Transcripts

Chris Grier – April 28, 2017 (3rd Round) Download PDF version

Friday, April 28, 2017

General Manager Chris Grier
(Following pick of CB Cordrea Tankersley)

(Opening Statement) – “So we just added Cordrea Tankersley, (a defensive back from) Clemson. He’s a kid we’ve gotten to know. We had him in here on a 30-visit. Again, he’s had a lot of tape on film. He’s a guy that’s still learning the corner position. He’s got a lot of traits we like. He’s long. He’s got length. He’s got speed. He has ball skills. Again, he’s got a lot of stuff that we like. We think that there’s a tremendous upside still. Again, we really like the kid. He’ll be a contributor on special teams as well, so for the depth, (to) come in and compete for the roster spot. This is a player we’re very high on so we’re excited to add him. Any questions on him?”

(When you say special teams, are you thinking as a returner type guy or something else?) – “No, he’s been a gunner and stuff like that. So again, it’s just … We have a lot of guys on the back who can do that. So he’s another guy who again has value, as he works his way up the depth chart. He can play on special teams as well.”

(Now you have used all three picks on defense for the first time in actually franchise history. You are going to tell us that the board dictated that, but is it at all connected to the fact that you guys yielded so many yards last year?) – “No, I mean it really was (how) the board fell. He was the best player there that was on our board. We are looking to address and ironically, it happened to fall that way; but there were guys on offense that we had rated above him that we wanted and went before him. So it was just the way the board fell.”

(With that being said, how much better do you feel the defense looks now after two days?) – “Anytime you can add good, young players that have a lot of the qualities we like: guys that love football, that are tough kids, that are competitive and love the game. Again, you guys have heard us say that a lot. So again, we got a player at all three levels, so it helps our depth and we feel good about it.”

(Do you think any of these three draftees can be full-time starters from scrimmage and does that matter to you guys?) – “We are all about competition here. That is the one thing (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) has stressed, as you guys know being around him and the coaching staff. These guys, it doesn’t matter where they are picked, they are going to have to come in and earn it. We are excited about their future and potential but right now, it is up to them to make that next step and prove that they are worthy of the pick we selected them.”

(It seems to us, and stop me if I’m wrong, that you have three top-line boundary corners now. Does any of those three – CB Xavien Howard, CB Byron Maxwell and CB Cordrea Tankersley – can play the slot or do you see all three of those guys on the boundary?) – “I think the coaches are just going to work and let it play out this summer. I think it’ll be a fun thing for us, as well as you guys, to track on how they do. I don’t want to limit what guys can do or can’t do, so we’re just going to let them go out and compete.”

(Do you invitation the possibility of them playing inside though?) – “Yes, I think the coaches are very open to a lot of that, including, they would say Xavien (Howard) and all of those guys. I think it is wide open to anything that (Defensive Coordinator) Matt (Burke) and the coaches want to do.”

(What about his skill set specifically attracted you to CB Cordrea Tankersley?) – “His size. He’s a long limb … He’s over 6-foot,  200-pound guy. He ran a 4.38 (40-yard dash), so you can see a lot of the traits. As a press corner, those are a lot of the things you look for. We think it’s a tremendous developmental upside still for him to get better as a corner.”

(He ran a 4.38 at the Combine?) – “Yes, he’s an explosive athlete.”

Cordrea Tankersley – April 28, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley

(Is this a surprise or did you expect to go sometime in the third round and possibly to the Dolphins?) – “I mean, any round … I just want to go out and play football and have an opportunity to showcase my talent. I did want to go early, but it is what it is. I’m picked now; I’m a Dolphin. I’m just ready to go to work.”

(You visited here is that correct?) – “I did. I enjoyed my visit. It was one of my favorite visits. I’m happy to call it home.”

(How does the Dolphins style of play – as much as you know about it – fit your skill set?) – “They’re a great man (coverage) team. They run a lot of man. They want to match up. I feel like I fit their team. Also, they want to do some zone and mix it up. I feel like I fit that scheme, as well. I feel like they do an aggressive style, which I had at Clemson, so I think I fit that mold pretty well.”

(What was it like playing in the national championship game?) – “That was the greatest thing of my life to cap my senior season off with a national championship and using that momentum and bringing it to the next team, which is the Dolphins, and hopefully bring a Super Bowl.”

(Are you familiar with CB Byron Maxwell?) – “Yes. Me and Byron have a little close relationship. I watched Byron play when I was being recruited out of high school, so I’m quite familiar with his game. I kind of model my game after him. Being on the same team as him and having the opportunity to play opposite of him, that’s a blessing.”

(How do you model your game after him?) – “He’s one of those bigger corners. He’s one of those bigger corners that can match up with anybody across the board, and I feel like I can match up with any (wide receiver) in the country or the NFL, so I feel like I fit the mold same as him – somebody who is going to go out there and play confident football.”

