Miami Dolphins Transcripts – September 9 – Head Coach Brian Flores, Flores Conference Call, C Ted Karras, CB Byron Jones and LB Kyle Van Noy

C Ted Karras

(What is it going to be like to go back to Gillette Stadium?) – “There’s a lot of similar guys – a lot of connections – on these two programs and I think every Week 1 matchup is going to be pretty unique this year in the NFL. I’m excited to see what tomorrow is like. I’m sure you guys all are, too, with some football on TV; but yeah, we know a lot of these guys. We know each other and it’s going to be a tough, physical 60-minute game.”

(Gillette Stadium is obviously one of the toughest places in football to win. I would say their fans have been a big part of that – certainly the talent and the execution, too – what’s Gillette going to be like empty?) – “I’m not sure, really; but it’s definitely going to be very unique and something that we have to take into account. We can’t let it bother us too much. Once we’re on the 100 x 53 1/3 (yard) field here, we need to focus in and worry about our assignments and alignments and techniques. So we’ll see. It’s going to fun though, I’m excited.”

(We’ve talked about groupings and the rookies before, but now that G Solomon Kindley is going to start next to you, according to the depth chart on the right side, could you speak to I guess his – I guess the coaching staff threw a lot at him and it seemed like he handled it well throughout camp and just what it’s been like working alongside him?) – “It’s been great. It’s been a pleasure to see him grow over this past six weeks and then now as we get into live action here, how much more he’s even going to grow as a player. He has all the capabilities to be a great player and we have a lot of great rookies – Rob Hunt, Austin Jackson. We have good veterans – Jesse Davis, ‘E-Flow’ (Ereck Flowers) – so we’re feeling good. We’re working hard. We had a good practice today and now we’ve got to take it to the field here come Sunday afternoon.”

(I’m going to audible on the question I wanted to ask to ask you this – what makes you say G Solomon Kindley has the capabilities to be a great player? What do you see? What are you picking up?) – “He tries to do everything right. He’s very explosive. Obviously he’s a huge man. I don’t think I looked like that as a rookie. (laughter) I certainly, if I looked back at the film to come in and be very competitive, and someone that as we’re working over this past camp and now that we’re getting into games, building our trust in each other. I just think he’s done very well and I’m very excited for him and I’m going to do everything I can to help him and he’s going to be a big part of helping us win ball games this year.”

(Four years up in New England, you obviously saw how the sausage gets made up there; but I’m curious now that you’re in Miami, what it’s like for you to prepare for a Bill Belichick defense for the first time?) – “We know they’re going to be tough and smart and know what they’re doing, and they’re going to have something unique for us that’s going to make us think. They’re going to challenge us every step of the way and it’s very exciting to go back. I know many of these players very personally, and to go back and compete now as a rival faction is very exciting. It’s going to be fun, but we’re going to have to bring our very best when it counts the most here Sunday afternoon.”

(Just piggybacking off that, obviously you spent four years there. I’m sure you saw what Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick can do on the other side of things; but is there anything that you know that you can share with your fellow offensive linemen like “look out for this, prepare, Bill might send this your way” as far as blitzes, as far as different things up front?) – “Well, the tape says a lot of that as well. I think as I know a lot of these guys – I played with them for four years – there’s definitely a little bit of a factor of familiarity, but this is a new year and you’ve got to bring it every day in this league. It’s a whole fresh slate for everyone. I’ve been giving some tips, but we’ve been watching film together and what I’ve seen over the years. It’s going to come down to execution and doing our job as far each individual o-lineman and everyone on offense, to put up a good game.”

(I noticed on the Patriots defense, they lost about six starters from last season. You’re familiar with that unit. Do you think that this defense that you will be going up against – will it still be a challenge against those guys? Do you think you’re going up against a better defense in practice already that might help you out on Sunday?) – “It’s absolutely going to be a huge challenge. They’re going to be well-prepared and raring to go. There’s still a ton of great players on that whole front. That whole defense is dangerous and we’ve been preparing hard and we’ve still got a bunch more preparation to go. It’s going to be the biggest challenge yet of our careers as a team together. So we’re going to have to go up and play our very best for 60 minutes to leave Gillette Stadium with a victory.”

