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June 1, 2013

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Dolphins OTAs on 5/29, Interviews Included

by Max Strauss

I have been to training camps and games before, but I have never before covered an OTA. I had a lot to learn, and learn quickly. The way the Miami Dolphins practice is fast and intense. They have multiple players going head-to-head on different teams battling each other. Even with the speed, it was hard to not notice, that if a coach were teaching a player, he would immediately slow down and tell the player what to do, and how to do.

Players who stood out to me at the OTAs were Kelcie McCray, Brian Tyms, and Jelani Jenkins.

Kelcie McCray who suffered a devastating injury before the first game of the preseason has length and size, and was very impressive to see. He practiced very well, and had a nice interception on the day as well, and moved around in a day that the defense seemed to implement things to dominate the offense in practice.

I was paying particular attention to two wide receivers during OTAs after meeting both Brian Hartline and Brian Tyms earlier this year. In addition, I was planning to interview both of them after practice.

Dolphins WR, Brian Hartline

Catching up with Brian Hartline who I just met for the first time a few weeks prior. I did an interview with Hartline after his first season in the NFL, and he has just grown as a player, both on and off the field. We had kept in touch, but in the games I covered the Dolphins, we missed each other. I was ecstatic that we got to conduct another interview focused around the offseason, and learn more about his outlook now.

Max Strauss : How’s practice going for you?

Brian Hartline   : It’s alright. Today was a little shaky. You can tell we were on a five-day break, but we’ve still got two more days this week to finish off right.

Max Strauss : What’s it like being in this high-tempo practice as opposed to other teams?

Brian Hartline : I don’t know. I haven’t been in anything else really. My first couple years I guess it was a little different, but we’re definitely putting the work in and getting the reps. I guess the more reps you get, the more you can learn, and the better you can get so that’s kind of our philosophy.

Max Strauss : How much of a leadership role have you taken on since you are kind of the veteran of this offense?

Brian Hartline : Well, I try to. [Quarterback] Ryan [Tannehill] and [Center, Mike] Pouncey… There’s a handful of us. We’re trying to put the right foot forward, and lead by example and really be there for any young guy who have any questions. When you put all of us together, it’s a good recipe for success.

Max Strauss : Last year, you had a great season and you were just picking up the offense. How do you plan to improve this year? 

Brian Hartline : For me, it comes down to wins and losses. I think the better the team does, the better in turn, the better I am graded. That’s what it’s all about. If I can win more games. I think that improves the results for everybody.

Dolphins WR, Brian Tyms

I interviewed WR, Brian Tyms immediately after I was done with Brian Hartline. After attending one of his many offseason workout sessions in January, I wanted to make the time to catch up with him.

Max Strauss : What’s it like to be in your second year of this system?

Brian Tyms : It’s a blessing, of course. I’m just waiting for my opportunity to come and once it does, I want to seize it.

Max Strauss : These are high tempo practices. How does that help you get better by getting more reps?

Brian Tyms : With more  reps means more mistakes that you can learn from. Most offenses will only run one play or at that one time play. Here, I’m going to get to run that play three or four times. It works itself out.

Max Strauss : If you could improve one area of your game, what would it be?

Brian Tyms : Just the run game. I want to know what the offensive line knows. The passing game, I am learning everyone’s position. I kind of want to know what the offensive line knows as far as run blocking.

Dolphins DB, Richard Marshall

I wanted to stop by and listen in and add a question to an interview, and when I saw Richard Marshall with several media members, I knew that it would be good to hear about his recovery from a back injury that kept him out a majority of last year.

Other Media Outlet : With a couple of practices under your belt, how do you feel about yourself getting back on the football field?

Richard Marshall : I feel good. Nothing has bothered me since I’ve been back. I feel good being out here moving around. I just have to get my feet back under me after not moving around for seven or eight months. It’s been a little difficult, but being out here feels great.

Other Media Outlet : Were you a little nervous at first about how it would respond?