(What did you do on special teams? I saw you played early in your career at Clemson.) – “I played a little bit of everything. I was a gunner on kickoffs. I also was a gunner on punt, as well. I also did some blocking on punts. I’m quite familiar with special teams. I played special teams all four years of my career.”

Chris Grier – April 28, 2017 (2nd Round) Download PDF version

Friday, April 28, 2017

General Manager Chris Grier
(Following pick of LB Raekwon McMillan)

(Opening statement) – “We have added Raekwon McMillan, linebacker (from) Ohio State. He is a guy that we absolutely love. Again, talk about an alpha guy, you have heard that before. This guy is a two-time captain, came out as a junior at Ohio State. This is a guy who made all the calls there. (He is) highly intelligent. We love his football intellect. We loved talking with the kid. This guy really understands football. He has leadership skills and he is a tackling machine. He is a big body in the middle that can take on blocks. He is a good player. People want to talk about whether he can run or not; the guy ran a 4.61 (40-yard dash) at 240-plus pounds. The guy can run. He is a good football player. Again, this is a guy we feel very strongly about and we are really excited to have him here.”

(How does he fit into this defense? You re-signed LB Kiko Alonso, you added LB Lawrence Timmons, how exactly does he fit in considering he is an inside linebacker?) –. “The one good thing here is adding Timmons, re-signing Kiko and now adding Raekwon into the mix, I was talking with the coaches and we are going to let it play out. We have kind of an idea of where we think they are going to play; but again, we haven’t worked with Timmons yet as well here. In terms of getting them on the field all together, we kind of have an idea; but again on our part, I am going to let the coaches talk about that when you guys meet with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) next week.”

(Is LB Raekwon McMillan a guy that can swing outside or is he pretty much an inside linebacker?) – “No, he can (swing outside). That is what we like about him because the guy is physical and he’s smart. Again, we think he can run. We like his play speed. It is evident when you watch him on tape. He makes a lot of plays to the outside too. We are comfortable playing him wherever he has to play for us.”

(Did Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke get up the table and lobby for him? Is this a guy he really wanted?) – “I think everybody in the room wanted him so there wasn’t a case on that. This is a guy we were all very high on.”

(Was that a position in the draft where you were looking for a linebacker? I know you said you try to stick to your board rather than go to need, but at some point in the draft you go to need. Was this looking for a linebacker or was it taking the best guy available?) – “He was (the best guy available). He was on the board. At that point in time, he was the No. 1 player on our board.”

(At any position?) – “Yes.”

(The fact that he was able to come into Ohio State and make an instant impact, do you feel like this is something he can do now, elevate his game and go up to the next level?) – “Yes. Again, it’s a guy that loves football, his passion, the intelligence – and that’s the one part when the rookies come in, the hard part is the playbook. When you talk to the guys at Ohio State, they talk about this guy’s intellect, how smart he is, how he can line up everybody. When we met with him at the Combine, it was easy. He’s talking football, telling where the corner (and) safety is, the front, moving the front … He understands it. This is a guy that, if you talk to him, he’s like flat-line and calm. He’s one of those. He gets into the playbook. He’ll learn this quickly and we do anticipate him making an impact.”

(Did you bring him for a pre-draft visit?) – “No, we did not.”

(Does he play any special teams?) – “He has earlier in his career. He’s not (now), but he’s a guy that if he had to, he could do it.”

(He was very emotional during his call with us. Obviously, a lot of things going through his head. What’s his story? What is this kid thinking about that today makes it such a victory for him?) – “I think as you get to know the kid, and like I said, he’s a very calm and flat-line person. Nothing’s ever too big for him. Which is what – when you talk to the coaches there, Urban Meyer absolutely loves this guy. He says it was one of his favorite players he’s ever coached. I think for him, it’s probably all this hard work. The culmination of everything probably hit him because when we talked to him, I was telling him, ‘Get excited, man.’ And he was like, ‘Yes, sir. I am really excited to come to Miami.’ I’m like, ‘Come on!’ It was one of those so … We all got off the phone and everyone was like, ‘Wow. He’s completely calm.’ To hear you guys say that is surprising because with us it was, ‘Okay, I’m ready to go. Good. Let’s go.’”

(Do you feel comfortable now with your linebacker position? Obviously, it was a position of priority this offseason.) – “We feel good about it. But again, if there are other opportunities throughout the draft or post-draft free agency, we’ll still look to add.”

(This is the second straight prospect who’s told us he didn’t have a whole lot of contact with you leading up to the draft. You told us last night with DE Charles Harris that was intentional. Was this a similar thing?) – “This was a kid that everything was so far – in terms of intangibles and character – that once we met with him at the Combine, and I was at the Pro Day, along with our area scout, Ron Brockington. Once you’re around the kid and see (him), we were like, ‘There’s no point in bringing him here. We’re just wasting a visit.’”

Raekwon McMillan – April 28, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, April 28, 2017

Linebacker Raekwon McMillan

(What’s your reaction to being chosen by Miami?) – “I’m just happy to be in the situation I’m in. I just want to say thank God for everything that he has done for me.”