(Head Coach Brian Flores was saying that you’ve done a nice job learning a new system. I’m curious how different it is from what you were doing? What’s something that I might not know, not being a football player, that is different?) – “The language certainly is different and I think that’s a fascinating part of the game. I love to learn it. I dove into this offense pretty deeply. Obviously we had Zoom meetings for about six weeks in the spring. That was a cool, kind of low-pressure way to learn a new offense and just have the playbook there; but the biggest part is the language. There’s a lot of – football is football. I’m not going to give you any nuggets as far as differences between our ‘O’ (offense) and theirs, but the language would be the best example and one I find most fascinating.”

(I wanted to ask you what it meant to you to be elected as a team captain, particularly considering you’re a new player on this team?) – “It was a distinct honor and I’m very honored that my peers thought of me that way and it puts even more pressure on I want to do everything right. Obviously I was trying to do that anyway, but I want to do my very best for this team so that we can put our best season out there. As an elected leader I’m very excited about this upcoming campaign.”

(You sound like you’re running for political office there. I wanted to ask you, there’s so much “secret sauce” that New England has that made you guys – I know you were only there for a couple years – but the Patriots good for two decades. Are there things that you can bring over here that can help instill the culture here?) – “I think the main thing that I found a home in there for a while and now my home is here, was that just working really hard and working your absolute hardest to get your job done. That includes a whole bunch of different aspects of getting ready to play a football game, whether that’s obviously physically, mentally; but also emotionally and making sure that you’re prepared. I’m very grateful for my time there, but now it’s time to go play a football game against a lot of old friends. It’s going to exciting and it’s going to be 60 minutes of a really, really tough football game. We’re going to have to bring our best and we’ll be ready to go.”

CB Byron Jones

(Now that CB Xavien Howard has been back at practice, it looks like he’s fully in there. What’s it been like working with him on the field – it’s not just meeting rooms now – and realizing the potential of the talent that you guys have between the two of you?) – “It’s cool to see him out there. It’s an opportunity for me to see just how good he is. He’s really aggressive on the line of scrimmage, he knows how to attack the ball really well. I’m learning a lot from him, just watching him be out there. He’s a good mentor to Noah (Igbinoghene). We’re all doing everything we can to get him up to speed. He looks good out there – really good.”

(I went back and looked at the numbers. It looks like you faced Cam Newton twice in your career. I don’t think the Cowboys had a win against him, but you personally had success. What can you take from that and what’s the key to slowing down Cam Newton?) – “Cam is extremely talented. He’s a guy that’s going to make plays. Our job on defense is to read our keys, do what we’re taught, fundamentals. That’s what it’s really going to come down to, especially early in the season. Tackling, knowing the plays, understanding what the offense wants to do to the defense depending on the offensive set. It’s just a game of focus and attention to the details really.”

(I don’t know if this is news to you. It probably happened while you were on the practice field; but the Rams are giving Jalen Ramsey a $105 million contract, $71 million in guarantees. What’s your reaction?) – “It’s big money, man. That guy deserves it. He plays his ass off every game. It’s good to see people like that do well.”

(What do you think about the idea of playing Lift Every Voice and Sing as well as the national anthem before games this year? Will you consider kneeling before any of those anthems?) – “Our team has something coming. We’re still in discussions on exactly what we’re going to do. I think it will be shown very soon.”

(I want to circle back to the CB Jalen Ramsey contract. You no longer have the distinction of being the highest-paid corner in the league. I don’t know if that was important to you, but does that kind of alleviate any pressure that comes with that distinction for you, now that you’re second in total value?) – “No, not at all. That’s not something that’s important to me. I wanted to come here and play good football, regardless of where I’m at on the pay scale. That’s my main focus and that’s what I truly care about. I truly care about winning, I truly care about playing well myself and carrying my weight on the team. That’s what is important to me in life, to be honest. It’s playing good football with a good group of guys and winning some games.”

