By: Jason Sarney
Following the first padded practice of the 2020 training camp season, Miami Dolphins veterans Jerome Baker and Ted Karras, along with free agent acquisition Kyle Van Noy, spoke with South Florida media Monday morning.
With 27 days until their Week 1 game, an SUV worth of former Patriots are heading up to New England to start the year, including head coach Brian Flores and several free agents who used to player their football for him in Foxborough. Two of them spoke with reporters to talk training camp.
One being free agent play-making linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
Many already are aware that the veteran linebacker has a fantastic personality and from the very start of his time on the presser was as engaging off the field with the group as he normally is blitzing or covering offensive players.
When asked about the South Florida heat and how it is different than what he was normally used to, Van Noy jokingly said, "yea, it's hot as sh*t!" He then added, "we are working through it, we are getting through it. It's a learning curve for me. I am just taking it one day at a time right now."
Heading into his 8th season and on the heels of a huge payday from Miami to lure him away from New England, Van Noy is a self-proclaimed “football player.” Whether it is labeled an inside or outside linebacker or even a defensive end, Van Noy is familiar with what coach Flores expects from his players.
"I want to be a leader on this team, I'm not a ra-ra type of guy, I want to lead by example with the way I work and lead." He then went on to confirm the obvious about his knowledge of the scheme. "Yes I have familiarize with the defense, yes it's different."
Van Noy is aware as anyone what it requires to make this system work. "It takes all 11 of us to be on the same page covering and rushing, he said. "I think if we get if going on the same page at a consistently high standard, we'll be alright."
Van Noy, who was drafted by Detroit in 2014 out of BYU, spent four years in New England and has a pair of rings to show for it. He brings a winning attitude and an extreme likability to this team.
Van Noy is a personable leader who has the youthful exuberance of a teenager with the savvy mental aptitude of a collegiate professor. The importance of a cerebral leader to this line-backing unit can not be measured, as Van Noy could be the most important off-season addition Miami brought in over the winter.
Supporting this, is the confidence he has in his own game. He has the rare abilities of pass-rush, covering and playing the run, as he has says, "I'm the last of a dying bread." He clarifies this by saying, "coverage, run, one of those situations, very rarely to you get all three and I am just trying to bring that energy to the team, be a problem, be a mismatch."
In terms of the Covid-19 situation in practice, Van Noy says, "the first time I thought about it is you bringing it up right now," speaking to the reporter asking the initial question. "You don't really think about it. When you are off the field, you want to do the necessary things to stay healthy, sanitize, all those good things."
The veteran summed up Day 1 in pads, saying, "it felt good. It felt good to get back at it.
"What a great way to start to get on them pads and get it cracking."
Following Van Noy was veteran linebacker, Jerome Baker. Baker, the 3rd year linebacker from Ohio State University had a solid 2019 campaign with room for improvement. Playing the outside mainly, Baker could retain his starting role on the outside in a crowded line-backing group that has several new additions.
Baker is a defensive and overall team leader who is coming off a 126 total tackle season that included an interception as well as a pair of forced fumbles to go with four passes defended in coverage. He added a sack and a half last year and hopes to continue to build on his progress.
Always the fun-loving, hype-type, Baker was asked about his energy and being that team energizer bunny, as it was put. "I like being the energy. I like being my fun self," he said. "I try to be that and show anybody that it's still a fun game."
Baker focused on the football aspects of life today, even with the looming presence of safety and healthy concerns. "There's a lot of safety protocols, but when you are on the field it is still football," he said. "For me, when you touch the field it's still football, let's go hard."
He cites the medical staff doing a great job taking care of the players.
With a veteran like Van Noy adding experience to the unit, Baker is taking full advantage of his tutelage. "Since the time he walked in, he has been in my ear about anything and everything," Baker said with pride. "He has definitely been a great mentor."
Baker then pointed out a fun fact that is remarkably accurate believe it or not about Van Noy's senior status on the roster. "I always make fun of him because he is the 2nd oldest player on the team," Baker said with a smirk.
Van Noy is 29 years old, and of course Ryan Fitzpatrick is the elder-statesman at 37.
All kidding aside, Baker worked on a specific aspect of his game this off-season in order to continue to get better each day. "One thing I definitely want to work on is my pad level." He adds, "that's the one thing I have been focusing on, but everyday I try to work on something new."
Offensive lineman, and yet another former Patriot, Ted Karras, joined the media session and gave his insights on the young linemen in camp and what it will take for the unit to gel.
"I have been very impressed with all the rookies we brought in this year, said the center slash guard. "Everyone is finding their fit and earning their roles. I am very excited for them not only for this year but moving forward."
Specifically, Karras mentioned rookie Solomon Kindley. Karras says, "Well, it's been very fun to play next to him. He works very hard and always tries to do the right things. He is a great guy to have in the room and is a cool dude."
Kindley is one of three rookies on this Miami offensive line, and Karras is aware that is just one of the seasonal challenges with this unit in 2020.
When asked about the ability to come together as a unit, despite the situations beyond their control he said, "right there with any training camp is a challenge and this is a very unique year." He went on to say that, "everyone on our o-line is very talented and we are pushing each other and working hard."
Karras, who is forever a student, is aware of the importance of practice and the games missed in preseason. "It's definitely time to get the pads on. With 27 days until kick-off, we need to get our timing right," he said. "O-line is a repetition position."
Even with all the challenges both football and safety, Karras summed things up eloquently to close the press conference in terms of his and the teams mindset. "I want to be tough, competitive and play well under pressure. That puts us in the best position to win every week. "Today was a good building block for that today."
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