Andre Branch – March 10, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, March 10, 2017

Defensive End Andre Branch

(What was the biggest reason that the deal was able to get done?) – “Since I got to Miami, it felt like a family-based organization and I haven’t felt that since college … The fit was just right. We’ve got some unfinished business here down in Miami and I want to be a part of that.”

(I assume there were other teams involved. I know you won’t probably want to say specifically who, but how many teams are in the mix and was there one that was close to Miami and Miami won out because of your familiarity with them?) – “There were quite a few. There were quite a few but I’m very happy to be a Dolphin and I’m very happy to continue playing with my teammates and my brothers.”

(How does this contract impact your life?) – “I talked to my financial guy. I was like, ‘So what different can I do?’ He was like, ‘Um, you really don’t spend money on anything but fashion and food.’ Other than that, I might just eat out a little bit more and buy another item per month, but other than that I’m living a good life already. The only way it’s going to impact is … This contract was for my mother. I’m able to take care of her and give her what she wants. She’ll tell you she doesn’t want anything but I guess I can spoil her now.”

(I’m sure you’ve paid attention to all of the moves the Dolphins have made. A) Are you aware of it? And B) If so, how excited are you to have this talent infusion on defense? You guys obviously at the end of last year were down a bunch of bodies. Now it seems like you’re stocked up.) – “I’ve been noticing the (additions) on the offensive and defensive side. I’ve got my brothers back in Reshad (Jones) and I’ve got Kenny (Stills) back on offense. So for me, it’s awesome we added some key pieces. With the depth now, it should be a very, very good season.”

(What do you believe your ceiling as a player is?) – “I’m just getting started. I didn’t start until Week 7 (last year). So with me, I’m just going to go out there and give it my all and continue to grind and continue to be the best player that I can be to help this team win.”

(NFL fans and NFL media, they judge players who make more money in a certain way. Have you thought about how, now that you make more money, that might view or impact the way that your performance is judged and viewed?) – “At the end of the day, I play for my teammates and my coaches and fans. For me, I’m going to go out there like I’ve done since I stepped in the league and give it my all. Nothing is going to change, that’s for sure. I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business to handle. I know what (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase wants out of me and I know what I’m going to give this team, and that’s going to be my best each and every day. Outside of that, I don’t really know what they say.”

(Do you have any professional goals? Pro Bowl, 10 sacks, anything like that, that you now want to go out and get?) – “I have a ton of goals. I actually set these goals last year and the list has changed now, but I’m not going to say those goals. I’ll let you know at the end of the season if I hit those goals. I think you’ll know if I hit them or not. (laughter)”

Anthony Fasano – March 9, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tight End Anthony Fasano

(How expected was this for you? Did this come out of the blue or was this something you were thinking about?) – “It materialized pretty quickly for me. I always knew there was some interest but different dominoes fell different ways for a couple of different teams. It ended up working out for a great situation for myself.”

(I think Pro Football Focus rated you as the best run blocking tight end in the entire NFL last year. How would you describe why you’re an effective run blocker and how important it is to you?) – “I think it’s an important part of the position – somewhat of a lost art in the NFL nowadays – so it’s something I take great pride in. I do believe to be a good football team you need to be a good running team, and good running teams have good blocking tight ends. It takes everybody on the field on offense, but I take pride in my run blocking. I’m not too up on who keeps those stats but I’ll take them where I can get them.”

(How important was it for you to come back to this organization after the five years you spent here before?) – “It definitely weighed heavy on me when making the decision. I never had ill feelings when I left. I always followed and rooted for them and the guys that I knew on the team. I still live in South Florida during the offseasons. It was a great fit and I look forward to getting to work here.”

(What do you know about Head Coach Adam Gase and how you will fit into his offense?) – “We’re just starting to get to know each other personally. I knew about him just from news around the league and talking to different buddies around the league. I’ve heard all great things and look forward to getting to know him more personally. He’s always had success wherever he’s been. He’s kind of known quietly as the quarterback whisperer. I look forward to getting involved in the offense and picking it up quickly.”

(You were with QB Ryan Tannehill for a year, I believe. What’s your guys’ relationship?) – “We’re still great friends off the field (and) always stay in touch during the season, just checking in on each other. I’ve always been a big fan of him. He was a great teammate for the year that we were teammates and he continues to be a great friend. He was another reason – another decision factor – on why I came back. I really believe in him and the prospects for this team.”

(You said you followed him and followed the Dolphins for the past few years. Have you seen a big change from QB Ryan Tannehill dating back to when you guys were teammates?) – “Yes, I have. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he had a great rookie year when I was here, as well. I had high expectations for him then and he’s just continued to meet them. I look forward to tying to help him out and accomplish our goals together.”

(How would you describe kind of where you are in your career and how would you like your career to end?) – “I’m searching for a playoff run and an opportunity to win the Super Bowl. That’s where I’m at in my career. I’m going into my 12th year and I’m not really concerned about stats or this, that and the other thing. I just want to make a playoff run and get a chance to win a Super Bowl ring.”

(I don’t know how much of a chance you’ve had to study TE Julius Thomas’ game, but what do you know about him?) – “I don’t know much. I know he’s had tremendous success in his career so far. We played in the same division in Jacksonville the last couple of years; but again, I’m looking forward to getting to know him well too. I’ve heard all positive things.”

Reshad Jones – March 9, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Safety Reshad Jones

(When we talked to General Manager Chris Grier last week, he sounded very confident this would get done. Was this a fairly painless process between you and the organization?) – “They kept their word. I’m glad it’s behind me. It’s a surreal moment. I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to be out there with my teammates.”

(Did you have an idea that it would be today? Was it the plan all along that it would happen today?) – “I kind of had an idea. I knew it would be by the end of this week. I wasn’t certain that it would get done today, but I had an idea.”

(How much was this weighing on your mind? As far as you, was this the No. 1 thing on your mind or No. 2 after the shoulder recovery?) – “I think my health is important. It is No. 1, so I wanted to get back healthy and I think I’m pretty much where I need to be. I’ve just got to keep working. (The) contract was probably my No. 2 priority; but I’m glad it’s behind me now. I don’t want to focus on too much. Nothing changes for me in terms of continuing to be consistent and go out there and help this team win football games.”

(How important was it for you to be among the top half-dozen paid safeties in football?) – “I think it was important. I put so much into this game. My hard work and dedication has paid off for me and I’m thankful. I’m grateful.”

(Can you update us a little more specifically on where you are physically?) – “I’ll be ready for camp. I’ll be ready for offseason programs.”

(Can you describe how you see the remainder of your Dolphins career going?) – “I wish I could tell the future but I do know I’m going to give it my all – like I’ve been doing –dedicating myself on and off the field to the game and to the Miami Dolphins. Who knows? I think I have a high ceiling. I just want to continue to be consistent and continue to show I’m one of the best safeties in the game.”

(How much have you followed what’s going on so far in free agency for you guys as far as acquiring TE Julius Thomas at tight end, everything’s that’s happened with Kenny Stills, with Andre Branch? I see the ‘New Miami’ out there. How confident are you about the future of this team and what do you think you guys can do next season?) – “I think our ceiling is very high. I think we’re building something special here. We have to give credit to our staff and (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase putting the right pieces of the puzzle together. I think it’s shaping up pretty well. We just have to continue to work, focus, put our head down and build off what we did last year.”

(Since we’ve seen you, former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph has gotten a head coaching job and Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke has been promoted. What do you think about those two things?) – “I think Coach ‘V.J.’ (Vance Joseph) is well deserving of a head coaching job. Coach Burke is a great coach. I think he’s deserving of a defensive coordinator (position). I’m looking forward to playing a part of it.”

Kenny Stills – March 8, 2017 Download PDF version

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wide Receiver Kenny Stills

(How do you feel about the way this has turned out and why did you want to stay?)  – “Obviously it makes me very happy and  excited for this deal to get done. This is what we wanted from the very beginning and like I said, it’s something we wanted from the start – the fact that I wanted to be back here with this team and we were building something special, and so that’s exactly why I’m back.”

(Did you think you could have gotten more money from another team and how much was a certain amount of money a factor in the negotiations here?) – “You know there’s always opportunities out there – other opportunities – but I was focused on what we’re doing here in Miami and what we’re building here and honestly, that’s really all I cared about.”

(Was staying in Miami something that theoretically would have been worth taking less money for you to do because of how important it was for you to be with this particular team?)  – “Yes, definitely. And that’s something I talk to with the younger guys all the time. It helped that I had two different experiences with two different teams and different head coaches, and I was able to make the best decision that I thought was for me and my family and also something that I knew that I was going to be able to live with in the long run.”