(How much communication had you had with the Dolphins leading up to the draft?) – “I had a pre-draft visit with them at the Combine, and then everything leading up to the point (now), I hadn’t had much contact. Like I said, I just want to thank God.”

(Describe yourself as a player. What are your strengths?) – “I’m a leader on defense. I’ll do the best I can do.”

(What did the Dolphins tell you about how you’d be used?) – “Any position that they need. They said I can play any linebacker position. Wherever they need me to play, I can play it.”

(What’s the scene like there? It seems pretty emotional.) – “I got my family here. It’s a blessing to have everybody here at this special moment.”

(What’s this like to know that you have achieved a lifelong dream?) – “It’s amazing. All this hard work is finally coming to light. It’s time to get back to work.”

(Where had you thought you might go? Is this about the range where you thought you might be drafted?) – “Yes, sir. I thought a little bit higher for myself … But I’m happy with my situation.”

(You might have an opportunity to come in here and start right away. Is that something the Dolphins said when they talked to you?) – “Yes, sir. Any way possible that I can get on the field and contribute to the organization, I will do it.”

(You’re obviously very emotional right now. What are the thoughts that are going through your head that are making you feel this way?) – “It’s just a blessing. I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s my dream.”

(Are you thinking about your family?) – “I have my family here. It’s just a blessing to be able to change all our lives.”

(Was there ever a time you doubted this moment would come?) – “No. I always knew that I would out-work anybody and I would be in the situation that I’m in today.”

Chris Grier – April 27, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, April 27, 2017

General Manager Chris Grier

(Opening statement) – “Good evening. Today we added Charles Harris from Missouri. He is a player that we had targeted. We love the pass rush that he can give us. It is a position that you can never have enough guys in the league, the way this game is played. We like the kid’s attitude, his competitiveness. I think from your conference call, you kind of figured out what kind of kid he is. This guy loves football. It is very important to him. When you talk to people around the program and do your work on him, you hear all of the same things. This guy is a gym rat. He loves football; it is very important to him. He is passionate. So being around the kid a little bit, we tried not to … We tried to stay away from him purposely. Again, I know everyone looks for how everyone is doing things and trying to figure out who is coming where and stuff. This is a player that we really, really liked, and are excited to have him.”

(How do you envision using him as a rookie?) – “He will be in the rotation. We envision him being in the top four and that is obviously why we picked him where we did. For us, his traits of quickness, speed and explosiveness off the edge, the ability to rush … He also rushes inside. I know he is 255 pounds. On third down, you will see him go inside because he has that explosive first step and quickness. He can be a disruptive player and so for us, it is important to keep adding depth to that position. You can never have enough rushers.”

(How comfortable are you guys with him as an edge-setter?) – “We are. Remember we talked in the pre-draft press conference we had, it was about things we are going to (do to) tweak the defense and doing things to help. So in the Wide 9, you can have players like this that can be good run-defenders. With his athletic ability and the stuff he can do – he is a tough kid. He can be better and he will be. We are very excited for his future.”

(He made a couple of references to the meeting you all had – I think it was at the combine – and how well it went. What do you remember from that meeting and what were your impressions?) – “The love for football oozes out of him. When you watch film, when you talk to the kid and ask questions as you try to get to know him as a person – to see if it matches with everything you are told as the schools and it does. He loves talking football and that is what he wants to do. For us, again, those are the traits we are looking for – those guys that love ball and it is the end-all, be-all for him, and that is truly what it is for this kid.”

(Who was the scout that first got to know him and how did that relationship go with him as a player? Because obviously you didn’t bring him in with a personal visit, how did you get to know him as a player?) – “Chris Buford, our area scout there, does a really good job. Chris is a very personable kid. He’s a younger scout, but he also … He played football at Baylor. He was a d-lineman at Baylor. This is a player that he really liked and as he dug into the background … He knew a lot of people in the program there that dealt with the kid from the high school level and college. As Chris got to know him and really started selling the kid – he really didn’t have to sell the kid because we watched the film and we liked a lot of stuff we saw on film – but Chris did a great job in presenting him to us.”

(How early did you think to yourself ‘that’s my guy?’) – “He was a player we had … We had two players targeted at 22 and he is one of the two.”

(So how early was that?) – “That was probably about a month ago.”

(A month ago? That is early, right?) – “Yes. That is how much we liked the player.”

(Was that other player off the board already at 22?) – “I am not going to say.”

(You said you stayed away from DE Charles Harris purposely. What was your intent?) – “Everyone is tracking visits and all this stuff. Last year, we selected a bunch of players that we had here in for ’30-visits.’ Teams track that stuff and I know it is your job to do that and that is fine. It’s just there are some players that we purposely try and stay away from once we are comfortable with the player, his character and what type of kid we are getting. We just do not feel the need to spend any more time with them.”

(Were you guys fielding a lot of calls or was it a fairly straightforward pick?) – “No. We had two calls for the pick. Two teams wanted to come up from behind us and move into the pick.”

