Head coach Adam Gase talks about his first contact practice

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Adam Gase of the Miami Dolphins is seen on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Adam Gase of the Miami Dolphins is seen on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Miami Dolphins held their first contact practice on Saturday but it wasn’t a full-go tackle to the ground practice.

Some NFL teams have full tackle practices and the Dolphins still might but if they do it won’t be for a few days. Gase told reporters on Friday that the team would practice in ‘uppers’ a few days before they would go into full gear. At that point he will make a decision about tackling to the ground.

Following yesterday’s practice, Gase spoke with the media about Mike Pouncey’s status, the defense having a good practice, and gave some insight into the “Davie University” tee shirts that have been worn by the players and Gase himself.

The identity Gase and the players are trying to build is something special and the players are taking the initiative on these types of things. In years past the locker room, meeting rooms, and hall of the training facility were adorned with the coaches inspirational messages but you didn’t really hear a lot about the players. Remember the little statues with the guy holding the spear and a shield? Those were ideas of Joe Philbin after talking with some of the players to try to get them to perform at a high level. They were handed out days after the game.

It didn’t have the desired effect. This time around it’s the players that are creating the identity and it’s being led, according to Gase by Kenny Stills and Andre Branch. Every day this team seems to be developing and growing.

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Here is the full Adam Gase transcript following yesterdays practice. We will have today’s up later in the afternoon, courtesy of MiamiDolphins.com.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Head Coach Adam Gase

(WR Isaiah Ford was not in pads. Anything you can tell us about him?) – “Yes, we’re still trying to figure out really what happened. He came in this morning and his knee was a little swollen up, so we held him out. I’ll probably know more tonight because it kind of came up out of nowhere.”

(C Mike Pouncey, how would you describe what he did today? Would you say he was limited or did he participate at all or he was out there?) – “We’re trying to work him into some individual things, but we kind of got some time limits there that we’re trying to stick to because any time Mike does anything, if you say ‘Hey, we’ve got 10 minutes,’ he figures out a way to get 30 minutes worth of work in 10 minutes. So we have to … we’re trying to go through a certain progression. That’s why we’ve got … The guys are doing a good job of making sure they’re watching what he does and how much he does because he’ll go past what we want to do, and that’s why he is who he is and the kind of player he is. We’re just trying to make sure we keep an eye on him and he can go through our progression the way that we have been talking about the last month or so.”

(One other C Mike Pouncey question. You said earlier this week that when he returned against Tennessee last year, he played at an elite level? Do you recall anything about that day? Was he in the secondary blocking?) – “Yes, I mean he just does such a good job. He gets to the second level when most guys can’t. He’ll have poor angles and he’ll get there. A lot of times centers aren’t able to do that. They’re trying to catch up to the linebackers and they can’t quite get the right angle on them and can’t get that block, where he can. It’s very unique to have a guy that can do some of the things that we ask him to do. When you’re running outside zone and there’s some tough avenues you’ve got to finagle through with the d-line, and he gets through. He’s got that ability to see it before it happens and make the right move a lot of times, whether it be going in front of a d-lineman or making a right call to combo up to send the guard. He just has very good instincts and there’s a huge calming affect that he has over the entire offense when he’s in there because things don’t … You don’t have mental issues. The right calls are always made. You never have to worry about the snap.”

(And you saw all that on that day against Tennessee without…?) – “Absolutely. I’d see him practice enough and then when he gets in the game it’s just, you can tell that he’s doing something a little different than everybody else.”

(When you have a three interception practice, who surfaces? Adam Gase the play caller or Adam Gase the head coach?) – “That’s a tough question because I’m excited because the defense did a good job. Guys either tipping a ball or somebody making tight coverage and it goes up and then I go right to the ‘Hey, let’s be careful if we’re going to start pitching this thing around and not turn it over again.’ So I think a little bit of it does go to the head coach but then, at the end of the day, I go back to like ‘Alright, we just turned it over.’ But I love the fact that last year I don’t remember really getting a lot of hands on the ball and this year the coverage is way tighter. The underneath is really the biggest difference I’ve noticed with Lawrence (Timmons) and Kiko (Alonso). Those guys that have been kind of coming in that gained some experience last year, and even in that second and third group, those guys are doing a good job. Mike Hull, he showed up a couple of times today in the red area, which is always good to see.”