(You’ve obviously been in the league for four years now, but this is kind of life-changing money. It’s your first huge contract in the NFL. Has that kind of set in yet, that your life’s pretty good now?) – “Honestly, I haven’t really thought about that. I’m happy and I’m excited and I think back at some of the low times in my life and the things that I’ve been through and all of the hard work  and sacrifice that myself and a lot of people have put in for me to get to this position, so I’m just thankful. I’m happy to be here. I know it is right.”

(You established yourself as a major player in the community with all the stuff you did in your first two seasons in Miami. What kind of role did your community work and what you do in the community – what you’re able to do here – play in you wanting to stay here?) – “It played a big role. All the relationships that I’ve built here in Miami – every single person in this building, every single person that works for this organization and the fans – from Day 1, have made me feel like I was at home. Like I said, I believe we have something special not only here in this building, but here in Miami. We’re going to continue to build on that the best that we can.”

(When you say that you feel like you guys are building something special, is there one reason for that? Is it Head Coach Adam Gase? Is it the 10-6 finish, the six-game winning streak? Is there one reason or maybe one or two primary reasons you have that feeling?) – “I have that feeling from the top down – from what (Owner) Mr. (Stephen) Ross has invested in this team and all the way to the players and the people in this building. Everybody is working towards one common goal. When you have an organization being ran that way, you have something special, and that’s what I’m talking about.”

(When we saw Head Coach Adam Gase in Indianapolis, he mentioned that some days he felt good about you coming back. Some days he said he felt like crap about you coming back. He said he hates free agency. He said that he has a very special relationship with you. How would you describe the role that Coach Gase played in your decision to want to come back? What is it about him that allows you guys to connect?) – “It’s tough. I would echo what he said about the free agency process. It’s tough, and we – day-by-day – had these different ups and downs and feeling like if it was going to get done or not. Our relationship is unique, because of him, and he allows that with this team and with the guys on this team. I feel like that’s a part of this building being special. He really, genuinely cares about us and is looking out for us and wants what’s in our best interest. So, it makes it easy to play for a guy like that.

(I’m sure you don’t want to talk too much about negotiations, but I wanted to ask you how many other teams called about you, how many teams you seriously considered, and if there is a … Philadelphia is obviously a name that we heard thrown out there. Was that accurate?) – “You can’t believe everything that you read, but a majority of what was out there was pretty true. We had three major players in this. Like I said, I felt like Miami was the best place for me.”

Adam Gase – March 2, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Head Coach Adam Gase (transcribed by the Pro Football Writers Association)

(How did LT Branden Albert perform season) – “Branden had a good year. For what we were asking him to do it was probably a little bit different scheme. With the outside zone he was really good in protection. I think him getting injured and coming back and really playing hurt toward that back half of the season was very impressive. It showed great toughness and leadership, showing those other guys that you might not be 100 percent but you’ve got to play through the pain.”

(Laremy Tunsil ready for LT?) – “I feel really good about where he’s at right now. He did a good job going to a position he’s never played before. We’ll see how that transition goes. It’s going to be more about health, keeping whoever our five are healthy. If we do that, that whole group, whoever we end up putting in those pieces, we should have a good group there.”

(See from WR DeVante Parker this offseason, expectations next season) – “I think just consistency. That day in, day out. Coming in the office at the right time, making sure that you’re doing every little detail right. It’s one of those things that some of us that have been around some really good players take for granted. He’s just got to understand everything he does is important. It’s a trust level with everyone in the building. If you tell someone you’re going to be there at 11 o’clock to lift, be there. Don’t call in and ‘Hey, I’m not going to show up today.’ He’s done a good job at the end of the season and what he’s been doing it sounds like so far is he’s doing good with just staying with his regimen. And that’s how he had some success last year. He had three really good weeks in practice and everything he did during the day in meetings and that’s why he was able to have good games. That’s what we need from him, we just need that consistency.”

(What about WR Leonte Carroo) – “We’ve just got to keep bringing him along. When you’re trying to figure a guy out that’s not in your top three it’s always as easy as you’d think. The longer I’d been around him the more we’ve kind of figured out how we need to use him. He’s done a good job trying to figure out his role on special teams and where he really fits in with those receivers. With free agency it is where it is right now. We’ve got to figure out where’s he going to fit it? Do we still have (WR) Kenny (Stills)? Are we going to lose him? We’re not sure about that. So our group, our young guys have got to be ready to step up.”

(Where do you start in building the run defense) – “I’d like to say up front but we’ve got a pretty good front. So we’ve got to make sure we do a good job with our linebackers. We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got our safeties healthy and those guys have got to be huge contributors to what we’re going to do. We’ve got to get some more guys to help (LB) Kiko (Alonso) out. We’ve got to keep him healthy. I think that front four is pretty good as far as what we have right now. We need some consistency out of (DT) Jordan (Phillips), which I think we’re going to get this year. I like where our D-ends are at right now. Obviously, (DT Ndamukong) Suh, I don’t have to talk about him because he’s probably the best in the business. And if we can get a couple of more D-ends to help out what we already have that would be very helpful for us.”

(Comfortable with DT Jordan Phillips playing 45-50 snaps a game) – “That’s where he we need to get. He knows it. We talked about it before the end of last season that we need to get his reps up. Twenty five plays a game is not really going to do anything for us. We need his snaps to get up, we have shorten snaps on defense altogether and that starts with the offense holding onto the ball and the defense getting off the field on third down. If we can do that it’s going to be better for us as a whole team. So if we can get Jordan to that 45, 50 snaps per game, that’s what we’re looking for.”

(How do you feel about WR Kenny Stills returning) – “I don’t know. One day I feel good about it, one day I feel like crap about it. I hate free agency. You just want to get your guys back. Kenny and myself have a very close relationship. The worst thing about the NFL is sometimes that doesn’t matter. Sometimes the money is what guys are looking for. Kenny, obviously, he’d love to stay here but he’s going to stay for the right price and what’s comfortable for him and I don’t think anybody would blame him for that.”

(If Jay Ajayi will be their featured back in 2017) – “I think so. I think he was really that for us last year. We were trying to use all three of those guys because they’re different skill sets and they’re good. We do need more snaps on offense, which would entail him getting more carries. He did a great job off coming along last year. We really felt good with the run scheme we were doing, just sticking his foot in the ground and getting vertical and running through tackles. If he didn’t lead the league, he was up there in yards after contact. It was really a great thing to see, his development throughout the year. Hopefully we can go even further with the passing game. He did a do good job of improving in that area. Hopefully we can take an even bigger step.”

(How his opinion of Ryan Tannehill has changed in the last year) – “I don’t know how much it’s changed. I think it’s really probably more perception for everyone else outside. I was able to just be with him that spring and see who he was and how he went about his business, his athletic ability and his ability to be accurate and throw down the field. It was really a matter of time of just showing it in a game. Which he did. We went through some rough times early in the season. I probably put it more on myself than him. It was us trying to figure each other out, all the guys on offense trying to figure each other out. As we got going and we kind of rolled a little bit last year, he really played well and did exactly what we needed him to do. Guys made plays when they had to, third downs there were some plays that he made there, and ad libbed a lot during the season. When he got hurt, I think that was an even bigger development for him. Just seeing him in meetings. I told him in the season, ‘You’re actually going to grow for the better because of this.’ He took a different mentality in our meetings. You saw him teaching, coaching a little more, and guys accepting it. That was probably a good thing for him, even though for all of us to watch him in a cast and on crutches. At the end of the day, it was probably good for him.”

(Concerned about Tannehill’s mobility?) – “No. He feels good about it. He feels good about the brace he’s going to wear. I’m not worried about it.”

(If he was surprised to lose Vance Joseph after just one year as defensive coordinator) – “Not really. We kind of, when we hired him, we knew that there was a possibility this could happen. I’ve known Vance for a long time. This was my eighth year kind of being around him. The relationship we’ve had, we worked together in 2008. And then being around him as a defensive coordinator, I was not going to be shocked. I knew there were some jobs open. He was a guy that people were going to want to talk to. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘It would be hard for a team to turn him down.’ When he gets in a room, his presence and the command he has around people, that would be a tough guy to walk away from and be like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to hire him.’ Anybody would have been running to try to grab him up.”

(If Joseph’s presence in the room is his best asset) – “I think it’s one of his best assets. But I would say his football IQ and the things he does schematically are very good as well.”