(Preparing for some teams that are – you get what you see from them. The Patriots are so able to adapt themselves every single week it seems for so long now. How much more of a challenge is that to prepare for a team that you might not know what you’re going to see on Sunday?) “I think the biggest challenge right now is just the fact that it’s the first game of the season. We don’t really know – obviously they have a different quarterback. It’s just adjusting to that, really; and like I said earlier, what it comes down to is us. It’s how we come to the game, how we tackle, how we really execute on down to down basis. That’s what it really comes down to.”

(Obviously this has been a heavy offseason with COVID, with the social justice communication and everything, and now we’re getting towards Week 1. How has the heaviness of this offseason impacted you going into Week 1?) – “I just use it as motivation, really. It’s something that I carry with me throughout my training sessions. It’s on my mind. It really inspires me to do more for the community. I think a lot of people, especially successful people in the league, you can really look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself have you been doing enough. And a lot of times that answer is no. It’s really expanded my mind in terms of giving back and what’s most important in life. When you look back on your life, what are you going to be most proud of? That’s something that’s really changed me as a person. It’s something that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. It’s going to inspire some of the actions I do off the field, no question.”

(Two things for you – one on CB Xavien Howard and one on CB Noah Igbinoghene. With Noah, from what you’ve seen in practice, does he look like someone whose going to be able to help right away or is that impossible to tell? With Xavien, I know you obviously don’t watch a lot of defensive players; but was there anything you admired about Xavien watching him from a distance just on TV the last couple of years, about his skillset?) – “I’ll tell you with Noah, first he’s a really good player. One thing that’s really special about Noah is his maturity, the way he really approaches the game. He’s in the meetings early with coach, he’s in the meetings late. He’s taking notes, he’s very responsive to criticism. He responds well to good plays and bad plays. It’s really cool to see a young guy like that come into the league and be so prepared. Now obviously he has to go through the paces when he gets into the game; but I have confidence and we have confidence in his ability to make plays out there. With Xavien, truthfully, just seeing him on Day 1 and 2 of practice this year, seeing how he attacks the ball was special to me. I’m like ‘wow.’ Seeing his feet on the line of scrimmage and how he stays square, all this stuff I’m picking up from different players; but to see it in person is really different. That’s what’s the cool part about it is we’re all on the same team. We’re all picking and learning from each other, which ultimately makes us all better.”

(I wanted to ask you about the skillset that you’ve seen from WR Preston Williams and WR DeVante Parker. How are they different and how are they similar?) – “Obviously Preston and DeVante are really big receivers. Those guys have really good catch radius and they do a good job at going up and getting the ball. I think that’s the most important thing about a really good receiver. It may not be perfect, you may be guarded, but if you go up and attack that ball like they’ve shown throughout camp, I think they’ll be just fine. Isaiah (Ford) is a really crafty guy on the inside. He’s really savvy with his routes. He’s very patient as well. They are all good receivers, no question about that; but they all have different things that make them special.”

LB Kyle Van Noy

(My question for you is about going up against a team you’ve seen plenty of times in the past in practice and more narrowed focus here on the offensive line. They’ve got so much continuity up in front on that offensive line. How does your familiarity with those guys – maybe some of their tendencies and weaknesses – kind of help you attack them on Sunday?) – “Yeah, going against them, they’re familiar with me. I’m familiar with them. I’m excited for this task. They’ve been talking trash the four years I’ve been there, so I’m excited to see if we both can back it up. (laughter)”

(So piggybacking off that, is there one player you most want to hit on Sunday?) – “Nah, he’s not there anymore. (laughter) And that would be ‘Gronk’ (Rob Gronkowski) by the way, not Tom (Brady). (laughter) That’s my guy.”

(You were there for a minute and Foxboro is a very hard place to play; but no fans, is that going to be a surreal experience for you?) – “No, I think it’s going to be a cool experience. I don’t think people are looking at it the way that I’ve been looking at it. I’ve been looking at it as the fans get a close, inside (look) at what guys on the field are communicating, trash-talking. Kind of like what you’ve seen with the NBA, you get to hear the ball dribble and you don’t necessarily get to hear that all of the time. I feel like that’s what it’s going to be like on a football field. I think the smacking is going to be louder, the trash-talking is going to be right there in prime television. I think it’s going to be a good atmosphere because at the end of the day, you’re going to find out it’s the team versus the team. There’s no real home-field advantage. Obviously you have to make the road trip out there, but you’re basically going against that team and they’re going against you. You’ve just got to outperform (them), so I think that’s pretty cool.”