(What would you like to see from LB Neville Hewitt in the short term, meaning training camp, and then the bigger picture, meaning the full of season?) – “I think he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He seems to always make some kind of play that everybody takes notice and he’s been very consistent over, really since the end last year, spring and training camp. He looks very comfortable in what he’s doing. He understands the concepts of the defensive schemes and why we’re doing things and it’s been very impressive watching him grow so fast in a short period of time.”

(Would you say LB Neville Hewitt is competing for a starting job?) – “They’re all competing right now. We don’t have anything … we’re not even looking at it like that right now. We’re just trying to get guys out there. All of those guys are getting reps. That’s how we have it set up. We want to make sure that we give every guy an opportunity. We’ve got so many guys out there and we’d rather not have anybody standing around, so we want to get everybody on film. We want to be able to evaluate everybody. We never want anybody to walk away thinking they didn’t get a shot.”

(We had a chance to speak with CB Byron Maxwell today and he said like he said last year that he feels like he’s the best corner in football and things like Pro Bowl and All-Pro. More important before what they are now, what kind of mindset and then performance have you seen out of him so far?) – “One of the things about (Byron) Maxwell that I’ve always appreciated is his ability to put himself in that one-on-one situation and he really wants to be the best corner – whether it’s in the league, on this team, however he looks at it – he just wants to be the best guy, especially on the field that day. He does a good job of knowing his weaknesses and what he needs to work on, and that’s what he tries to do in practice. He knows, ‘Alright, I know I can press. I know I can really disrupt the wide receiver coming off the ball.’ So we’ll see him playing the off, trying to do different techniques to really challenge himself to see, ‘Okay, can I do this a game and can I do it well enough?’ That’s when you know, like a veteran player trying to make sure he’s got one more thing in the bag he can go to. He’s really done a good (job), this camp especially. He’s made it tough on some of these wide outs when he’s able to put hands on them, especially today when you get those pads on. It’s tough when you’re a wide out. You better do something at the line of scrimmage with him because if he gets his hands on you, you’re probably not going to go very far.”

(What gives you confidence that you’ll see the CB Byron Maxwell from the second half of 2016, not the first half?) – “Because that’s kind of where he is right now. I think he was trying to figure out how he kind of fit in and his third team in three years. It’s a little different scheme then what he did in Seattle and completely different then what he did in Philly and I think it took him a minute to kind of figure out his place here; but once he did, he did a good job.”

(WR DeVante Parker told us today that in his words he has a ‘new work ethic.’ Have you seen tangible examples of that?) – “Oh yes. It started last year. When he got on that schedule that (Wide Receivers Coach) Shawn (Jefferson) put together and that got him kind of rolling, and then he’s gone out on his own and started working with guys to help him with his running and his training and the way he practices. You can tell. It looks the same as it does in a game for the most part. When he comes out to practice, you’re getting full-go the whole practice. I really feel like that’s one of the main reasons why there’s good timing going on between him and Ryan (Tannehill). They’re working on things after practice and trying to make sure they’re always on the same page. Watching him at that last period, it’s … They’ve run a lot of plays and he looks like he’s not even close to being tired. He accelerated on a scramble and the guy’s in really phenomenal shape right now. I think he realizes what he needed to do to get his body to that point.”

(Is there a football skill, route-running preciseness or something that you have seen development in the last 6 to 12 months?) – “Yes, he understands leverages of DBs a lot better then what he did last year. He understands the reason why we’re doing a lot of these concepts and he understands where he fits in some of those concepts. The thing that does make him unique from a mental aspect of it is he never gets frustrated. Like if he goes a long time without a target or catching a ball, he doesn’t get rattled by that. He just keeps lining up the next play and looking to win on that route. Sometimes it takes guys a few years to kind of realize it’s not always going to happen exactly the way you think, because the defense can sometimes take you away or play some coverages where the ball is not going there. He does a really good job of just lining up the next play, learning from the previous one and going again.”

(When you have o-line against d-line one-on-ones down there, as a coach, what is more important – who wins the battle or the guy showing technique?) – “It’s a little bit of both. It goes with all those groups that are working the one-on-one stuff, because it’s a little bit unrealistic, because it’s not really how it’s going to be in a game. But it is fun to watch the competitive nature of guys and how bad they want to win. What are they going to do to win that one-on-one battle? I kept trying to venture down the o-line/d-line to see if I could catch Charles (Harris) or Cam (Wake) or (Ndamukong) Suh. I kept missing it. Every time I turned my back, it seemed like I would turn around and they would be already gone. I really liked the competition that … Those guys, they get excited when you get the one-on-one stuff. All those groups get really fired up to do that because there’s a lot of talking going on and the groups really … that’s where it all starts because you’ve got linebackers and safeties together and running backs and tight ends. You get a lot of good back and forth going on.”

