Raekwon McMillan talks to the media on Thursday

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Wayne Gallman #9 of the Clemson Tigers is upended by Raekwon McMillan #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Wayne Gallman #9 of the Clemson Tigers is upended by Raekwon McMillan #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Raekwon McMillan spoke with the media following the conclusion of the Dolphins first set of OTA practices on Thursday.

It’s easy to get overexcited over OTA practices since there’s really nothing else going on. Miami Dolphins fans sure have been excited to see Ryan Tannehill run out there without a knee brace, and without limitations. While it’s a positive sign, there’s still a long road to go before the season begins. Also, Tannehill isn’t the only player returning this year after missing the 2017 season.

Raekwon McMillan and Tony Lippett are the other notable players who had to sit out the year with season-ending injuries. For McMillan, it was truly gut-wrenching. McMillan entered the year as a rookie with full confidence, but he tore his ACL on his first play in preseason running down on a punt.

Like Tannehill, McMillan can’t wait to get back on the field, and he too, does not have any limitations during Miami’s OTA’s. On Thursday, McMillan spoke to the media to talk about his knee, the Dolphins selecting a fellow Buckeye, among other things.

"” It feels good to be back. My knee feels good. I’m out there doing everything at practice and (have) no limitations, so I’m out there flying around.”"

Obviously, the knee is what’s on everybody’s mind, but McMillan ensured that he feels great, and that he doesn’t think about it when he’s out there. Both Tannehill and Frank Gore told him that thinking about it would be the worst thing for him to do so he’s made it a priority to just go out there and play. Interestingly, McMillan said that going to Top Golf played a part in helping him to rehab, in addition to basketball and swimming.

McMillan was also asked where he was when he found out that the Dolphins selected his college teammate, Jerome Baker, in the 2018 NFL Draft.

"“I was actually in the movies when it happened…”"

McMillan laughed when admitted that he was tweeting during the movie his happiness over the pick, and that people in the theater were getting mad at him for it. If we played by NBA rules, McMillan would be entering his rookie season alongside his college teammate. The two were a solid combination in 2016 at Ohio State, and they are looking to carry that over to the NFL. Dolphins fans hope so too.

Related Story: Five things we learned from Miami Dolphins OTA's

There was a lot to like about McMillan heading into 2017 after a solid training camp, and there’s even more to like about him now. As the mike linebacker, McMillan knows he has to be the leader of the defense. Even in just a few short OTA practices, McMillan has shown that he can be that leader by making sure other players are in their right positions, and they know their assignments.

The Dolphins may have had to wait an extra season, but if McMillan can become the player that many of us believe that he can, and the true leader of this defense, then it will have been worth the wait.

The full transcript of McMillan’s talk with the media can be seen below, and is courtesy of MiamiDolphins.com.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

LB Raekwon McMillan

(How is the knee feeling?) – “Man, it feels good to be standing up again in front of you all. (laughter) It feels good to be back. My knee feels good. I’m out there doing everything at practice and (have) no limitations, so I’m out there flying around.”

(Do you think about your knee when you are out there or no?) – “No. That’s the worst thing you can do is think about it. I kind of got some advice from Frank Gore and (Ryan) Tannehill, that went through it a little bit last year. (They said) just when you get out there and you’re going, that needs to be the last thing on your mind.”

(What was it like to have all of that buildup to your rookie season and then have it taken away from you before it ever got going?) – “It was hard at first; but then I kind of sucked it up and told myself that I could either let this year be a waste or prepare myself for next year, because I know next year there is going to be a role to start. I can’t have any setbacks.”

(Yours was kind of the flukiest of fluke injuries, right? I mean you run down a punt and you just collide with a teammate.) – “Yes, it was a little quirky injury. Everything happens for a reason, so I wouldn’t call it a fluke; but yes, I got a little nudge and it happened. I took it from there.”

(What has been the hardest part of the last nine months?) – “The hardest part is just getting back, just baby steps. Every day you’re not going to be … Not walking one day and then walking the next. It was taking one step today, taking two steps the next day and then eventually getting to full speed. That’s the hardest part is just the daily grind. You don’t move as fast as you want to, but you’re always moving.”

(Obviously you were focused on getting back last year but was there any football knowledge that you gained? Anything that you can now apply to actual playing?) – “Yes, for sure. I got to watch Chase Allen grow into the player that he is right now. Chase did a great job coming in and filling in. Just talking with him, he was kind of like my boy when we were coming in through camp and learning together. During the season, just watching him out there doing it while I’m still going to all of the meetings and talking, it just helped my mental game. Now that I’m back out there, I’m still with the guys.”

(And you can apply that knowledge to stuff?) – “Yes.”