(You just could not pass on DE Charles Harris?) – “No, and honestly we really did not talk much about what they were offering because this was a player that everybody in the building – from personnel to coaches – if you see the video of the room, everyone is going crazy.”

Charles Harris – April 27, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Defensive End Charles Harris

(What’s this experience like for you right now to be a first-round draft pick?) – “I’m literally not functioning right now. (laughter) It’s a blessing; it’s an honor. It (doesn’t) mean a thing, because I still know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to take advantage of this – being a first-round pick. No matter when I would’ve got drafted, I’m going to come into the league and I’m going to dominate. I don’t have the same mindset as everybody else. I’m not trying to just make it there, I’m trying to get there, stay there, dominate, feed my family – everything, for real.”

(Did you have any idea the Dolphins were going to pick you, and if so, did you have any conversations with them throughout the draft process?) – “I had a lot of conversations. Actually, I had a trip scheduled for them and the trip got cancelled for whatever reason. I was like, ‘Man, that’s messed up.’ Of course, I didn’t take it to heart, but I kind of had a feeling. I kind of had a feeling. Why? I don’t know why.”

(What strengths do you think you bring to an NFL team? What are the strengths of your game?) – “The strengths of my game, you obviously see it on film. I get to the quarterback. I’m going to cause pressure, without a doubt. I’m going to get to the quarterback. That’s the thing about it. Pass rushing isn’t like other positions like DBs, receivers and quarterbacks where you have to learn shifts and other stuff. At the end of the day, it’s about what you’ve got in your heart. That’s what I’ve got. I’ve got heart. I’ve got a drive that’s nasty. I’m just trying to ball at the end of the day. I’m going to get to the quarterback without a doubt.”

(How do you envision yourself best utilized? Is it a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end? Is it outside linebacker?) – “Either or. It’s really either or. It does not matter at all. At the end of the day, I know the coaches and everyone are going to put me in the right position to be used best. I’m just going to ball.”

(When did you initially meet with the Dolphins and how many times have you spoken with them?) – “I spoke with the leader of player development. I didn’t pay them a visit. I didn’t have a workout. At the combine, the meeting at the combine went great, and that was that. The meeting at the combine was natural. It was fluid; it was perfect. That was amazing. I just appreciate the opportunity. That’s all I need. That’s all I need. (The Dolphins are) taking a chance on me. That’s all I need. (The Dolphins) are taking a chance on me, so I’ll make it pay off.”

(You’re going to play alongside DE Cameron Wake, and if all goes well eventually be his successor. What do you know about Cam and what does that mean to you to take over one of the pass rushers in football?) – “It means everything, to be able to come in and learn from him. I’m just coming in with a humble attitude, willing to work, willing to take coaching from any and everybody. It’s everything. He’s a great player, and I’m going to learn. At the end of the day, I’m hungry for knowledge. I’m hungry for … I’m hungry to get better at the end of the day.”

(Are you at home right now, and if so, what is the scene at the house?) – “Yes, I’m at home right now. Everyone else is going crazy. I haven’t even let it sink it. I’m still thinking about the fact that my phone just rang. But everybody else is just going crazy. I’m just still in shock.”

(When you got the call from the Dolphins, who was it from and what did they say?) – “I cannot remember right now. They asked me a whole bunch of questions – is everything good, am I healthy and stuff like that. I haven’t had (any) off-the-field issues. I’m going to keep my head down, stay on my grind and be ready to go.”

(Where is your house? What city?) “I’m in Raytown right now. Raytown, Missouri.”

(Have you ever been to Miami? What are your impressions, if so?) – “I’ve never been to Miami, but I’ll make that move. (laughter) I haven’t been to Miami, but look, I’ll take it. I love it. Let’s do it.”

(Did you have a feeling that Miami might be the place you would end up?) – “I didn’t, because I didn’t have a visit – like I said – or a workout or anything like that. It was just … The meeting at the Combine was the only thing I really had. The meeting at the Combine, that meeting had to be one of my favorites. It had to be.”

(What was it about the meeting that made it your favorite?) – “I’ve never been so genuine and willing to tell everybody my story about how I got here and how far I want to go. I think that was the first meeting that I was really just calm, just cool and not on edge, and just really telling the coaches how I feel. They were really receptive. That’s one thing, they were very receptive to everything I was saying and actually paid attention. Everybody in the room paid attention. There wasn’t a single person in there on their phone or writing down … Everybody was (paying attention) to me with their ears and their eyes. That’s what made it a great meeting at the end of the day.”

(Was that meeting with Head Coach Adam Gase, or was he not part of that?) – “Yes.”

(What’s your impression of Head Coach Adam Gase?) – “Amazing man.”

(Can you tell me about your high school football career? I thought I read you didn’t play until your junior year?) – “Yes, I didn’t play until my junior year.”

