T.J. McDonald acknowledges hit on Jay Ajayi in practice


Jay Ajayi was forced to leave practice early Monday to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a big hit from teammate T.J. McDonald.

Miami Dolphins fans were holding their breaths at the news that Jay Ajayi was forced to leave practice early on Monday. It was reported that Ajayi walked off the field to be evaluated for a possible concussion. It turns out that Ajayi took quite a hit from safety T.J. McDonald during a team drill.

Last season, it was Ajayi who was delivering the blows to anyone who stood in his way so it’s surprising to see him on the receiving end of one. Ajayi will now have to go through the proper concussion protocols before he can return to the field. Once cleared, don’t be surprised if the Dolphins decide to shut him down until the start of the regular season.

The Dolphins signed McDonald to a one-year deal this past offseason. He will only be available for half a season, however, because he must first serve an eight game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. McDonald was a very good player while with the Rams, and once he returns, the Dolphins hope that he can be a major benefactor alongside Reshad Jones in the secondary for the last half of the season.

Many were not too happy with McDonald after the news of Ajayi broke out, but that’s just the game of football. If he can deliver that kind of hit to a guy as big as Ajayi, imagine the kind of impact he can deliver against opposing players.

McDonald spoke with the media after practice on Monday, in which he briefly acknowledged the big hit to Ajayi. He also discussed the coaching staff’s plan for him once he returns from his suspension. Below is the full transcript of the interview with McDonald discussing the hit to Ajayi, his suspension, and more, courtesy of MiamiDolphins.com.

Monday, July 31, 2017

S T.J. McDonald

(How much do you enjoy the sound of shoulder pads colliding?) – “It means football is back. I enjoy it a lot. I definitely have a lot of fun with it.”

(You got somebody good today. Was that RB Jay Ajayi?) – “Yes, that was in the period that … we had a couple periods – a couple live periods – that wasn’t live, though. I was just trying to thud him up and do my job. It’s always good to have contact and it is football, so it’s going to happen.”

(Do you look forward to the preseason games as closer to actual games for you since you’ll be out for a while?) – “Yes, I’m looking forward to live bullets, going out there and getting live action and all that. I understand that I’m going to have my time to be out there and play before I’m going to have to be sitting out for a while. I’m going to take full advantage of it and try to get better throughout every week through the preseason, and I think it will pay off for me.”

(Does that delay cross your mind at all during training camp? When you get done with a day do you…) – “No, I don’t have time to think about that right now. I’m trying to get better, trying to learn. I’m in a new system. I’m trying to get comfortable in this system and just make sure I’m on the same page with everybody. I think that would be selfish of me to put myself in front of that and be thinking about my situation. I’m just trying to get better every day.”

(With all of that being said, have you had a conversation with the coaching staff about specifically what they’d like you to do and what you’d like to do during September and October on a daily basis within the rules?) – “They have a plan for me. We haven’t gone that far yet as far as all that. We’ve got a while left in training camp and I think that my focus right now just needs to be on training camp. I know they have a plan for me and we’ll figure that out when that time comes, but right now I’m just focused on getting through the preseason and getting better and getting comfortable in this system.”

(Where is your comfort level in terms of being in the system?) – “I’m still learning. I’m definitely not comfortable yet. I’m still learning. Going through OTAs definitely helped me a lot, but you still have to get out there and see different looks and things like that. (Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Matt) Burke and (Defensive Backs) Coach Lou (Anarumo) do a great job of breaking it down and making it a lot easier for us. For me, this isn’t my first year, so I understand defense; but this system is a little different and I’m definitely learning, so I’m still learning.”

(You’re mostly an in-the-box safety, or at least you have been going back to your career. How does this system work in terms of left-right, strong-free?) – “They’re really interchangeable. Free safety and strong safety in this defense are interchangeable. We do a lot of similar things depending on different looks that we get and things like that. I can do both. It’s more so having to learn … You have to learn both. It’s not like you’re just going to learn strong safety, because the strong safety is not just the only one in the box. Sometimes I’ll be in the post and you get two high looks, things like that. So you just learn both and learn how to be interchangeable between both because we do a lot of the same things.”

(I saw former S Isa Abdul-Quddus hanging around. Have you guys been able to have any interesting or helpful conversation?) – “Yes, definitely. He’s helpful to be around. He’s the one on the film right now that we were watching from last year. He’s got experience in this system, so having him in the meeting room definitely helps and he was out there on the sideline today and things like that. Having him in the room, someone who’s been there, someone who’s done it in this system, is definitely helpful.”

(The Dolphins receivers and running backs were recently rated by one national writer as No. 3 in the NFL. What are your early impressions on the tight ends, receivers, and running backs on this team?) – “There’s a lot of talent. They’ve got guys that stretch the field, guys that can catch the short ball and guys that can run after the catch, and also running backs in the backfield that are powerful running backs. Jay’s (Ajayi) done it, Damien’s (Williams) a great back, and (Kenyan) Drake as well. Julius (Thomas) at tight end; they’ve got so much talent over there that they can really … I know for (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase, it’s not going to be too hard to call plays and whatnot with all that talent because they’ve got so much stuff going on over there. They can stretch the field, they can run the ball, they can do everything. You really have to play honest as a defense with all those weapons.”

(Does any one of them have a talent that makes you say, ‘Oh I didn’t know he could do that,’ whether it’s RB Jay Ajayi and his tough running or WR Jarvis Landry and his hands? Anything?) – “I played against the Dolphins last year, so I have it kind of broken down, and I think that adding Julius (Thomas) helps a lot, as well. I kind of knew what you were going to get out of those guys. I didn’t know Jarvis (Landry) was as tough as he was; he definitely is a tough runner with the ball in his hands. I know Kenyan’s (Drake) fast, he’s going to stretch the field, and DeVante (Parker) is definitely coming into his own, so I’m excited to play with those guys.”

(Has your buddy DE William Hayes come up with any new theories now that he’s back?) – “Not yet. I think that he’s just getting comfortable. I think that we need to stay tuned for that. I think that it’s coming, though. (laughter)”

(You’re going to be out for such an extended period of time. Is it realistic to expect when you come back, in what will be Game 1 for you, to be at the level that you would’ve been had you played for the entire season? Will there be a period of getting your feet wet?) – “I think that it’ll be my job, according to the plan that has been put in place, for me to stay sharp and stay around the building. I think it’s unrealistic to say that I’ll be able to go out there and pick up like it was nothing; but I think at the same time, it would be realistic to say that my body will feel a lot better in Week 9 than it would if I had played eight weeks. I think those two together … I’ve never done this before. I wish I could give you a better answer, but I think that being able to stay sharp on the mental part of it (is important). I’ve played a lot of games, so it won’t be my first game or anything like that. I’ve played a lot of games in the past, so I think that once I come out there, as long as I’m staying sharp, staying in shape, it might take a little while to make sure I’m all the way back in football shape playing four quarters and all that, but I know that my body will feel good.”