(Earlier this week we were talking with LB Jerome Baker and he said that you, LB Elandon Roberts and LB Kamu Grugier-Hill don’t really talk too much about the Patriots, and that he’s been asking for little tidbits for game-planning and stuff like that. What’s with the secrecy? Are you going to maybe – as the game week progresses here – get a little bit more into what they do?) – “Really, what you see on film is what you’re going to get. There’s no secrets, really. I don’t know about that one. Me and ‘Bake’ (Jerome Baker) have a great relationship. We talk about the game plan each and every day. I think he’ll be ready, though.”

(As a guy who has been with another organization…) – “I’ve been with two. (laughter)”

(Yes, I know. You were with the Lions before you got to the Patriots. When you got there, how much different was the organization than what you had previously known in the NFL?) – “I mean, huge. First off, I had a team put me in the game. That was the biggest difference for me. I went from a team saying they didn’t know what to do with me to a team that knew what to do with me and put me in the game. From top down, it was run a really, really positive way. Just like here, it’s run really, really well and I’m excited to be a Miami Dolphin. I feel like they are investing a lot into our success. We have a new facility coming around. They invest a lot in off-field things that we, as players, want. They really, really want us to be successful and I hope we can be successful for this city. This city hasn’t – I believe – won a playoff game in 20 years, and that’s one of our goals. We’re reaching pretty high and we hope that we can obtain it and bring this city some good football.”

(I just want to piggyback off those expectations that you hope to achieve here. What makes you believe that this team is going in the right direction towards that? And you’ve just joined this team, so why is it important to you to do this for the City of Miami and South Florida?) – “I wish I could answer (that). We could be here all day. I’d have to write out a paragraph or a 20-page paper for you; but I’ll just try to keep it simple and sweet. I’ve been given a lot and I hope to give others a lot. I’m blessed to be a part of this. I know what winning looks like and structurally, ‘Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores is – I respect him a lot. He’s doing a really, really good job. We’re not taking any shortcuts. I wasn’t here last year but the guys, you can tell, work their ass off; and this year, we continued that. For me to be a part of that and to be elected a captain from my peers, I’m honored and just hope that we can take this first game – it’s a big game – and that’s what they want to do, that’s what we want to do. It’s going to be a really, really highly competitive game right off the bat, and I’m excited for it. It’s what you wish for as a kid playing. You’re playing against a rival team at their home (in) the opening game, through all of the craziness that’s been going on, and trying to be a light for people off the field and on the field. It’s a good way to start.”

(There’s been a different quarterback there for a while but now you’ve got QB Cam Newton to defend. What’s that like as a defender? I know you’ll probably see a lot of them on Sunday, but how do you go about defending a guy as unique as him with his skillset?) – “Yeah, that’s a good question. Cam brings a Cam effect. That man is a gamer. (He’s a former) MVP, so he knows how to win. He knows how to play to his strengths. He’s a really good passer. He can throw on the run really, really well. But the Cam effect is definitely the running. Being able to have that as, I guess, your third option – hand the ball off, throw and then be able to run and create something out of nothing – it’s tough to guard. We have our hands full and we’re doing everything we can to prepare for it; but we’re excited for the challenge. We know how good he is and we respect him as a player.”

(If there is one knock on QB Cam Newton, it’s that he gets hit a lot. He’s coming off injury and I think he had over 30 sacks a year based on his career and you got him once.) – “I did. I chased him down. People think I’m slow. (laughter)”

(How difficult was that for you and is that the key to QB Cam Newton, just to kind of punch him in the mouth?) – “I think it’s just all 11 (guys) on the same page. I think that’s what it takes. Every guy doing their job – as cliché as that sounds, that’s really what it takes. Whether you’re blitzing and you have to keep him in the pocket or whether you’re playing zone and everybody has eyes back to the quarterback, you have to do those little things against a running quarterback like that and be able to hit him. Just like any quarterback, you just have to continue to put that pressure on him and sustain it for all four quarters. It’s not easy and it’s not easy to do in this league; but when you do it, that’s usually when you come out with a good outcome.”