(Why didn’t you play football until your junior year of high school?) – “I could put (Lincoln Prep High School Head) Coach Lee (Allen) on the phone right now. I just didn’t play. I was so basketball-driven and so focused that I just didn’t want to play football. But then I got embarrassed and my mind said … The way I am, I’m not going to let that happen, because I don’t want anybody to think I’m weak or I’m soft, so I’m going to pick football.”

(So you basically started playing football because you didn’t want people to think you were weak or soft?) – “Yes. Same thing to this day. A lot of people doubted me, and I love that.”

(Who are you with right now?) – “I’m with my whole family. I’m with my girl, my mom, everybody is here.”

(What NFL player would you say your style kind of resembles?) – “My style … I’d probably say my utilization is probably like Michael Bennett. Outside, inside – just any and everything. I can play any technique – nine, five, three. I can play anything. I can be in a four-man rush package. I can be in a 3-4 and drop. I can do any and everything a coach wants me to do. I doesn’t matter. Just tell me what you want me to do, and I will do it at the end of the day.”

(DE Cameron Wake wears No. 91, so what is your second favorite jersey number?) – “I don’t care. Just give me a jersey, a helmet and some pads and some cleats. I can get my own cleats, but I probably have to wear (the team’s) cleats. Just give me some cleats, and I’m ready to go. I don’t care what the number is. I’ll make the name shine.”

(You weren’t very high in a lot of these mock drafts that were put out there at first. How did that make you feel? And secondly for this result, what do you think of it?) – “It makes me feel amazing. But like I said, I was a zero star in high school. I was a zero star in high school. I didn’t really care about no rankings, no nothing to this day. The mock drafts and stuff like that, that’s cool and all, but at the end of the day, I’m going to ball. I know I am. I’m going to work hard, and I’m going to ball.”

Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier – April 19, 2017 Download PDF version

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pre-Draft Press Conference
Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum
General Manager Chris Grier

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Opening statement) – “We want to start by thanking everyone for coming. We appreciate it. I just want to start off by publicly thanking Chris (Grier), again, for doing a great job of leading the draft process along with everybody in the organization. Truly, it’s an organizational effort from our coaches, personnel department, scouting, medical, security, they’ve all done a great job and we feel really good about our preparation. As of now, we’re sitting on seven draft choices – a first, second, third, three fives and a seventh (round pick). That is a combination of our own picks as well as the three compensatory picks that we received. For us, this is just the next step in the offseason in terms of trying to improve the team. We look at it as a continuum. Some of the things we did earlier in the offseason were designed to give us the most flexibility heading into next week’s draft. That was all part of our overall plan. We’ll get through the draft and we’ll try to remain opportunistic in terms of opportunities we see to improve the team – be it in June or July – heading into training camp. We just see the draft as the next opportunity for us to get better. One other housekeeping note, we recently added Matt Sheldon. He’s going to be our director of football research and strategy. We added him from the Chicago Bears recently. So with that, we’d be happy to answer any questions.”

(How would you assess the state of your defense and how different do you think it’s going to look 11 days from now?) – “Well, again, we started back in the offseason and assessed where we thought we needed to get better. We added a few players, notably William Hayes in a trade, Lawrence Timmons, signed Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald. So we feel like we’ve made some improvements. Again, the whole design of that was to try to give us some more flexibility heading into next week. I think not only our defense but overall, our roster will look different 11 days from now.”

Chris Grier:

(A year ago we were sitting here and it had been an awful long time since this team had made the playoffs – an awful lot of 8-8 seasons. Now you’ve had success, you’ve made the playoffs and you’ve been 10-6. How might your approach change, if at all, in terms of maybe a year ago there were needs all over the place, and now do you see needs in fewer spots on the roster for example?) – “I think every year you’re always addressing your needs and your roster. I thought last offseason, we came in working with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and the coaches and we thought we addressed as many needs as we could in the offseason through free agency. So entering the draft, we always talk about you want to be in as much of a position of strength as you can be so that you don’t have to draft for need necessarily in those first couple of rounds. So when Laremy Tunsil fell to us, we could take him instead of being locked in like, ‘We have to have this position.’ I don’t think we changed our approach. I just think a year together of all of us working along with Adam and the coaching staff, and to what the roster needs and being around … They had the players for a year to work with them. It’s been a good process. I don’t think we’ve really changed. The expectations are the same so for us, we just put our head down and keep working.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“I think just to add to that, our mindset is really no complacency. That’s really the fun part about working with Adam and Chris every day is (we’re) always challenging ourselves how we can get better. Certainly that’s been (Head Coach) Adam (Gase)’s message to the players is 2017 is a new year. We’re 0-0. We have a lot of work to do. We’re proud of some of the things we got done last year but that was really a long time ago. There is a lot of work to be done between now and opening day in 2017.

Chris Grier:

(There are obviously a bunch of defensive ends and edge rushers in the draft – all different shapes and sizes. What do you look for at defensive end? What’s the template you want to see for a guy for you to consider in the first round?) – “You’ve been around us for a year and we’ve always talked about guys that are tough, competitive and love football. We always talk about prototype but with that being said, there are players that aren’t always … Like Jason Taylor wouldn’t be a prototype player and he’s going into the Hall of Fame. At the end of the day, you’re just looking for good football players really and guys that have high character, are smart and they love the game. At the end of the day, if you don’t have those qualities, you’re not going to be successful in this league. So you’re right. There are all shapes and sizes in this draft so it’s a good draft for rush ends.”