(Why Mario Williams didn’t pan out in Miami) –  “I think it was, Mario went through a lot of things that we kind of kept in-house early in the season. It really was some personal things. It seemed like one thing after another that was going on with him, and he probably didn’t have as great a spring as he wanted to, and when he came back for training camp, at his age, I think it caught up to him a little bit. He was fighting to get in great shape and make sure [he was doing] the injury prevention type thing. It was one of those years that it just didn’t work out for him it didn’t work out for us. I know that he was trying to do everything he could to contribute. It just wasn’t his year for him with us and vice versa.”

(If he saw pass-catching tight end as a glaring need during his postseason evaluation) – “Not really. We liked where our guys were at. There were some things that I wanted to really try to do with Jordan [Cameron] at the beginning of the season. I couldn’t really click with him. I was trying to figure out what was best. I don’t know how many times I went back and watched Cleveland tape the year he had 80 catches to see what was I doing wrong, what did I have to try to do. We tried to emphasize that a little more as we got going. And when we lost him, I think Dion [Sims] did exactly what we needed him to do. I think we held him back a little bit and didn’t let him do some of the things that he probably could have done more of. We’ll see what goes on moving forward. I’ve got an idea of what we want to do. Obviously, I have to wait until March 9. I kind of know what you’re leaning toward here. There’s a good plan in place.”

(Is there a difference in Year 2 working with a QB?) – “Yeah. After that first year, you really feel more comfortable—especially as a player, to be able to go through things that you want to see more and what you want to do and the point of emphasis that you want to do during practice. Then when you head into games, you know exactly what you want called. I think Ryan is really comfortable with what he wants now and he’s not gonna be afraid to communicate it with me. I think even towards the end of last year he was really good at making sure I knew what he felt about what we were doing, and if I called something he didn’t like, he wasn’t afraid to let me know, which is good and bad. Quarterbacks that I’ve been around that are aggressive will let you know when they don’t like something, and that’s where I want him to be and I want him to feel like this is his and he can say whatever he wants when he needs to say it and I’m gonna be able to react to it. At the end of the day, he’s playing and I’m not. Our job is to put him in the best position possible along with the rest of our players.”

(Cam Wake’s role in 2017) – “We’d like to do, really, what we kind of wanted to do last year. We just kept getting in positions to where we were so far behind that the other team could just run it and we weren’t doing a good job of rotating him in there and making sure that he was getting the amount of snaps that he needed. Obviously we want him to be the starter. We would like him to really play the downs that are gonna matter. We’d like to have him in there more on pass-rush downs. If we could actually get a lead, that would be nice to let him rush the passer. We need to do some retooling on both sides of the ball to make sure that we’re giving our offense more plays and our defense less plays, and we actually need to play with a lead.”

(How’d you establish a ‘tough love’ voice as a rookie head coach?) – “I just felt like I was gonna do exactly what I’ve always done, and that’s just—The brutal honesty part, you try to stick with that. Just communicate with guys. Just don’t lie to players. That’s the first thing I learned when got in this profession: tell them the truth, tell them straight. Foxy (John Fox) always told me just don’t B.S. them. Tell them exactly what you want and hit them between the eyes, and they’ll respect that. They might not like it, but they’ll get over it.”

(Kenyan Drake’s rookie year) – “He had some good days and some bad days. He did a great job when we got him in the game. He made some plays. He’s a guy that we’re looking to lean on a little bit more next year. We’d like to find some ways to get him and Damien in, but at the same time not take away from Jay. We have three really talented players at the running back position that we’d like to find ways to get in the game. Kenyan’s somebody that we’re really interested in trying to find some good matchups for.”

(Secondary needs another veteran corner?) – “I think our secondary will take whatever help they can get right now. As many corners as you can get, and safeties—I think the way the league’s going right now, you better have guys that can play both post safety and come down and tackle and at corner you need as many as you can. You saw last year, it felt like somebody was out every week. The more corners we can get, the better. I like the guys we have right now. I love how they work. I love the way they’ve been trying to get better, but at the end of the day we just need more bodies.”

(Chris Grier’s role in the draft?) – “He’s the guy we really lean on to organize everything and then on draft day, he’s the guy that sets it up. We’re really leaning on his choice. We feel comfortable with the roles that we all have. I know a lot of people see three of us working together and always think, ‘How can that work?’ but we do a good job of communicating and everybody doing their job. I’d say Chris has got way more of an ego than he puts on. That’s a good thing. He does a great job with how we organize everything and really puts all that stuff together. He’s somebody that’s probably a voice of reason for me and Mike (Tannenbaum).”

(Some players weren’t invited to the Combine because off-field issues) – “No chance you’re getting me to answer this.”

Chris Grier – March 2, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, March 2, 2017

General Manager Chris Grier

(The biggest benefit of the Combine for you guys is what?) – “To begin to know the players as people. Right now, it’s a lot of video and from what we’ve studied at the campus visits and you get from talking to the coaches so this our … We get to spend time with the people face-to-face and the players and just trying to really get to know the core … Do they love football, the football intelligence and stuff. The workout stuff is fine but as (Bill) Parcells called it, the underwear Olympics. The tape is really who the player is. This part is just trying to get to know the player.”

(Do you recall anybody who after the Combine you said, ‘Alright now after meeting them and seeing them, he’s the guy?’) – “You know for us, just last year what was interesting was Xavien Howard. Like Xavien (Howard) for us here, didn’t have a great interview. It was one of those, it was at like 10:45 at night and so he’d already had like 20 interviews during the day, so he was wiped out and we were just like, let’s bring him back in and spend some more time and get to know him. And we brought him back in to Davie and he had a great interview. You know you could see he was energized. He wasn’t worn out through the whole process. This is a grind for these guys going through this for three days. So he did a great job for us and then we were fortunate to end up picking him in the second round.”

(Is there anything in particular you want to hear from those guys when you do the interviews? Any message? Something that really sticks in your mind?) – “For us, it’s really guys that love to compete and love football. I say nowadays with the money and the kids getting paid, you see a lot of these juniors leaving school early. And a lot of the times now you’re not sure if it’s the right reasons why they’re leaving. If it’s … They all want to get to that second contract first and stuff. But for us, that’s not important. We want to hear, ‘I love football. This is what I want to do.’ Maybe a guy accomplished everything he could in college at that point in time but for us, it’s really that and the football intelligence. We just have to keep building a smarter team, a team that – you know I hate to keep saying it but New England does a great job of finding those guys that are really smart and fit their scheme and program what they do and their beliefs. So that’s what we’re trying to keep building here.”

(Where do you stand with WR Kenny Stills?) – “With Kenny, we’re still talking to him. He’s earned the right to be a free agent. Kenny’s a very important part for us. We all feel that he contributed greatly to our success last year and hopefully we’ll get something done here. But like I said, with all these guys, you can’t be mad at them. He’s earned the right to get to free agency and hopefully we’ll get something done.”

(Obviously you guys have had conversations with him. The numbers aren’t close? Is that fair?) – “No, I wouldn’t say that. I would say we’ve been talking but in terms of numbers, you know I could throw (something like) ‘This guy is going to make 15 million’ out there. It takes one team but for right now, we’ve been talking. It’s been good dialogue back and forth.”

(Do you guys have a number in mind for WR Kenny Stills or that still kind of in flux? Have you given him something and you’re waiting for a response?) – “We’ve been talking, like I said, back and forth. I don’t think there’s any real numbers. We’ve talked back and forth and we kind of know what the agent wants and what we think. But with any negotiation, everyone’s going to ask for the moon and the team’s going to come in and try to low ball them (laughing). But again, it’s just bartering back and forth.”

(What about DE Andre Branch? Where do things stand with him?) – “It’s the same. Andre, we’ve been in communication with his agent. We’ve talking back and forth and again, (the agent) just wanted to see where the market was. So we’re just dealing with it right now but we want Andre back. He did a nice job for us so hopefully we’ll get something done there.”

(Does it seem likely that he’ll test his worth on the free agent market March 9?) – “I think you’d have to ask him that. Like I said, we’ve been talking and like I said,, we’ve been going back and forth a little bit; but the agent, and you know, it’s their job. They want to see what the market is.”

(How would you describe the organizational depth at the defensive end position at this time?) – “I think extending Cam (Cameron Wake) was good and Terrence Fede is a good piece for us there on the back end. We need to add pieces there, obviously. It’s a position that we’ll have to address in the draft and free agency.”

(What do you think of the most important attributes, especially as you consider scheme and culture for your organization, evaluating defensive ends?) – “For us, we always talk about the prototypes. But like, Cam Wake, is not a prototype player, and he’s an elite player in this league. For us again, it’s the production, the athletic ability, the passion. Does the guy compete? Play hard? The ability to play against the run also is important. But nowadays, defensive ends, all the guys that are getting paid are these guys that can rush the passer. We’re no different than every team in looking for those qualities.”