(You’re a captain now, a new captain. With everything that’s gone on in America right now, in terms of the culture of what’s going on politically and with race relations, has there been a discussion about what you guys will do as a team? And if so, what is that?) – “Yeah. That’s something that we’re still continuing to discuss. It’s a major, major topic and we want to do the right thing as a team, that everyone agrees with. You’ll be the first to know, how about that? (laughter)”

Head Coach Brian Flores Conference Call with New England Media

(I guess what does it mean for you guys – what did that mean last year for you Week 17? What did that mean for you guys just heading into the offseason? How relevant do you find that game as you prepare for this one this time?) – “I’ve been asked that a lot and honestly, there’s not much relevance. New England is different, we’re different, it’s a new year, it’s a different year, so it’ll be a different environment with no fans. Everything is just so, so different that we as an organization, as a team, we’re not really looking at last year’s game and taking much from it. We’re just kind of focused on having a good practice today, trying to string a few good practices together this week and play a competitive game against a very good team.”

(I have a two-part question and just to keep it moving, I’ll just throw it out there right now. The Patriots preparing for a quarterback who’s got some mobility skills, it’s probably something that hasn’t been too common over the last two decades. How does that look different for you leading into this game? And just thinking big picture, in 2014 you became the position coach a couple years prior. How big was that to win that first Super Bowl, and then what came after that to put you in the position you’re in now?) – “The first question with a mobile quarterback in New England, obviously that hasn’t been the case. Maybe a game here or there; but we just kind of refer  to the mobile quarterback rules. You want to keep him in the pocket. Obviously Cam is very explosive. He’s a very accomplished and established player in the league. He’s made a lot of plays with his legs, with his arm. You want to keep him in the pocket. You want to limit those plays. At the same time, he’s going to create them one way or another. That’s been kind of his ‘M.O.’ over the course of his career. This will be a great challenge. It is something we’ve talked about across the board. It will be a total team effort defensively. Covering the receivers, rushing the right way without giving up step-up lanes and lanes for him to take off. Yeah, it’ll be a challenge. Again, like I said earlier, we’re just going to refer to our mobile quarterback rules. As far as your second question about 2014, those were all great memories, great times. I learned a lot in my time in New England. But really my focus is on what’s going on down here in Miami. I think we’ve got guys who are tough, competitive, who love to play (and are) team-first. We know this is going to be a very competitive game against a really well-coached team against some very good players. (There are) some players that I know, (Devin) McCourty, (Matt) Slater, Julian Edelman. I know a lot of people talk about Cam but there are a lot of good players on that team – David Andrews, Joe Thuney. They’ve got some established players with some experience. This isn’t going to be an easy game on the road up in Foxboro. It’s hard to win there. That’s kind of where our focus is.”

(I think every Week 1, there is a lot of unknowns. Even when teams have preseason games, teams don’t always show what they have in August. How do you go about the unknowns this year? It’s not only QB Cam Newton but there are rookies and new players on the Patriots you haven’t seen play in this system. How do you go about preparing for a game this weekend when there are so many unknowns up in the air?) – “Our message has been technique, fundamentals, reading your keys, following the rules. A lot of instances, it’s like college or high school. You don’t see those other teams; but you just have to lean on the things you’ve been working on throughout training camp. What are your rules in whatever the particular situation is? What are your keys at that position? You just have to lean on that and believe in those, and try not to play outside of that and what you’ve been doing throughout training camp. Yes, there is a lot of unknown. I think just from a personal standpoint, based on college and based on previous years, you kind of know the skillset and try to forecast what they are going to do with specific guys; but you really don’t know, so you end up just following your rules.”