(This seems to be a draft where it specifically feeds to 3-4 teams just because of the size of some of the ends and the fact that most of the pass rushers were outside linebackers in college. How difficult of an evaluation has that been for you guys because you run a 4-3?) – “It is. I think the one good thing of working with (Defensive Coordinator) Matt Burke here as we’ve gone through it is Matt’s talked about even though some of those guys may not be that prototype you’re looking for with 4-3 ends is that how we’re going to do things a little bit different than before. He thinks those guys can fit and play. We’ve had a lot of discussions about the scheme and how we’re going to use the players and stuff. For us, it’s still the traits. You look at the traits and what the players can do and then you try and balance it out in terms of what they can do in terms of playing the run, the physical toughness … As long as guys are willing to be physical at the point of attack against the run, it gives you a chance to be successful, no matter what size. The Elvis Dumervil’s of the world, those types of guys have always been good football players – undersized d-ends.”

(Are there specific character issues that will automatically rule out a guy for you?) – “With our philosophy, each player, we look at individually, and so, (Director of Team Security) Drew Brooks does a great job and (Director of Team Security Emeritus) Stu (Weinstein) doing the background of digging in on players. Again, when the Laremy (Tunsil) thing came up (last year), we had already done … (National Scout) Matt Winston did a great job of background stuff. So with each player, we’re still doing … We still have information coming in on players right now. We’ll make those decisions early next week on most of those players. For us, background and character is huge. We won’t take any shortcuts doing that.”

(Are there any specifics though? Like if it’s domestic violence, then this guy is out? Or something like that?) – “It’s a very sensitive subject. We have our feelings on it, but I think dealing with that, you have to look at every case individually. There are some cases where you hear it is domestic violence but the player was the one who called the police and the girl hit him, but because the police were called, it goes on the player as domestic violence. It’s something that we have to look at each case individually before we make a determination.”

(The guards who have been taken in the first round in the past few years, it’s kind of been a mixed bag. Do you have a general philosophy on taking a guard in the first round. If he’s the guy, you feel good, and you’ll get it? Or can you get a guard later in the draft?) – “I think with us through the evaluation process with our scouts – with (Director of College Scouting) Adam Engroff, (Director of Player Personnel) Joe Schoen and the rest of the college  scouts and then dealing with (Offensive Line) Coach (and Run Game Coordinator Chris) Foerster and (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Chris Kuper – if a guy is a good player and he’s there and we’re comfortable with everything in terms of the football intelligence, the toughness, the passion for the game, we’ll take him. You always hear, ‘You can always find offensive linemen and guards especially, late in the draft.’ But I think if you pass up on (Pro Football Hall of Fame guard) Larry Allen sitting there in the second round or something because you think you’ll get him later, that’s a huge mistake. Again, you just go through your process and evaluate the players where you think they fit.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“Just to add to that, one the things we tried to proactively is we re-signed Jermon Bushrod and signed Ted Larsen, so we wanted to add depth to that position. If the right player is there, including offensive line, we would consider it; but adding those two guys before the draft was important for us.”

(Having said that – and I know you guys want to have as much flexibility as possible on draft day – your defense was No. 18 in the NFL in points allowed, No. 30 against the run. Does this not need to be a defense-sort-of-centric draft for you based also on the age of some of your defensive players?) – “Again, I think as Chris mentioned, last year I don’t think any of us would’ve sat here and said, ‘We’re going to draft Laremy Tunsil.’ I think it falls back to our preparation and we want to be opportunistic. Again, it’s a very important part of the offseason, but we’ve tried to address some of those areas of concern on defense before the draft, and we’ll see what happens. But to go in and say, ‘This is just going to be a draft defense,’ we’ve just been around it too long to say that, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Chris Grier:

(What would be, say, three position groups that this particular draft you’ve noticed has a lot of talent and depth?) – “We always go through this where we talk about positions of strength in the draft each year. You get to that point (where) you’re still going to have to draft somebody. I’d probably say running back is a really good position in this draft. For me, as far as the other ones, we talked about the rush ends. There are a lot of good players. Safeties are another. I think this year is probably a rare year for safeties. There’s many good players. At the end of the day, you always hear it’s a weak draft class, and then you look back five years from now and that ends up being a much better class than … The Class of 2009 –  I’m just throwing a number out there – that everyone said it was a great class, but there’s better players in the class. Again, we operate, we evaluate our players, rank them how we feel they fit for the Miami Dolphins, and we just move forward.”

