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.”

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Head Coach Adam Gase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

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

Stephen Ross:

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

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

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

(No time meaning?) – “A year.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Garfinkel:

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

Mike Tannenbaum:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Ross:

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

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

Mike Tannenbaum:

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

Stephen Ross:

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

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

Mike Tannenbaum:

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

Stephen Ross

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

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

Tom Garfinkel

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

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

Stephen Ross:

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

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

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

Mike Tannenbaum:

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

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

Tom Garfinkel:

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

Mike Tannenbaum:

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

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

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

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

Kiko Alonso – March 21, 2017 Download PDF version

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Linebacker Kiko Alonso

(How you put much thought into how far you’ve come over the past year considering the trade from Philly and then just having one of your better years with the Dolphins and now a contract extension?) – “Not really. At the end of the day, I just play football and try to do my job to the best of my ability.”

(During the year, you told me that you felt like Miami was home and Miami was the place you wanted to be. Now that you know the organization has made a long-term commitment, what does that mean to you?) – “It means everything. This is where I want to be and I’m just excited that it’s official that I’m staying there.”

(What is it about the Dolphins organization and the team that made you want to be here?) – “I love the coaches. I love the coaches, I love my team mates and I know we’re building something special here and I want to be a part of it.”

(Have you had a chance to talk with LB Lawrence Timmons yet and if so, what was that conversation like?) – “I have not talked to him yet but I’m definitely looking forward to playing with him. He’s definitely one of the guys that I admire the way he plays. The guy is a great player. I’m definitely looking forward to playing with him.”

(How do you think the addition of LB Lawrence Timmons might affect your game and whether you’re on the inside, outside, that sort of thing? Do you have preference to where you play?) – “No I don’t. Like I said, I’m very excited to play with him.”

(The team has done a lot to reward their own players like you and WR Kenny Stills and DE Andre Branch and S Reshad Jones. What are your thoughts on keeping this group together to try to make a run and proceed from what you guys did last year?) – “Those guys are great players so it’s definitely great to have them back. I’m excited. I’m excited to get going and excited to get things rolling.”

(During the year, Head Coach Adam Gase was very complimentary of you. At one point he said that you sell out on every play and that you almost play with a reckless approach to the game. How do you plan on continuing to do that while also maintaining your health?) – “That’s just the way I play. I’ve played like the since high school, since I played in the backyard with my friends. Health-wise … I’m not going to change the way I play. It is what it is.”

(How much do you think coming back into a defense where you guys have the same terminology, basically have similar players to what you had last year, is going to help the unit get to the next step?) – “It’s definitely going to help. I know for me, this is the first year being in the same system back-to-back years. It just helps because the more reps you take in that same defense, the same terminology, you don’t have to start from square one learning the terminology and all the new stuff. So we definitely have a head start.”

(How much of a difference is it between the inside spot compared to the weak-side spot, in your opinion?) – “It’s a little different. You play some different techniques. At the end of the day, linebacker is linebacker. You run and hit.”

(Were you a weak-side guy at Oregon?) – “At Oregon we played a 3-4 and I was an inside linebacker in the 3-4.”

(When I saw you about a week ago, I noticed that you still had a small wrap on your thumb. What can you tell us about the state of the thumb? How far along is the healing process?) – “It’s getting a lot better. I’m close to basically full activity and it’s feeling really good.”

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