(How would you describe the depth of players who are able to affect the quarterback in this draft?) – “I think it’s a good draft in terms of defensive ends. There are a lot of guys that have come out that have been productive players, a lot of guys that are one-year producers; but I think in terms of athletic ability, size and potential down the road as well, it’s a good class.”

(Can you explain your rationale for making the move at left tackle, putting G/T Laremy Tunsil in there and moving on T Branden Albert?) – “Yes. ‘B.A.’ (Branden Albert) did a great job for us while he was here. He’s a true pro. I think he did a great job mentoring Laremy last year at guard; but for us, we just felt it was time to let Laremy go to left tackle. He’s played that his whole life and for us, I know Laremy was very excited for the move to left tackle and for us, we think he’ll be a very good player there.”

(The last few years you guys haven’t spent to get to the cap and obviously you have the rollover and you kept it. Do you think you’ll spend to the cap this year and do you think that maybe if you had last year, you would have had a little more depth down the stretch when you guys were running out of bodies?) – “Like I said, last year I think that our guys, the pro scouts (Director, Pro Personnel) Anthony Hunt, (Director, Player Personnel) Joe Schoen and the rest, (Pro Scouts) Max Gruder and Chris Rossetti did a great job in terms of finding those guys, like the (Donald) Butler’s that came in for us at linebacker. But I don’t think spending to the cap every year is what you have to do to be successful. I mean you look at some of the teams that are winning, they’re not spending (to the cap). Here, for so long, we always, you know (signed) the big fish, go out and spend all the money on everybody and for us, we’re just trying to build the team the right way and trying to spread it out now with us. I don’t think … We have no set plan in terms of how much we’re going to spend but we’re just working right now on our plan of who we’re going to target in free agency.”

(We all saw stories about QB Ryan Tannehill and his knee. Is there anything official you can tell us about whether he will require surgery and whether he will be available for the offseason program?) – “Ryan (Tannehill) has done a tremendous job working. He’ll be there in April when he starts with his teammates. He’s fine. He’s good. I saw him the other day and he’s working out. He’s doing great, so he’ll be healthy. He’s ready to go and I know he’s excited for next year.”

(You got more ammunition with the compensatory picks. Just how big is that in helping through this draft and then were you a little bit, were you expecting to get all you got?) – “We kind of talked about it a little bit because we knew losing ‘O.V.’ (Olivier Vernon), Lamar (Miller) and Rishard (Matthews) and the guys that we lost, that we were getting those compensatory picks. We had a good idea we were going to get the third rounder. We weren’t sure if it was going to be a fourth, fifth or whatever. So we made some moves last year. We kind of knew we were having picks coming. But for us, this year, it’s huge for us. The two fifth (roundres) and then obviously the third (compensatory pick is) the first one in the third (round). Those will be valuable picks for us.”

(With linebacker as a need position, how does Koa Misi possibly fit into the future?) — “Koa (Misi) right now is coming off a significant neck surgery, so we just have to see where it is; but right now he’s in our plans and we’ll see. He’s got a checkup again in May. So it will be probably the first time we’ll really know where he’ll stand in terms of his football career going forward.”

(How enthusiastic could you and the organization be about possibly extending LB Kiko Alonso and how do you feel he schematically fits into this defense?) – “When we made the trade for Kiko, we felt really good about him. He’s a player that we had liked when he came out of college. He had the good rookie year in Buffalo and for us, he’s an important piece. I think for the community, as you can see if you follow him on Twitter, he’s on Telemundo and everything doing great. He’s an important piece and we’ll start talking to him and his agent here soon about trying to do something to extend him in the future.”

(Is LB Kiko Alonso likely a middle linebacker if all things were in the best situation?) – “I think Kiko’s flexibility is the best thing about him. He can play Mike, Sam, Will, he can play all those. For us, he allows us to just pick the best players. So if he ends up at middle linebacker again next year, he’ll be surrounded by good players on the outside. But if he moves to Will, which is what he played there in Buffalo, then either one. So with us, right now, it’s really not an issue.”

(How is S Isa Abdul-Quddus recovering after his surgery?) – “Isa is doing good. He’s going through the rehab process. (He’s a) great kid. Right now he’s just still working, working with our doctors, and we’ll just see what happens here over the next couple of months.”

(Is it a potentially career threatening situation with Isa Abdul-Quddus?) – “Right now they’re still trying to work through it because it was a significant shoulder injury he had. So right now we’re just still dealing with the doctors working through it.”

(Can you explain a little bit about how you guys operate, you and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and Head Coach Adam Gase with regards to the draft? Is there one guy who’s kind of the point man for that and how do you guys make decisions when you’re in the room?) – “With the draft it’s, in terms of that, I’m in charge. I work with the scouts, set the board, set the value and then Mike  is in all of the meetings. He sits in with us and then after Mike, Adam and I will always go through and talk about the day and we’ll go through how we see the board. But you know Adam looks at the players that I tell him to look at because he doesn’t have time to look at all the players. The one great thing about Adam is he’s like, ‘Listen, whoever you want to look at, whoever you want me to look at, just tell me.’ And he’s like, ‘Whatever you believe in, I trust you,’ and he said we did great last year and let’s go. But the one good thing like I said, I don’t want to come out with like ‘I’m running it,’ because the three of us really do. It’s really a great relationship we have and that we all trust each other. You know Mike is great in terms of … Mike is like ‘Hey, go ahead. Do it.’ And Adam’s like, ‘Great,’ but it’s still, everything I do I’m talking with them through everything.”

(So if there’s a log jam or something like that, are you the guy that has the tiebreaking vote or who has the final call?) – “Yes, at the end of the day. But there’s really not a log jam or anything. We’ve talked through every scenario. Even last year when Laremy (Tunsil) came up, it was like, we’re sitting there and (Owner) Steve (Ross) is like, ‘Do we take this guy?’ And I said ‘Yes, I would.’ I said, ‘We’ve done our work on him.’ And then (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) said, ‘Yes, I would.’ Then (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) was like typing and didn’t even look up and was like, ‘Take him.’ (laughter) Again, you have all those discussions before the draft so that really draft day is easy, you just kind of listen to the board.”

(I know you want to have the flexibility for when things like that happen that are unexpected. But do you go in with kind of an order of what positions you want to take of this is what we need in the first round, this is what we need in the second, position-wise?) – “I think you always have to be aware of your needs in terms of building your team. But especially in the first two rounds, I think you always have to take the best player. The opportunity for Laremy Tunsil that falls, that wasn’t our No. 1 need, we had ‘B.A.’ but we’re like, ‘We can’t pass on this guy falling to 13.’ You have to set your board and what you believe but you’ll always work around in terms of needs, depending on like we’re down at 22 now, you’re just waiting to see who falls to you.”

(Two things on the Combine. One, some players aren’t allowed to be here because of stuff in their past. What do you think about that rule? Is it fair? Is it good?) – “Unfortunately, it’s a league rule. It’s a league issue and so we just have to abide by what they say. At the end of the day, I think every team will do their homework on the players after school or hometown, in terms of that. But again, it’s a privilege to play in the NFL and so the league has chosen this rule as a way to try and steer behavior in the right way.”

(Fans will be allowed to watch the bench press. Will that have any effect on the players? Make them nervous, make them more hyped do you think? Any difference at all?) – “The good thing is I think you’ll see the competitive nature of guys come out. You’ll have a guy that’s like, ‘I don’t want to bench.’ They’re like, ‘Oh why didn’t you bench? Were you nervous people are watching?’ and then of course you have the guys who love being in front of the camera and they’ll jump up in there and they may bench three times but they won’t care. They’ll feel good about it that they went up and competed so it’s good the fans get to see a glimpse of what goes on here at the Combine.”

(Where do things stand with S Reshad Jones? I know obviously he missed the spring because of his contract and that was with two years left. Now with one year left, do you anticipate him missing time again this spring?)  – “No, I don’t think so. He’s had a great rehab. He looks like he never missed a day. I wish I had his genetics. My wife would really be happy. (laughter) But with him, we anticipate him being there. He and (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase developed a really good relationship. Reshad and I, coming out of college, I went and spent the day with him before the draft. So he and I have a really good relationship because it was a great story. We went down there and they sent me down to spend some time with him and we spent all day hanging out at Georgia and I told him, ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ He said, ‘I’m going second round.’ I was like, ‘You’ll be a fifth-round pick.’ And he’ll tell you the story. He didn’t believe me and I was like, ‘Listen, there are just things out there that you do and it’s what you put on film. And I think you’re second-round talent but you’re not going to go (there).’ And so I call him up on draft day and I go, ‘Hey, remember?’ and he goes, ‘Yeah.’ And he had a chip on his shoulder ready to prove everyone wrong. So he and I have a good relationship because I never lied to him. He and I talked but he’ll be here. I think he loves being here. I think he and Coach Gase have a great relationship.”