(With the defensive tackle, the backup situation, so many young guys. We’ve seen so many mixing and matching with the second team. How will you do that evaluation?) – “The good thing is when you watch the film, it’s almost like a game every day, where you go through your evaluation and keep track of what’s going on and who’s doing what. The development of guys, we really take focus day-by-day – who came, who showed up and who played well and who didn’t. Our coaches do a good job of keeping track of those things and there’s communication between the front office and our coaches – (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) and (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and our personnel guys, we’re talking all the time. They’re talking to our position coaches almost every day. If a guy’s in charge of one group, he’ll come down there and they’ll have a discussion on it. It’s an ongoing process. We just know we have a long time before we have to make any decisions; but it’s kind of neat to say this guy started here the first day of camp, where was he after one week, where was he after two weeks, and see how that guy follows as we go through the entire preseason.”

(Can you explain the University of Davie t-shirts?) – “We were talking about it last season when we had free agents coming up and guys going down and guys stepping up. We were just talking about the culture that we wanted to create and a lot of our players were agreeing with what we were saying. That was really where it started. We were like, ‘Yes, we’re kind of a college team.’ Sometimes nobody really even knows we’re down here. It’s kind of where it started and then when we re-signed (Andre) Branch and (Kenny) Stills, I think those two guys both sent it out on Instagram or something like that. That’s kind of where it started. We were trying to think of something to do, like giving those guys something before we start camp or OTAs. That’s where it really started and our guys like it. They feel like there’s a little bit of a college atmosphere around here.”

(Are you the dean or the chancellor?) – “I don’t know what I am. Neither one of those. (laughter)”

(Are you going to stick with War Daddy?) – “We’ll still do that, you guys saw it last year I think. We have the Cam Wake tier ‘War Daddy,’ like hoodies. I’m sure he’ll want me to do something else this year – different colors, I don’t know. I haven’t checked with … I think he’s in charge of that, so I’ll have to check with him first.”

(What are some ways you would like your program to be similar to the university or collegiate atmosphere?) – “I think it’s just the closeness. I think our guys have kind of created that on their own. We kind of wanted to make it where our guys like coming to work every day and they want to go out to the practice field. They enjoy being around each other. Those guys created it. They spend a lot of time with each other when they’re here. When they are off the field, it seems like our guys like to hang out with each other. That’s kind of really … Most of us think back to when we were in college and that’s what it was. I like the environment our guys have created. Like today, it was great energy on the field. Guys were having fun, they practiced hard and there was great execution on both sides. I’m sure we made plenty of mistakes we’re going to learn from and tomorrow we’ll come back and get better from today.”

(With DB Cordrea Tankersley, we saw that he was back out there today. Do you leave the hydration thing on him today to see if he could handle it on his own? Or is it a player safety…) – “It throws a big red flag for us. So now he probably has about 20 people on him. It’s like your worst nightmare if that happens. You have so many people coming at you with water, Gatorade, all kinds of things to make sure that you’re hydrated. Our training staff and strength staff and nutritionist, all these departments we have – sports science – they make sure … That’s no joke to them. They do a good job. That was the first time that really has happened since I’ve been here because they are always on these guys about all of that stuff. That’s probably the worst thing that could’ve happened to him because they’ll be all over him now.”

(A couple of picks for LB Kiko Alonso so far. How do you feel like he’s adjusted moving from the middle to the outside, and what do you like about him playing on the edge?) – “It’s such an interchangeable … The way we play defense, he’s not in the middle in base; but when we get to our sub packages, those guys move all over the place. It’s not a hard adjustment for him. A lot of times it’s like ‘see ball, get ball.’ It’s not too hard. You can tell he’s very comfortable, especially the second year in the system. Communication-wise, he has been outstanding. I think the front … Him being back there is a familiar voice for them, and that’s kind of good for our defense instead of having a different guy all of the time talking. I think ‘L.T.’ (Lawrence Timmons) being back there too, that’s kind of nice for him to have another veteran back there with him, especially a guy that can make a lot of plays. If Kiko just stays in the defense and does his thing, he should be very productive.”