(One week before the draft, how many players are literally ranked on your big board? I’m curious about the process. How do guys actually get moved up a little and down a little between now and next Thursday?) – “Right now on the big board, we’re probably a little over right now, so we’re probably in the 140s, and that’s probably a little heavy for us. At the end of the day, the process of moving up and down, we’re spending a lot of time this week – Mike, (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and I – meeting together with some of the personnel guys and coaches, and little tweaks here and there. For the most part, the board is pretty much set, and now you’re tweaking within groups and rankings. There won’t be any real major jumps. We’ve had coaches calling us still. For the college coaches this time of year, they become available, so through our connections, we all know people. We’ll get on a conference call and we’ll talk about the player. So, that may help settle a discussion we have between a character of concern on a player or not. Just little tweaks throughout this week.”

(You said earlier you all haven’t had the character reports in, so does that mean that players haven’t been taken off the board yet, and that 140 includes players with character questions?) – “Yes. Right now, it includes them.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“Just to add to that, sometimes it’s not absolute. Sometimes it’s going to be, ‘proceed with caution,’ or ‘there was an incident,’ and it may not just be legal, it could’ve been with a coach or something else. There may, as Chris said, be tweaks, so they could still be on the board, but it may be later on … Again, we’re just trying to be comprehensive in our approach. Again, we don’t have to make any final decisions until a week from Thursday, but we’ll have things pretty well finalized once we’re done with you guys so we can say the board is not quite done yet. (laughter)”

(When it comes to this point in the process, are you excited about the prospect of adding more talent to your roster, or are you looking forward to it being over at this point?) – “Speaking personally, I was really energized on Monday when all of the players came back. We’ve had a few players come through here, but with the start of the offseason program, it’s just a great reminder (of) why do we do this? Why do we work so hard and be away from our families? It’s about the players. Having them in the building is a great source of energy. Obviously, the draft is a big opportunity for us to get better, but having the players back is great.”

Chris Grier:

(You’ve obviously been here for a bunch of drafts under a bunch of GMs now, and now obviously the GM yourself. First round, you guys have had a ton of success in the last 10 years, but second and third rounds you haven’t had so much success. Can you identify what, if there was one problem you’ve had, in that second day of the draft and how to get better at it?) – “Speaking over the years, there is always varying circumstances for picks. Our philosophy is, again, when we go through this process … Really last week probably, we had a lot of healthy debate with the coaches, the personnel department, where we were in there and you go at it pretty good; but it’s all very respectful. At the end of the day, all everyone kept saying is it was a great process. We love that we can have our voice from the coaching side and the personnel side. At the end of the day, we’re always just going to listen to our board. I don’t want to speak ill of the guys that were here before me, because I have great respect for those guys; I worked for them. For me, I lean on what I’ve learned. I’ve got Mike as a great sounding board. We use various other people as we talk through this whole process.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Do you think that’s the next step for this team to get the depth that it needs to compete at the highest level – to hit on those second day picks to really have a full arsenal of players?) – “I think it’s just to always try to get better. That’s the message that (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) talks about quite a bit – it is player development. It’s not just the second or third round. To me, it’s about even the later-round guys. If you go back to last year and all of the injuries we had, where I took a lot of pride was … It was such a tribute not only to our coaching staff, but the support staff and all of the development and everything that went on, so that when we were playing meaningful games coming down the stretch, it was guys that were on the practice squad that got bumped up (like) Rashawn Scott. There were so many of those guys, and to me, that’s where you get a lot of pride from. Sure, do you want to hit on your second and third round, but I think what we stand for and we talk about all of the time is trying to develop as many players as possible on our roster.”

(To piggyback off of that, how do you think you guys did last year in the draft? I know it has only been one season, but how did you do?) – “Candidly, give us a grade of incomplete. We’ll know in two more years. The people that influenced me in my career always talked about take three years to try to develop a player. Coach (Bill) Parcells, in particular, talked a lot about that. I think that’s a reasonable amount of time for the most part in our system. From an economic standpoint, you control them for about four years, more or less, depending on what round they were drafted in. So, I think three years is a fair number, and I think some guys exceeded expectations and some haven’t. But again, I would say it’s a grade of incomplete as of now.”

(Are you happy with their first year contributions?) – “Yes, I think we were happy with their work effort and their character. I mean I’m thrilled about the environment that the players and coaches have created. Obviously (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) deserves the lion’s share of that, but there are a lot of people that work really hard that come into the building with a lot of energy that want to get coached. I think our coaching staff is a lot of teachers and I think that’s one of the reasons (former Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph) became a head coach after just one year here. That’s something that we’re all really proud of.”

