other players that we just didn’t have interest in, but it really took off more quickly than we thought. I think heading into the future, if and when we approach certain free agents, that will be a big part of our narrative.”

(Was it easier to sell free agents this offseason, considering you guys are a playoff team) – “Did I mention that we don’t have any state tax in Florida? (Laughter) It’s one of those things we can’t go more than 20 words when we talk to free agents. (Laughter) But yes, I think where we sit in the world, we have such a great story to tell. We practice and play on grass, a great young head coach, the business summit, no state income tax. I’d put our story up against anybody’s.”

Tom Garfinkel:

“I was just going to add that when you consider it’s a voluntary program and they’re paying their own way to go participate and then you look at the level of participation and the feedback received afterwards, it kind of speaks to itself. When the players are paying for their own way to get there and they are volunteering to spend that much time in their offseason and their money to be there, it must be valuable. So I think growing it in the future would be a great thing. I think it’s kind of a special thing for those guys. That they really enjoyed it.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“Ryan Tannehill was there. Cam Wake (was there). It wasn’t just guys that were at the bottom of the roster. So it was meaningful participation throughout the whole roster, which was great to see.”

(Is it fair to say the organization is likely to pick up the fifth-year option for T Ja’Wuan James?) – “That’s a decision we don’t have to make until after the draft. We’ll get through the draft and that’ll be soon thereafter. Ja’Wuan is another guy (that was) drafted here. (Offensive Line) Coach (Chris) Foerster has worked with him for a year and (he is) another homegrown talent. So we’ll get through the draft and then get that finalized.”

(What did the organization view as LB Lawrence Timmons’ strengths and why you added him?) – “We were excited to get somebody that has played that long at his level. Our trainer (Ryan Grove) knew him from his days at Pittsburgh. After you sign the player, usually other things come out. You talk to coaches from that division and they couldn’t have been happier with us to get him out of Pittsburgh, so I think he’s one of those players that I think true great players have attributes you can’t see. I think two or three years from now, we’ll look back and be really happy that he’s with us.”

(Is the WR Jarvis Landry extension an after the draft to-do thing or are you currently involved…) – “Again, we just wouldn’t comment publicly on the status of any negotiation.”

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