(With QB Cam Newton and the Patriots basically not having a mobile quarterback for the better part of 20 years, when you’re doing your research where do you go? Do you go to Carolina? Do you go to Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels with QB Tim Tebow in Denver? How does that work?) – “In a lot of ways, you can drive yourself crazy going back to Tebow, going back to Carolina. Yeah, we’ve watched a lot of film on him; but at the end of the day, it comes back to when you haven’t seen a team play a game or preseason or – we continue to talk about the quarterback, but what are we going to see from an o-line standpoint? What are we going to see at the receiver positon? What are we going to see in the kicking game? What are we going to see defensively? There are a lot of unknowns. We’ve done our work on really every aspect; but at the end of the day, we have to follow our rules, we have to read our keys. We have to believe in our fundamentals and technique and our conditioning, and try to play a smart, disciplined football game against a good team that we know is going to be smart and disciplined. That’s kind of where I’m at there.”

(LB Kyle Van Noy, C Ted Karras and LB Elandon Roberts all got named captains. What does it say about those guys to garner respect from their teammates so early and so soon?) – “It says a lot about those three. You guys know those three, but we also have five other guys who were named captain. We had a handful of other guys who also had some votes for captain. I don’t want to put too much on those three guys. They were three of 10 or 11 guys who got votes. They’ve come in, they’ve worked hard, they’ve competed. Obviously there is some familiarity with the system defensively. But Ted came in and learned the new system offensively pretty quickly. I’ve been asked this a couple of times from our guys here in South Florida. We want leadership from everyone on the team – players, coaches, equipment, trainers, strength and conditioning, media. That’s really what you want. I think we’re building towards that. We’re not there yet, but those guys bring a lot of that – whether it’s Kyle, whether it’s Bobby McCain, whether it’s (Davon) Godchaux, whether it’s Jerome Baker. I think we have some guys who are building towards that and I think the guys we brought in just add to it.”

(It hasn’t been easy to be a coach in the AFC East these last 20 years for another team other than the Patriots. They’ve been so dominant. Do you feel there is more of an opportunity with all the changes going on in New England, does it open a door? Does it change anything? Do you feel a sense of opportunity, and I will bring up last year’s win at the end of the year just as an indication that there is an opportunity or door opening there?) – “To go back 20 years, it’s hard for me to think about the past, specifically when we have so much in front of us – including today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice and Friday’s practice. We’re just trying to go out and compete, and get better and improve and let the chips fall where they fall. To think about weeks and months down the road, I don’t think that helps anyone. I think it just takes the energy away from what we are trying to do today. So whether we’re talking about last year, whether we’re talk about what’s up for grabs or not up for grabs, we haven’t done much. We haven’t played a preseason game. We don’t even know what we have here. I’m just trying to get better today. I’m just trying to improve. I’m trying to improve, we’re trying to improve and just focus on this week and play a competitive, tough game against a competitive and tough team – a well-coached team. That’s where I’m at.”

(I’m just curious about your quarterbacks. What does the franchise seemingly love about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and everything he’s brought to your franchise and then what has QB Tua Tagovailoa’s progress been like? What you seen from Tua so far?) – “I’ll start with Tua. I think we’re in practice 15 or 16 here, which would be practice three or four of training camp if we had OTAs and minicamp. He missed a lot of – not missed but because of circumstances, he didn’t get as many reps as quarterbacks in other years. In a lot of instances, Tua and this entire rookie class have gotten less practice, less reps, less live action than any rookie class in league history from what I understand. So that’s him, but all of our guys have worked extremely hard. I think they’ve improved a lot over the course of training camp. I think they’re the types of guys we’re looking for. They’re tough, they’re smart, they work hard, it’s important to them. Tua is right there, close to the top of our group. I’ve been very pleased with him. As far as ‘Fitz,’ ‘Fitz’ embodies everything we’re looking for in a Dolphin. He loves to play. He’s competitive. You can feel his energy on the field in practice and games. He’s got leadership. Guys gravitate to him and follow him. I think that’s kind of why he’s had success throughout his entire career. We’re happy with ‘Fitz,’ we’re happy with Tua and we’re happy with the rookie class; but again, they’ve got a long way to go, really just like every rookie in this league. This is unprecedented but I don’t hear our guys making excuses. I don’t hear anybody around the league making excuses or saying this is why this will or won’t happen. We’ll just let the chips fall where they fall and just try to go out and play a tough, physical game on Sunday.”