(Do you expect to get S Reshad Jones’ contract done before the start of the season?) – “I think we’re working towards it right now. We’re talking with his agent and they’re going back and forth. Obviously, with the (Kansas City Chiefs S) Eric Berry deal getting done, that may help speed things up here too.”

(Same question about Jarvis. WR Jarvis Landry, do you anticipate getting anything done?) – “We’re talking to his agent a little bit but we haven’t (gotten anything done) right now. Right now he’s still another year out and so we’re just trying to make sure we can take care of these other guys; but Jarvis is a very important piece obviously. He’s big in South Florida and has an unbelievable passion and love for the game, so he’[s an important part for us. Hopefully we’ll get something done here in the near future.”

(Any decision yet on picking up the fifth-year option for T Ja’Wuan James?) – “We’ve been talking about it but nothing officially has been decided yet.”

(The offseason philosophy as far as one big fish or a few medium fish – forgive the terminology – do you have a preference or does the organization have a philosophy?)  – “I think it’s about being able to take advantage of the opportunities that come. We’re fortunate to live in Miami and now we have a little bit of buzz. We have a head coach that a lot of players around the league like and have heard. So having the flexibility, if it’s a big fish to get him, but you’re still trying to build the team and you want to take care of your own as well. For us, we just want to take care of our guys first and we’ll build. But we’ll definitely be active. To what level right now, we still haven’t decided.”

(Did I read your dad Bobby Grier is part of the team now? Is that correct?) – “(Laughter) He’s a consultant. He’s retired. You know how it is, once he got here. Actually, my dad coached (Head Coach) Adam Gase’s dad at Eastern Michigan for a year, which they didn’t know that until Adam took the job and we were talking. But yes, he does some consultant work for us on the side.”

(Is Bobby Grier down in Davie or is he…?) – “He’s come down before. He bops in and out. Nothing scheduled. But he bops in and out. He comes in for some meetings and stuff.”

(How’s that working with your dad?) – “It’s good. I get to be in charge for the first time. (laughter) I said for all those years … But it’s been fun working with him. The last time we were together was at New England years ago, so it’s been fun.”

(Improving the run defense, is there a priority for a 4-3? Do you start at middle linebacker? Do you start trying to be strong up the middle? How do you address this?) – “I think it’s really at all levels. We need better play of the linebacker group and the front four would probably tell you they need to play better as well. Again, we’ll probably do some things schematically that may help too, as well, so yes. Again, competing, doing your assignments right, there are times and the players will tell you that fits weren’t right so it opens up things. Again, it’s just us being smarter, more competitive and making sure that we can get this thing fixed going forward.”

(So you aren’t necessarily looking at it as the No. 1 thing is find a middle linebacker?) – “No, we have a lot of needs on defense right now, as you know. That’s one of them;  but we’re still trying to … We have a lot of things on defense we need to fix.”

Jason Taylor – February 9, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Defensive End/Linebacker Jason Taylor

(Opening statement) – “First of all, I apologize for making you guys wait. Some things never change. (laughter) I want to thank everyone for being here. It’s obviously a huge honor. I couldn’t be happier; I couldn’t be more surprised, but what a great experience we had in Houston. I had the chance to take my sons with me so Isaiah and Mason got to see it all and experience the whole ride and the emotion of sitting around waiting. Obviously, to get the knock on the door, to go into the Hall of Fame, it’s the pinnacle of what we do in professional sports, the pinnacle of professional football. I can’t be more elated to be in the Hall of Fame with the other nine Miami Dolphins that are there. One of my best friends and mentors for so many years and a guy I look up to, even to this day, Dan Marino, is here today. When I came in, in ’97, I used to sit across the locker room and look at Dan, knowing who he was, what he was, what he meant to Miami and to the National Football League. I’m not on Dan’s level but I’m a Hall of Famer like Dan Marino and that just blows my mind. I still have not grasped it yet because it’s been a whirlwind. As you can see, I’m way behind schedule, as I’m here an hour late; but I owe a lot of people thanks – and this will all go over the next six or seven months, to get a chance to thank everybody, hopefully individually – but if I don’t get to see them, I’ll have a speech in Canton and touch on them there. But (President and Chief Executive Officer) Tom Garfinkel and (Senior Vice President, Special Projects and Alumni Relations) Nat Moore had a chance to be in the room in Houston, and (Senior Director, Video and Game Day Production) Jeff Griffith, had a chance to be there and experience the anticipation, the nervousness. My daughter called at like 4:30 p.m. and when the phone rang, everyone kind of got real quiet; but thank God it was her and not somebody else from the Hall of Fame saying, ‘You didn’t make it.’ I want to thank (Vice President of Historical Affairs) Harvey Greene and (Senior Director, Digital and Print Media) Scott Stone who have done a ton of work, and (Executive Director of the Jason Taylor Foundation) Seth Levit, who did a ton of work putting together stats and information from my body of work for 15 years. These guys are good. They came up with stuff that I didn’t know – numbers that I had not been aware of. As a defensive end, you know how many sacks you have, you know how many touchdowns you have, but it’s the game changing and affecting plays that I was lucky enough to make. These guys worked tirelessly to put together to present to the Hall of Fame selectors. I want to thank the selectors as well. (Miami Herald Columnist) Armando Salguero did the presentation there in Houston and 80 percent of that group felt I was worthy to go into the Hall of Fame. So as I said, I’m still trying to figure it all out but, as everyone has told me since then, I keep telling them that I can’t believe it. They’re like ‘Look, they can’t take it back now.’ So those 48 selectors, I owe them all dinner, or whoever selected me. One guy – there’s a bunch of guys that made it possible as teammates – and one guy that’s in the room here and I’ll touch on others I’m sure in the answers later, but Sam Madison. I said this in Houston at the press conference, with Sam Madison and Pat Surtain playing defense – playing man-to-man defense on the outside – I could teach anybody in this room how to get to the quarterback. When you get eight or nine seconds to get there to make plays, it makes it so much easier. Zach Thomas, Tim Bowens, Trace Armstrong, I mean the list goes on. I don’t want to exclude anybody but the guys that I played with over the years, offensively and defensively, made this possible. There are so many things we take away from different teammates, no matter what side of the ball they are on. I’ve always said that I was the lucky recipient of making plays and getting a chance to stand up in front of the media and talk about it, and get my picture out there and my name out there and all of that. But there were some guys that really, really grind that don’t get credit, that don’t get seen, that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I had a chance … I was walking around the NFL Experience Friday night with my sons in Houston and got a call from Tim Bowens. Tim Bowens is the man. To get a call from … he actually texted Seth (Levit), who works over at the office, and told Seth to tell me congrats; and Seth said why don’t you just call him, you have his number. He’s like, ‘Man, he never answers the phone.’ So when the phone rang an hour later at the Experience, I had to answer it. But it was crazy in there with fans and people and trying to keep track of my kids but I answered the call and Tim was like, ‘Man, what the heck are you doing answering the phone?’ But it was good to get a chance to talk to him and then he texted me obviously after I got selected. I want to thank (Executive Vice President, Football Operations) Mike Tannenbaum and everybody here at the Dolphins organization for always making me feel at home. This was home for 13 of my 15 years and even when I played for the Jets and for Washington, this was always home. I could always come back here. I see (Team Security Emeritus) Stu (Weinstein) in the back. Stu was always welcoming and this is home. I can’t even put into words how much this means to me as a player, as an individual, as a Miami Dolphin, to my family and all of the hundreds and hundreds of my teammates that I’ve had throughout the years. My bust is going to be in Canton but Sam Madison, Dan Marino, Pat Surtain, Zach Thomas, Richmond Webb – another guy that should be in Canton – Tim Bowens, Daryl Gardener, Adewale Ogunleye, the list goes on of guys that are all a piece of that bust as well, because without them, there is no me. So with that being said, I guess I’ll open it up for questions.”