(Obviously you’re a young man and an inexperienced player, but you’re going to be right in the middle of things. So how, as a young man with not a lot of game experience, do you be a leader? How do you do that?) – “It all comes with confidence and knowing what I’m doing, being able to tell guys what they’re doing around me, and when they ask, have a definite answer, not like ‘Oh, I don’t know. Let me go ask coach.’ When they come to me as the Mike linebacker, I need to know. A leader isn’t just a title that you get because you’re the Mike linebacker. Leader is a title that you get because you put in the work day in and day out during the offseason and leading up until now.”

(Do you feel like this is sort of your “rookie year” or second year? A little bit in between?) – “I’ve got like one and a half, I guess. (laughter) Whatever you want to call it. So yes, this is my rookie and a half (year). (laughter)”

(Was there a point in your rehab that you said to yourself, “I’m going to be all the way back. I’m going to be better than I was before?”) – “Yes. When I finally started doing regular stuff, like going to Top Golf and going to swim and going out to shoot a little basketball, when I knew I could do that, I knew I was going to be okay.”

(How well was it going for you last year? How ready to take over that middle linebacker spot were you, before it was taken away?) – “I mean I was still a rookie last year and I was still being thrown into the fire; but I was very confident in myself and what I could do on the field. I felt like I could have done big things last year, but it just had to wait until the next year.”

(When the Dolphins picked LB Jerome Baker, were you watching it? Did you hear about it?) – “I was actually in the movies when it happened. (laughter) I was tweeting from the movies. Everybody saw me tweeting but I was in the movies and the people beside me were getting mad because I was on the phone the whole time. (laughter) But yes, they drafted my boy ‘Bake.’ I recruited him to Ohio State, so it just kind of feels good again to have him back with me here so I can teach him a little bit of what I know.”

(You mentioned Top Golf and all of that, when was that? When did you start to feel normal again?) – “I have no idea. (It was) like January or February.”

(So it took the whole season for you to kind of get back to that point?) – “Yes. I mean I’d say about December, January and February is when I started feeling like myself again.”

(When the injury first happened, did it cross your mind that it was crazy for it to be on the first play?) – “Yes. When I was on the ground, I was sitting there like, ‘Wow.’ I knew something was up as soon as it happened because I’ve never been hurt before and when I jumped up to try to run again – if you go back and look at it – when I first fell, I jumped right back up and tried to run but it just didn’t feel right. I sat back down and I knew something was up. I was like, ‘Man, this is crazy. This is the first time I’m touching the field, period, and I’m hurt.’ Yes, it was crazy.”

(What are the skills that you saw from LB Jerome Baker, going back to his Ohio State days, that can help this defense?) – “Some games I played in him with – Oklahoma, at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin – he really played some ball in those games. It wasn’t a one-man show out there. He was out there playing ball. When we played the team up north – that’s Michigan (laughter) – I think I had like 19 tackles or something like that and he was right behind me with like 18. He was out there balling. From then on, I knew he had a chance. Personally, I thought he was going to be an early second-round pick; but they had circumstances last year at Ohio State that made him drop down a little bit. He’s definitely a good ball player.”

(How do you see your role on this defense?) – “I’m the Mike. I’m the middle linebacker, the guy in the middle, the quarterback of the defense. I’m trying to become a leader out there. There’s nothing given to me, so I’m going to try to work my way into that leadership spot.”

(When a defense loses a guy like DT Ndamukong Suh, how can it be better?) – “Bringing in young talent. They’ve got to work to become that. He’s definitely one of the top 100 players in the league, as you all saw from NFL Network. He was voted on by the other players. He’s a dominant force in the middle. We just have to bring in talent to come and do what he did.”

(To what extent did you and QB Ryan Tannehill go through this process together?) – “We got our surgery on the same exact day. (laughter) We got back here on the day and we started rehab the same exact day. From Day 1, it was always a competition. Who could walk without their crutches first? Who could run full-speed under water first? It was just little stuff. Who can get a bigger quad muscle? (laughter) It was just really stupid stuff like that to keep competing with each other. Also, Isaiah Ford too was in that competition with us, even though he had a smaller injury. We all kept the light on each other.”

(Was going through it with QB Ryan Tannehill helpful to you?) – “Yes, for sure, because he always kept me up. Some days I wasn’t feeling too good and I just couldn’t do what I wanted to do. He always kept me positive and kept my mind right, because he had went through it last year.”

(Who won the competition? There’s a competition for everything.) – “I won. (laughter) I mean, I don’t know. (Ryan) Tannehill progressed a little bit faster than me because he just knew what the deal was with his knee. He wasn’t scared of the aches and pains that come with it. He moved along and helped me move along, as well.”

(Were you scared of the aches and pains when you had them?) – “Was I scared of them? Yes, but I got surgery for a reason. The surgery was so that I wouldn’t have the aches and pains anymore. It went away eventually.”