Head Coach Brian Flores

(We saw WR DeVante Parker to some extent at practice yesterday. How does he look? Is he going to have more of an increased workload as the week continues?) – “Yeah. He was out at practice yesterday. We expect him to be out there today. The injury report will be out after practice today, so we’ll let you guys know then.”

(You mentioned WR DeVante Parker. Him and I guess CB Xavien Howard and WR Preston Williams have been on load – it seems like you guys have been on load management trying to deal with their injuries. If they are able to play, do you guys expect them on some kind of rep count given that they are coming off injuries?) – “I think we kind of talked about this maybe last week. Given no preseason, no one has played a football game in a long time. It’s hard to think somebody can jump out there and play 60, 70, 80 snaps. There will be a handful of guys who we will expect to go the whole way; but for the most part, we are thinking along the lines of somebody is probably going to need a blow here. I think every team has that same thought process. We have a game tomorrow night, so we’ll see how that one shakes out. Load management, I don’t know if I’d call it that. Guys are dealing with nicks and bruises. We are going to try to take care of our players as much as we can. (Head Athletic Trainer) Kyle Johnston does a great job and the training staff does a great job from that standpoint. All of those guys are working, they are trying to get back as soon as they can, and hopefully we have them out there for as many plays as we need them on Sunday.”

(Not talking about any particular players, but just as a matter of your coaching philosophy, how comfortable are you starting rookies on opening day?) – “Well I guess I started as a rookie on opening day once. (laughter) If those guys, if we feel like they are ready, we’ll put them out there. If they are active, we expect them to be ready to play. Rookies play every year. We never want to put anyone in a situation where they are playing where they don’t feel like they are ready. I think these guys are working hard. They are all competitive, they all want to play and we will play them if we feel it’s the best thing for our team.”

(I thought we’d see you in a Heat t-shirt this morning but I guess you’re saving that for later.) – “I’ve got it back here. I decided not to put it on. But it was a good game last night. I’m happy for them and getting to the Eastern Conference Finals is a great accomplishment. I’ve got my Heat shirts ready to go. (laughter)”

(Now that you’ve had a solid month in the protocols and you’ve seen the protections that the NFL has in place, what is your level of confidence that we’re going to see a full 16 game season? Obviously the testing numbers are looking really good for the league. Where is your confidence right now in that?) – “I think our staff headed up by (Head Athletic Trainer) Kyle Johnston and our medical team from a protocol standpoint and a transparency standpoint, we’re trying to get everyone on the same page and they’ve done a great job. I think the numbers, where they’ve been, they’ve been positive. A lot of times, good numbers or good reports may lead to some complacency. That’s not what we want. We need to be vigilant about wearing masks and wearing tracers and keeping distance and being responsible outside of the building. I don’t want to put any type of message out there like we are doing a great job and everything is great, because things can turn quickly as we know with the virus. We need to continue to be vigilant and we need to be responsible and make smart decisions as a team. Guys who are on the team, guys who are around the team, if we are not vigilant that way, it’s only a matter of time before it catches up to us. It’s been good thus far. That’s going to continue to be my message – to do the right things on the field, obviously in the building and then outside of the building. Those guys have a lot more time, or more time, than they did in training camp. I would say the first phase, we got good numbers – well the league had good numbers – and let’s not take our foot off the gas.”

(We spoke throughout camp about wanting to protect player health, while also making sure that the defensive players are as best prepared as they can be to tackle effectively early in the season. How do you think that went?) – “I think in every first game, there are a lot of things that – tackling, penalties, just overall understanding of rules. Without a preseason, some of those things are not up to the standard that you’d want them to be, really across the league. You learn through experience. To me, that’s the best way most people learn, really in whatever field it is. Without those preseason games, the tackling, the throwing, the blocking, the defeating blocks. You talk about tackling, but there are a lot of other fundamentals that guys have not been able to do under game circumstances. We’ve practiced it. We’ve practiced it to the best of our ability given the circumstances that we are in. We’re not going to sit here and make excuses, saying we missed a bunch of tackles because of this or we couldn’t complete a pass because of this. That’s not what we’re saying. But to your specific question, obviously in my opinion, probably – it would be better if we had live games to tackle. That’s where we’re at.”