(You said when you were drafted in 1997, correct me if I’m wrong, you were hoping to just make the practice squad? And if I could follow up, you keep saying you were surprised that you got in. Were you surprised because it’s on the first ballot?) – “To your first question in 1997, when I was leaving college, I wanted to come in the NFL and be on the practice squad, cover kicks, whatever. It’s funny to think back now that I would be willing to cover kickoffs back in 1997, but that’s how desperate I was to get into the league. You get picked in the third round, you kind of figure out that you’re going to be here for a minute. They don’t usually cut third-rounders, but Jimmy Johnson would. But yes, I just had to find my way. Football was still new to me. I was only six years into playing the game in my life. I didn’t start as a young kid, so it was still new to me and I had to figure out with the weight issues. ‘Can he play at 240? Can he put his hand in the dirt?’ All of those things. I would do anything to be in the league at that point. When you’re coming out of college, coming out of Akron, I had 25 bucks in my pocket and I probably owed somebody 10 bucks so I was down to 15 dollars. You’d do anything to get on the practice squad and make seven grand a week. But never did I think that 20 years later, I’d be standing here for sure. What was the other part of your question?”

(You keep saying that you’re surprised that you got in on the first ballot.) – “I am. You look historically at the guys who have … Correct me if I’m wrong, I think the other defensive ends to go in on the first ballot were Bruce Smith and Reggie White? Is that right? Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Jason Taylor? I just never put myself in their class. I didn’t win a championship, and I thought that would come up, but for whatever reason, maybe I was playing mind tricks on myself and trying to talk myself into not worrying about it so much. I really wasn’t worried about it. I thought that it would happen one day maybe. I thought that it probably should happen one day because based on the numbers and where I finished in the overall list of sacks and game-changing plays and other things. But I went to Houston expecting to fly out Sunday morning and come back to Miami. I would go to the awards show, congratulate the guys that made it, but my plan was to change my flight and come home early. My kids, they’re kids, but they’re like, ‘Dad, we’re not coming home early. We’re not going home until Monday night.’ They expected it, but they love Dad and they support Dad regardless. My son kept saying, he probably said it when Nat (Moore) and Tom (Garfinkel) and those guys were in the room. He told me all day Saturday, my youngest son Mason kept saying ‘Dad, if you don’t believe it, you can’t achieve it.’ And it’s funny he said that, because it’s things that I say to the teams that I coach and the kids that I coach. We’ve heard it for years, but I didn’t expect to get the knock on the door. The look of shock and surprise was genuine. It was not … Even when we went to the awards show and they announced it on stage at the NFL honors, I was standing backstage with Jerry (Jones) and ‘L.T.’ (LaDainian Tomlinson) and the rest of those guys. ‘L.T.’ we all knew was going to go in. ‘L.T.’ was a given and he still had that look of awe and surprise a little bit. It’s a big moment, so it’s a lot of weight; but I’m looking at Jerry and ‘L.T.’ as they’re calling our names about to walk on the stage and I’m like, is this real? Are we really doing this? It’s really cool to be able to go in on that first ballot and not have to deal with the emotions that Morten Anderson and Joe Jacoby and some of these other guys have had to deal. John Lynch, I was with John Lynch a lot on Friday night talking about it. So it was really cool.”

(What did it mean to you that Patriots QB Tom Brady wrote a letter of endorsement for you? He called you the most tenacious defender in the league.) – “It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty humbling that a guy of Brady’s caliber … We know his resume and his body of work and how much weight he carries in this league. You play this game for a lot of different reasons. The number one reason is to win. And you want the respect of the fans and the media and everyone that plays, but there is nothing better than hearing from your peers – the guys that are in the trenches and doing it as well and putting the time and the work in over the years and understanding what it takes to play this game at a high level. So to get that respect from someone like a Tom Brady … I saw a lot of comments. The letter from Brady was ridiculous. It was humbling. We had a lot of battles. But I see comments from Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace and Bill Polian and all of these guys that are so lofty in this league and it’s really humbling to get those kinds of comments from guys.”

(I know it’s very soon since you were voted in but 1: Have you picked who is going to present you? And 2: What do you suspect the theme of your speech will be when you get to Canton?) – “Man, you are way ahead of me. You are so far ahead of me. (laughter) No, and I don’t know. I haven’t picked a presenter yet. Literally, I got the news Saturday night, went to the game Sunday, did all of the orientation and measurements and stuff on Monday, got home late Monday night, my son had surgery at six in the morning on Tuesday and then it has just been non-stop. I haven’t had an hour where I’ve sat down yet and really took it in. When I get home at night, I just go to bed and try to get as much sleep as I can and kind of pound the pavement the next day. I’ll figure those things out. I’ll talk to a bunch of guys that are in. I’ll go have a bite to eat with Dan (Marino) hopefully and get a lot of direction with him but the theme, I didn’t even know there was supposed to be a theme. This is all new, man. I have a lot of people to thank and they give you, I don’t know … How long did you talk Dan?”

Dan Marino:

“Fifteen minutes.”

Jason Taylor:

“Dan talked 15 minutes; they give you eight. The try to stress to keep it to eight but I don’t know how you get everybody in eight minutes. There are just so many people that make this engine run from upstairs, the administrators and assistants and coaches and equipment guys and security guys and trainers. There are a thousand people to thank and unfortunately, you only get so much time. So we’ll figure it out.”

(If you could make a case for LB Zach Thomas to join you at some point, what would it be? And do you think it’s going to happen for him?) – “I said this too in Houston, there are a handful of guys … There are a lot people that, like I said, made me who I am. There are a handful of guys that I’ve played with that are elite status as far as players, people, competitors, teammates, and Zach Thomas is No. 1 on that list. He made everybody that played with him better. He’s one of those guys that I think never got the respect he deserved. He never got the attention he deserved. To me, is he a Hall of Famer? Absolutely. Because again, without Zach, there is no way in the world I’m standing here right now. Without Sam (Madison) and without Pat (Surtain), there’s a handful of guys that there’s absolutely no way – Trace Armstrong – that I’m here without them. Richmond Webb. Richmond Webb and Zach Thomas I think are two Hall of Famers. Whether their bust is in Canton or not, they’re Hall of Famers to me and hopefully one day, people will wake up and see that and realize it and they’ll get a chance to go through this too.”

(You’ve been involved with the current team a little bit. What have your impressions been of Head Coach Adam Gase during the time that you’ve interacted with him?) – “I think Adam’s great. I think he has done a great job. You see the success that the team had this year and came out of nowhere. After a rough start, he made some really tough moves for a head coach to make at that point in the season and you see the way the team responded. Are there holes to fill on the team? Sure, and I think he’d be the first to tell you. Obviously if you don’t win the championship, you have things that you need to correct. If you win the championship, the Patriots are working as we speak to correct things too. But they’re on the right path. It was great to see them in the playoffs. The excitement … It’s amazing the excitement that builds in this city when this football team is playing well. The other teams in town, the Heat had a run and the city was electric; but it’s just different when the Dolphins are good. I think Adam is on the right track and he’ll continue to build. I know Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier and those guys are working tirelessly to not just make the playoffs but win the division, win playoff games and hopefully be in Minnesota (for the Super Bowl) next year.”

(DE Cameron Wake is having a run over several years kind of along the lines of what you experienced. Do you see him kind of trending towards this direction as well at some point?) – “I think he’s been trending in that direction. Hopefully he can play as long as he can and keep being as productive as he’s been. He’s just a remarkable athlete. The things he’s able to do and the way he bounced back from an Achilles injury at his – I hate even saying it but at his age, so to speak. It doesn’t surprise me at all. Having a chance to be around Cam and be a teammate of his, knowing the way he works, knowing the work he was putting in, in the offseason, when this building was empty of players and they’re off and when he’s probably supposed to be on crutches still or in a boot still and he’s pushing it. He’s just that kind of guy. He takes care of himself. He’s super athletic, ridiculously strong. You guys see how … I mean he never wears a shirt so you guys see how he’s built and how he takes care of himself. He can do it for a long time. He’s already trended in this direction, trust me. Cam Wake is a better football player and a better pass rusher than I ever was and hopefully he can keep doing it for a while.”

Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier – January 25, 2017 – Senior Bowl Download PDF version

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and General Manager Chris Grier

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Opening Statement) – “Just to give you guys an update on Ryan (Tannehill), we’re still working through the process. Nothing’s been definitively decided yet. As always, with all of our players, organizationally, player health and safety is paramount. We’ll do what’s best for the player. We have no material updates as of today, but it’s something (that Head Coach) Adam (Gase), (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve Ross and myself, we’ll keep talking through. When we have more information, we’ll share it; but nothing materially new as of now.”

(You won’t know on QB Ryan Tannehill until what, January 30, when he has the other MRI?) – “No one test is going to make a decision for us, so we’re just going to keep going through the process (and) talking to our doctors. Obviously Ryan’s (Tannehill) very involved. We’ll rely on our medical people to give us some suggestions. So we’ll just see how the process plays out.”