(When you look at your current first round slot and project who might be available, how open do you feel the organization might be, in your projections, to possibly move up or down? And the second part is, what is the process through which that will occur, fielding trade offers?) – “We’ll always make what decision we feel is best. Typically you get calls both ways – maybe three in front of you and three behind you. We have our trade charts and (Director of Analytics) Dennis Lock, who runs our analytics department, does a lot of really … (He) gives us great information and then we’ll see what happens. Again, just to go back to the process, last year was a great example where as Chris alluded to, (National Scout) Matt Winston spent a lot of time with Laremy Tunsil. Chris insisted that, when we were sitting in Indy, that we were going to interview Laremy Tunsil. At the time, Tennessee had the first pick. There were a lot of rumors that he was (going to be) the first pick in the draft. We had Branden Albert at left tackle and eight gazillion other needs. That process gave us a lot of confidence that here he is at 13 and it was an easy decision for us. So when a trade becomes available, we’ll measure that opportunity against the board. What our needs are, of course that’s going to be a little bit of a balance. But we’ll see what happens. Sometimes you get a trade offer that’s hard to say no to.”

(Do you enjoy that? Is it kind of exciting when all of these people are calling you?) – “I think that to work in this business, you have to enjoy everything about it. I enjoy going to Mobile (for the Senior Bowl). I enjoy getting to know these guys. It’s a privilege and you really have to enjoy the journey to spend as many hours as we do. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do it.”

(Can each of you explain the dynamic of the decision making between each other and Head Coach Adam Gase so that people have an idea of how you reach that final call?) – “I think we’ve gone over that before but Chris runs the draft. We set the board and we rely on the board to make those decisions. (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) is right there. But a lot of those discussions are had well before – as Chris mentioned – when we have the debate and disagreements. Once the board is set, that’s really what we rely on to make our decisions. Last year is probably the best example of that. Again, we didn’t think we were going to be drafting a left tackle, but when there is a guy that’s so much higher rated than anything else, those are easy decisions. Our owner, Steve Ross, is there. We’re all sitting there and you say to yourself ‘This is the best player for the long term for us. Let’s turn in the card.’”

Chris Grier:

“The best part of that is, we could sit there and we’ll have where one of us will … an F-bomb will be dropped. But it is healthy debate. We’re always going to do what’s best for the organization. Truly, it’s egoless. I think most of you know the three of us, but we have a lot of debates and we are not afraid to tell each other no and that’s wrong and disagree. I think that’s what makes it work.”

(But that doesn’t happen on draft day, that happens when you set the board?) – “Right. All of last week and stuff, we had a lot of big debates, the coaching staff and personnel departments. It is fun. I enjoy it.”

(You said at the Scouting Combine that defensive end was a position that you thought would be addressed in free agency and the draft. Do you still feel that way?) – “We were really excited to get William Hayes. William was a guy that we targeted last year. We were going to bring him in here and he elected to stay out in L.A. (Los Angeles). So we are really excited to have him. Again, with the draft, for us … We agreed with Cam (Wake) at his age, but no one takes better care of themselves than Cam. I mean, Cam could probably play for five more years and still get eight sacks a year in the league. Re-signing (Andre) Branch was huge for us. Right now, it’s like every other position, I don’t want to get locked into anything. And there are still opportunities post-draft. There are always going to be veterans that can come open. A guy pops open every day that you’re surprised that hits the wire. We’ll address all of the positions – not just d-end. It will be linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver. We’ll hit everything all throughout this draft and post-draft.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(You got the guys back into the building this week. Do you have any health updates? How was QB Ryan Tannehill doing? Was everybody able to participate physically that was here?) – “We don’t really have (many) updates as of now. It’s the voluntary part of the program and we’re really encouraged about the attendance. Some guys are still getting some treatment but there really are no definitive updates, as of now.”

Chris Grier:

(Under what circumstances do you not stay with the board?) – “I think the one thing, and just listening to being around from (former New York Jets General Manager) Dick Steinberg to (former Miami Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Bill Parcells to everyone that I’ve worked with that’s had a good track record … Talking to (former Green Bay Packers General Manager) Ron Wolf about all of this stuff. You get in trouble when you start drafting for need and reaching around your board. So we try to stick with that. You try and stay as disciplined as you can to your board. There are always times late in the draft where maybe you say, ‘Hey, this and that.’ But for the most part, with us, we’ll always stick to the board. We’ve done too much work over the last eight months of this to just throw that out and just go with something. So for us, it will always be the board over need.”

(Last year most of us thought you needed a defensive-heavy draft. You still have those same needs, or most of the same needs on defense, but you had an offense-heavy draft. Was that an example of staying with the board and can you give me an example in that situation where the thought process was, ‘Okay, while this is the need, this is the board?’) – “For us I think, again, the first pick was one. We had gone through … We had talked about a lot of defensive players at that point in time and there were still a couple of players that we were interested in then, but the opportunity to take Laremy (Tunsil) for us was too great to pass on. Again, like I told the story last year, my dad was in Houston and they talked about J.J. Watt. They loved J.J. (but the fans wanted them to take) someone else and they got booed mercilessly in Houston. And four years later, J.J. could be the mayor of Houston. He’s considered one of the best players ever. I just think you really have to stay with your board and be very disciplined, and again, we’ve tried to stay with that philosophy.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Has RB Damien Williams signed his tender or indicated that he plans to?) – “As of now, he hasn’t. Beyond that, that’s something you would have to check with Damien (Williams) or his agent.”

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.”

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