(You, more than most coaches that I’ve covered, are very specific in terms of players getting assigned a role and playing that role in your various schemes. I know that’s part of your defensive philosophy, but how does that translate to offense, as well?) – “I think it definitely translates. If it’s third-and-1, which back do you want in there? Which lineman do you want in there? Which tight end do you want in there? If it’s third-and-11, do you want no receivers in the game? I think it’s very specific to the situation, maybe even more so than defensively. I think if you just think about the different situations within a game – two-minute. Do you want to run two-minute with three tight ends on the field or do you want to run it with three receivers on the field? Are you going to run short yardage with a 180-pound back or a 240-pound back? I think it’s very specific to the situation. No different than defense, no different than special teams. That’s just my thought process. Honestly, I know you mentioned maybe some other people, but I think everybody feels the same way. I think we are all trying to – as coaches, at least the guys I’ve been around and talked to – I’ve talked to really most of the coaches throughout the league just trying to pick their (brains), having conversations and talking football – whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. That’s the one thing that continually comes up: let’s put our players in the best position for them to have success and for us to have success. I think situationally, this comes up on a week-to-week basis. I think offensively probably more than defensively, in my opinion.”

(I have another question about the COVID-19 situation. The Marlins ran into a problem when they traveled. That’s when their team got sick. What level of confidence do you have that the league has policies in place that that won’t happen in the NFL and are you doing anything other than what the league mandates to keep the guys safe?) – “(Head Athletic Trainer) Kyle (Johnston) and the medical staff, they’ve done a great job thus far. We have our COVID travel protocols in place. I guess the league has a protocol and a set of standards; but Kyle and his staff have come up with a few other things to try to go above that and try to keep our guys and our staff and everyone in this organization as safe as possible. With that said, I think we all know how quickly the virus can spread. We just have to be diligent. If one person doesn’t have their mask on or isn’t keeping distance, that could affect 100 other people. I think we all – I think it’s just kind of that knowledge and understanding wherever you are, whether we travel, whether we’re at home, going to the supermarket or going to the barbershop or whatever it is. You just have to be smart.”

(I know you’ve faced QB Cam Newton a couple of times in your career. When you look at how unique he is as a quarterback, what are the principles you have to tell your defense on defending a guy like him?) – “Read your keys, play with good fundamentals and technique, follow your rules. I think those are the main points that we’re talking about defensively every week. Communication. A guy like him is obviously extremely talented. He can extend plays and make every throw. Obviously you want to contain him and keep him in the pocket. That’s easier said than done. You want to continue to be aggressive, but he’s a good player. If you are too aggressive and he slips through or finds a step-up space, he can hurt you. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. They are a good team offensive, defensively and in the kicking game. With guys like Matt Slater from a special team standpoint, and (Stephon) Gilmore, (Devin) McCourty, Adam Butler, I mean they’ve got good players defensively and offensively starting with Cam. This is a solid team and they are well-coached. This will be a huge challenge and we’re going to have to play well. We’re going to go up there and play a competitive game.”

(Earlier we mentioned the rookies, and we’re all looking forward to see the newcomers play whether they are rookies or veterans; but specifically on the youngsters, what’s the message in terms of the approach that you want guys playing their first professional game to take on Sunday?) – “One play at a time. That’s always the mindset. Good play, bad play, penalty, touchdown, give up a touchdown – just move on to the next play. Every play is an experience. I learned that early in my coaching career. Good or bad, you learn from it. The one thing you don’t want to do is take the good plays and think about those the entire game. You don’t want to take the bad plays and think about those the entire game either. Move on to the next play; but learn from it. We have to have our best communication, our best execution late in the game. That would be my message.”  

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