(This is mostly in QB Ryan Tannehill’s court? Right? The ball is in his court because he’s the patient, right? He’s the one that’s going to dictate what’s on right?) – “I think like on any significant medical decision, we want to do it collaboratively and certainly we have a very good and experienced medical staff. With that said, one of the things that I like about our medical staff is they’re exhaustive in their research. Anything like this, obviously a player ultimately decides what they want to do; but we’re in constant communication in talking to Ryan (Tannehill) and he’s talking to our trainers and doctors all the time. His agent is involved and it’s been something where we all want to make sure that we’re doing this correctly (and) taking our time. Again, our player’s well-being is always a paramount concern for us.”

(The last update you had with him with the doctors and everything, was he still on pace to recover without surgery? The last time you guys had an update with the doctors and the MRIs and all that?) – “I think the best way to say it is again, we just want to take the benefit of the time and be thorough in our process. When we have something more definitive, we’ll share it. We’re just not there yet.”

(Is time about letting the swelling go down or seeing what can heal naturally?) – “I think it’s, again, just taking the benefit of the time that we’re in the offseason. We want to be thorough and just making sure that whatever decision that we make is the right one, and get as much information as possible.”

(Is time not a factor in terms of even if he has the surgery, you guys believe he’d be ready for next season but for training camp?) – “I don’t think we want to put any timelines. Every player recovers differently from different procedures, but again we wanted to take the benefit of knowing that we have no more games to play to try to get as much information as we can and make the best decision at the appropriate time.”

Chris Grier:

(Have you started any negotiations with WR Jarvis Landry and his agent?) – “No. As of right now we’re – like we said at the end of season press conference – Coach (Adam Gase) gave the assistant coaches off about a week and a half or so. So again, they’ll come back. They just started evaluating our roster again, so we’re going to meet as a staff here next week, with the coaches, and we’re just going to go through the process and be very deliberate. Again, just making sure we evaluate our roster right and then we’ll worry about the guys right now with the immediate free agents and then we’ll start working towards the guys that are still under contract.”

(This year, your team made progress in a lot of areas, but stopping the run was not one of them. You guys gave up 2,247 rushing yards, 4.8 yards per carry. How does that get addressed the offseason, especially with so many positions on that defensive line and linebacker unit being unsettled?) – “Again, I would say it was a good first year for the organization with our new regime and the culture we’re establishing. There are a lot of things we would have liked to have been better. There were a lot of areas we can improve on. I think we’re going to work through, like again I know it sounds like a broken record, but it’s going to be very deliberate. We’re going through right now talking about the guys on the roster and then we’re going to go through the free agents again and we’ve already started meeting with the pro scouts. (Director, Player Personnel) Joe Schoen and (Director, Pro Personnel) Anthony Hunt have done a good job and have already been looking at the free agents. We’re going to do everything we can. We’ve had good discussions with (Defensive Coordinator) Matt Burke already about some things we may do a little bit differently, and so it’s been productive so far; but we’re going to take our time to make sure we can do everything we can to get it fixed.”

(Do you think that the Wide 9 approach was successful and will you continue to take that approach with this defensive line?) – “Yes, I think Adam’s plan for when he brought (Defensive Coordinator) Matt (Burke) and ‘V.J.’ (former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph)  in together was that, kind of knowing that ‘V.J.’ was – we talked about – may not be here more than a year or so because he’s an immensely talented coach (and) a good person. So we just thought he may be moving on, which he did. So we don’t want to change a whole lot, we’re trying to do where there will be continuity. That’s the one good thing organizations like the Patriots and stuff that have won, is that you’re not always changing every time someone leaves. We’re trying to have it where if a guy leaves, we can keep going and we can keep building. There are a lot of things the defense did well and there were things that can be improved on, but I think that will come as we keep adding positions and building the people that fit the scheme of what we’re looking for.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(What is DT Ndamukong Suh’s injury?) – “It was just a very minor knee clean out. He’ll be fine and ready to go for the offseason program.”

(How is S Isa Abdul-Quddus doing?) – “He’s coming along. All of our guys now are in rehab. We will get updates from the trainers to see how he’s doing, but right now like (General Manager) Chris (Grier) said, we’re just kind of focused on the evaluations from a playing standpoint and then the medical stuff, we’ll continue to monitor; but there’s obviously not a sense of urgency in terms of anything we need to do right away.”

(When you do identify positions of need that you want to address in this offseason, what is your philosophy in terms of doing that through the draft versus through proven free agents?) – “I think the offseason is one big continuum and we’re going to look at every avenue to improve the team. That can be trades that start around the (NFL) Combine and then we’ll get into free agency. Again, our focus philosophically though is we’re going to try to keep our own the best we can and then be opportunistic, be it in free agency or trades and obviously just try to draft as well as we can. Sometimes, it’s been my experience, if we have a need, sometimes you fill it both in free agency and the draft and again, we’ll try to be opportunistic and use any avenue we can to improve the team.”

(I know you don’t want to tip your hand as far as any of your plans but can you give just generally some idea of how you think about those different avenues for filling a need?) – “I think it’s really important that when you get to the draft that you can line up a play of game. Again, you’re not going to have a perfect roster going into the draft. But we’ve talked about this quite a bit, we want to go into the draft and operate from a position of strength so when Laremy Tunsil falls unexpectedly, you can go ahead and take the best player and you’re not sitting there saying, ‘We have to get a star with our first pick.’ So we want to give ourselves as much flexibility as possible by the time we get to the draft. We have a lot of work to do, but as (General Manager) Chris (Grier) said, and as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I think a very underrated aspect of team building and the salary cap system is correctly evaluating your own and we have to get that right and we have to be realistic and we have to look at certain players and say, ‘Can we win with them?’ To me, once we do that, that’s the bedrock we build from and move forward; but until we do that, I think our plans are still somewhat up in the air.”

(How many years do you use as a timeframe for building that roster? Are there some guys you sign as just a stop gap to get through and then there are other guys where you look at it and they might be under contract but maybe they have a 2-3 year window? How far do you project?) – “One of the things that Chris and I have been spending a lot of time with (Senior Director of Football Administration) Brandon Shore lately, who handles our salary cap, and we have to have a pretty good idea from a salary cap standpoint for at least two years, what we think the cap is going to be and who’s expiring from a contractual standpoint. So I think that’s a realistic view is this year and one more. Then we’re constantly talking with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and the staff about ascending players, descending players and who we need to replace. So I think realistically, you go out more than two years in our system and there are just too many variables.”

Chris Grier:

(How do you view the roster composition as it relates to the defensive end position and where the team needs to work on that position moving forward?) – “The defensive end is, if you’re going to play the Wide 9, obviously that’s one of the key components of the defense. With us, we’re always going to be looking at it. Last year we addressed it with some veteran players. I think once we’ve kind of established the culture of what we’re looking for now, I think we’ll, like (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) said, pursue all avenues in terms of free agency and the draft. But for that position, yes that’s a key position. We’re going to have to find some players there.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(With that linebacker unit, you got the trade for LB Kiko Alonso, that sort of panned out for you; but then the position sort of ran out of bodies at the end of the season. How do you address that moving forward to get that defense better?)  – “Philosophically, we have to keep improving the depth of our team and when you have guys on your roster, you have to assume they’re going to play. You can look at the four teams that played this weekend, they did a great job. Those teams, all four of them, had players that were playing that maybe were somewhat unexpected, be it from injuries or team players that were traded off of other teams. I think depth is critical. I think we’ve gotten better and we still have a ways to go and every team, every year, the 2017 team is going to be different than 2016 team, but depth is an area that we’re constantly talking about.”

Chris Grier:

(What are you looking for from a linebacker standpoint? What athletic traits do you think sets apart a Dolphins’ linebacker?) – “I think the big thing for us is finding guys that are instinctive, guys that are tough guys, but also have the ability to play in space. I think the one thing we talked about with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) as well is improving team speed on defense. Again, the way the game is played now, it’s a little more in the passing and space, but you also still have those guys, like I said in the run game, that can hold up inside and make plays, are instinctive, can beat blocks and find plays. For us, again it’s finding guys that are productive – a good history of production, smart, intelligent and can run a little bit.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Where are you guys at with DE Dion Jordan right now and what kind of future do you see for him?) – “He’s still on our team. He’s still on the roster, so (there are) really no updates on what we may be doing moving forward.”

(DE Mario Williams, have you guys made any kind of decision on his future?) – “No. Again, we’re going to sit down, as (General Manager) Chris (Grier) just alluded to, the coaches have been gone on vacation and will be back at the end of this week. We’re going to sit down in earnest starting next week and from there, I think our plan will start coming together.”