Richard Marshall : Not really because I was doing that on my own with the trainers before we started OTAs. I already knew that I could, but it was going up against a receiver, and having him push me to see how I reacted was different. So far, I haven’t had any problems.

Max Strauss : You said you wanted to get better everyday. What are the specific areas you want to focus on?

Richard Marshall : Getting my feet back under me. I haven’t back-pedaled in six or seven months so just trying to shuffle, move around, and do some of the drills I haven’t been doing. I have got to get better at the drills again. I got to get back to doing what I was doing. Not doing it for six or seven months, it got me kind-of slow on some things. I just have to get my feet back under me and moving.

Dolphins LB, Alonzo Highsmith

I received a tweet the night before from former legendary Miami Hurricanes running back, Alonzo Highsmith. Highsmith played in the NFL for seven years. I met his son, AJ, this past semester. He will be a senior this year, and a safety for the University of Miami. I also interviewed his nephew, Ali Highsmith (who was a great linebacker at LSU), a while back, and throughout the years, both him and I continue to remain in touch.

I was looking forward to meeting Alonzo, and throughout practice I was impressed and intrigued that he could make an impact on Special Teams early. He wasn’t the biggest recruit coming out of high school, but attended University of Arkansas and had a great senior year. After what I saw at OTAs on Wednesday, I believe he could make an impact on Sundays on Special Teams while he continues learning and developing his body.

Max Strauss : You’ve made a lot of plays. You’re kind of new to this environment and weren’t highly recruited. You went to Arkansas, and produced heavily at the SEC level. What’s it like to be at this level now?

Alonzo Highsmith : First of all, it’s like a dream come true because I worked so hard to get here. My senior year didn’t go the way I wanted and I got hurt and I was down about that for a while and the way things worked out. But at the end of the day, I’m here right now.  I’m blessed to be here right now.

Max Strauss : Football is in your family. How do you prove who you are on the field to the coaches?

Alonzo Highsmith : When it comes to this level, my last name is pretty popular. But at the same time, it doesn’t matter. You can be here one day, and gone the next. Everyday I have to do something new and be one step better than I was the day before. That’s what I strive to do.

Max Strauss : For undrafted players, it’s traditional to make an impact on special teams. How much experience did you have with that in your college career?

Alonzo Highsmith : When I first got to Arkansas, I played all special teams even though I started so special teams is not new to me. I did a little bit of Special Teams during my senior year too.

Max Strauss : Now that you’re here and back home in Miami. How do you plan to get better and what are some specific areas you want to focus on?

Alonzo Highsmith : I definitely have to get stronger to get in and compete with these guys and learn the playbook. In college, you might have nine guys who know it and two who are just out there playing. In the NFL, all eleven know what they’re doing and what’s going to happen. You just have to know your playbook and that’s one thing I’m striving to do.

After the interviews, there was a press conference with Coach Philbin. I only will put our question to him. If you want the whole video… Here: www.miamidolphins.com/media/videos/Philbin_Discusses_Roster_With_Reporters/

Max Strauss : Of all the un-drafted players who came in, who was caught your eye the most?

Joe Philbin : We have a lot of guys. I don’t like to single out one particular player over another. I think it’s a good crop of guys. I think they’re learning the system well, [and] quickly. We have thrown a lot at him. These next opportunities in the OTAs are going to be important for them, and the mandatory mini-camp. They are learning how to be a pro, how to practice like a pro, meet like a pro, weight room, all of those things. It’s a little early to say that this undrafted free agent is ahead of this guy.

OTAs went smoothly, and it would be interesting to note couple players were not in attendance. The intensity that the Dolphins and Head Coach Joe Philbin are known for practicing with, was true. It was interesting to note that the headlines from camp were that the defense dominated, compared to saying negative things about the quarterbacks. I didn’t get a chance get the quarterback’s perspective on how practice went, but it was clear that the Dolphins are a team on a mission, both offensively, defensively, and on Special Teams.

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