Chris Grier:

(I understand that some teams have strict measurables for their draft preparation. Some teams will completely cross out a defensive back whose arm length isn’t a certain point, or a tackle whose arm length isn’t a certain point. Since I haven’t been around, do you guys have a couple of rules that you are willing to share? Or is there not that rigidness in your draft evaluation?) – “We believe in prototypes. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) and I both started with Coach (Bill) Parcells. That was my upbringing with him and (Patriots Head) Coach (Bill) Belichick. The same with (Seahawks Head Coach) Pete Carroll and (Alabama Head Coach) Nick Saban, they’ve all had prototype standards as far as what you’re looking for. The one thing we’ve said is that there are always exceptions, but you don’t want to be a team of exceptions. You can’t be too rigid where you’re like ‘Hey, you can’t take this guy because he’s 5-foot-8 or whatever,’ but he’s a dynamic player. Then you say ‘Well, he doesn’t fit everything, so he’s out.’ I think you hurt your team by doing that. You just want to make sure that those players that are the exceptions have those rare traits or something that’s going to stand out to make sure that they have a role to contribute – a defined role – I think that’s really key. You don’t want to just take a guy that’s really small and dynamic but you don’t know where to play him. For us, we do have prototypes and standards. We believe in that; but we’re also not going to eliminate good football players.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“I think that line was, coach would say ‘Don’t draft linebackers that come out of Volkswagens.”

(What lesson do you think both of you as an organization can learn from what the Falcons did? They’re not an organization that are too far ahead of you guys. It’s their second year with a new coaching staff. How did they get to the Super Bowl in year two?) – “For me, one of the fun parts about the job, and it’s a privilege to be sitting here, is always learning. So it’s not just from the Falcons. It’s learning from Clemson and how did they get over the hump or how did the Cleveland Cavaliers do it? That’s something we’re constantly talking about within the organization. Look, they’ve done a great job. (General Manager) Thomas Dimitroff, (Head Coach) Dan Quinn, they’ve done a great job. I think that we’re always learning, we’re always trying to get better. I’m proud of the foundation we’ve laid here and I think our future is bright, but we have a lot of work to do. When you look at those four teams that played this past weekend, they’re well coached, they’ve made difficult decisions, they’ve been opportunistic and as I alluded to earlier, I think the other thing those teams have, they all have great depth. You look at some of those players on the field, they’re not necessarily household names that were playing meaningful snaps on championship Sunday. They all deserve credit for that.”

Chris Grier:

(You guys addressed the QB Ryan Tannehill’s situation and DT Ndamukong Suh. Do you have anyone else that you’ve determined since we talked to you two weeks ago that would need surgery this offseason?) –  “I don’t think so.”

(That’s positive, then?) – “Yes.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“I don’t think there’s anything else that’s newsworthy that we can share.”

(How do you keep this season’s – well, last season’s – momentum going? 10 wins, playoffs – that’s a great start for a new situation. How do you keep that going?) – “I think when we look back at it – and we’re still going through it – I think (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) deserves a lot of credit from this culture of accountability (of) ‘the best players will play.’ Again, I think there are countless examples, but to me, one of the more noteworthy ones is here is Jay Ajayi, who doesn’t even travel to Seattle, and he’s our team MVP. That’s rare in our sport to happen. That says a lot about Jay and his work ethic and his resiliency, and I think it says a lot about Adam and the culture of, ‘the best players will play.’ We’re going to have short memories, but guys will have to earn it. I think moving forward, our players understand that, enjoy that and know they’ll have opportunities to play. I think it’s up to us collectively to go get the best talent, pay it the appropriate way and try to put a team together that can be sustainable for a couple of years.”

Chris Grier:

(You mentioned RB Jay Ajayi – and I was thinking about this earlier – how sustainable does the organization view Ajayi’s future success? Another way to say it is how do you view how far he has come and what his future might be?) – “I think he has just scratched the surface of what he can be. I think he’ll become more patient at times and stuff. I think part of it too is the offensive line. Guys have to stay healthy. He’s adjusting to different guys in (the game) each week, a couple weeks here and stuff. With Jay, the one thing is he wants to be good; he wants to be great. He’s young, and he knows his things he can improve on. We’re excited for his future. Again, it’s (up to) us to make sure we keep surrounding (him with) good players and keep upgrading the offensive line so that we can make sure he becomes a factor for years to come.”

(How important is continuity on that offensive line? You’ve had some injuries. Some of the guys are getting up there in their thirties. But when they were together, they played well. How important is it to keep that unit together, or do you feel like you need to get some young bodies?) – “I think it’s important. Look at Atlanta. Everyone is talking about how the Falcons … I think they didn’t have an offensive lineman miss a game all year. They stayed together all year. It just shows you that if you can keep those five guys on the field together, especially our offensive line – I forget the record when they’re all on the field together – they’re like 8-1 or something, 9-1 or something like that over the last couple years. Again for us, it’s important that we can keep those guys together. But at the end of the day, we know that they may not all be here and we just have to make sure that whoever the next five guys are next season that we do our best to keep them on the field together.”

(Looking at some of the moves you guys made in the offseason – at running back last offseason. Did RB Jay Ajayi significantly exceed what your evaluation of him was?) – “We always thought Jay was a good player. If you remember when (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) got here, he was going to be the starter. He said he was the starter. The one thing we always talked about is it was a really young room with Damien (Williams) and then (Kenyan) Drake. So, we were looking for a veteran guy that could come in and be a mentor. When we met with Arian Foster, we spent a lot of time talking to him. We told him, we said, ‘You’re going to be a 10-carry guy, 15 (carries), catch four or five balls a game, but we’re going to play these young guys, too.’ To his credit, that was the role he was coming in (to). He wasn’t coming in to be a workhorse again, and he understood that. He and Adam hit it off and everything was good. We were just hoping that he could teach them how to be a pro in terms of preparation, studying and doing everything right. From that aspect, Arian was great with the guys. When he decided to retire, all the guys – the running backs – were shocked. I think Drake and all those guys were thinking about working out with him in the offseason. So, it became a close room. I think Arian played a big part in helping those guys grow up fast.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

“The other thing too from a running back standpoint, if you look at Adam’s history when he has been a play caller, the backs have all been productive in the passing game, and that has been a critical factor for us is the running back’s ability to catch the ball. (Jay) Ajayi – going back to Boise (State) – was able to do that. And obviously, Kenyan (Drake) and Damien (Williams) both have that ability, so we feel good about that; but moving forward from a personnel standpoint, that’s always going to be a critical factor in terms of being able to play in the passing game.”

(What’s your vision for G/T Laremy Tunsil moving into Year 2? He had success at left guard. Do you feel like that’s a good position for him right now, or do you think he’s ready to move out to that left tackle spot?) – “I think we’re thrilled that we have him and we have that flexibility. We have to assess a few other variables obviously, but the fact that Laremy had so many plays – so many games – all under his belt is great. Obviously, he played in the SEC at a high level at left tackle, so the fact that he has that ability gives us a lot of comfort.”

Chris Grier:

(WR Kenny Stills was talking about how much he wants to be back. How essential do you view him to what you guys were doing this year offensively?) – “Kenny is an important part. (We) traded for him before I was in this role – (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) traded for him – and he showed the value the second half of the year. He made a lot of big plays for us. It’s a young group of receivers. Those guys all bring a different skill set, so it’s a good group. It’s important for us to bring him back. We’d like to have him back. It’s his right to test the market and see what he can get, but we’d like to have him back.”

Mike Tannenbaum:

(One of the criticisms about this regime – I’m not sure if it pre-dates you, Mike Tannenbaum – is that you guys don’t accurately assess what the market is for free agents when they do hit the market and make fair offers before they hit the market. How do you feel about that criticism and is there something that you are doing to try to address it?) –  “Again, philosophically, starting with (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve (Ross), (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and (General Manager) Chris (Grier), we want to keep our own. We’re never going to bat 1.000. The system just is not set up for it. We’ve been able to extend some players before I started – some like Mike Pouncey or Ryan Tannehill we were able to do – but candidly, you can’t keep them all. We understand that and acknowledge that. We’ve studied it hard and we try to come up with offers that are fair, but knowing that – as Chris just said – these guys earned the right (to be free agents) and some are going to do extremely well in free agency and we totally understand that. Sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t nearly get the attention as the ones that do. We’re going to prioritize them. We’re going to try to keep our own the best we can. We’ll continue to do that and hopefully if we’re sitting here in August, not only have we kept some of our own but hopefully we’re also talking about two or three meaningful extensions of guys that are prospective free agents heading into 2018 because that’s something that again is going to be really important to us.”

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