By: Jason Sarney
The Miami Dolphins continued their training camp schedule Monday morning following a weekend of difficult news leading to heavy hearts.
The mother of team Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lori, tragically passed away Saturday morning. While the team leader arrived at practice, it was reported that after an emotional and difficult conversation with head Coach Brian Flores, the team rallied behind in support for the veteran as he needed to be with his family following the tragic news.
Through the Miami social media account, Fitzpatrick later expressed his gratitude for all the love, support, and well-wishes. “On behalf of my family, I want to thank everyone who has reached out with well wishes. It truly means a lot to us.”
With the team coming together to lift their leader as well as each other up, a trio of Dolphins were able to discuss the last few days of practice with South Florida media Monday afternoon.
It was clear the thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzpatrick family from the entire Miami Dolphins organization and fan base. We all are thinking of number 14 and his family.
Second year defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said, "Ryan has been a great guy, a great friend." He added, “since day one we hit it off." "He is a guy I care for a lot." Wilkins said he communicated with Ryan to show him is support. “I shot him a text...Let him know that I'm there for him and I love him."
On the football side of things, free agent acquisition Clayton Fejedelem, spoke to media as well, who is a safety mixed in with his vital role as a special teamer. The 5th year veteran out of Illinois was very direct in why he chose Miami as his only other NFL team than the one that drafted him in 2016.
He cites that the decision to come to Miami was relatively easy. " I just love Coach Flo and everything they are doing here." He adds, "it's also not bad moving down to the South Florida area."
Fejedelem is a hard hitter who can excel in coverage in the return games and has 77 total career tackles in the secondary. He is certainly a heavy work ethic type of player and ready for the challenges ahead to make a name for himself in Miami.
He went on to praise Miami’s coaching staff stating, "the guys here are here for a reason. We have a very young staff." He says that if there are guys here not ready for accountability, there are not in the right building.”
Following Fejedelem was the Wilkins, who praised his defensive teammates versatility and flexibility in a complicated defensive scheme. He said, “we have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things.” He added, “everyone we got can play multiple positions. We added a lot of versatility.”
Talking more about Coach Flores, he cites his unique ability to go beyond the field in his teaching and mentorship with his players. Something Christian says is a welcomed oddity. “I feel like you don’t get that too often on the pro level.” Wilkins backed up the statement saying, “it’s great to know you have a coach that supports you, that has your back. “He wants what’s best for us as men.”
Wilkins, who began the press conference with a Miami Dolphins mask and a VOTE shirt, as he welcomed an initial question regarding the political statement he was making upon sitting down, as he held up his shirt and voiced the word on said shirt to the media. Wilkins says he would potentially do a decent job in politics after his playing career and that perhaps a future Miami Mayoral candidacy can be in the cards.
Any campaign in any walk of life needs a spokesperson and someone to sell the product or message. Enter third year tight end, Mike Gesicki. The pass-catching tight end, who is one of the more amicable and outgoing Miami Dolphins opened with a poignant message regarding his friend, mentor and teammate, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“It’s a really tough time for him and his family. I really felt for his family, his kids…”Knowing him a being a family guy, he’s been there for his kids, his wife, his dad…” Gesicki then says, “I wish him all the best moving forward.”
On a tough but professionally smooth transition back to football Gesicki praised Fitzpatrick on his constant ability to teach and tutor him even in something as simply as where to be and how to get there. In all things, Gesicki values his leadership. Leadership stems from the top, and once again the same name was mention. “If you guys know coach Flo, he isn’t letting us look to far ahead."
Gesicki talked about the tight end group and the competitive aspect to this training camp, despite some different skill sets in the room.“I think there is, you know, a ton of competition in our room. It is going to bring out the best in everybody. Newly acquired Adam Shaheen from Chicago and Gesicki best-bud, Durham Smythe, will compete for snaps, and it seems as if Gesicki knows he is the lone wolf in the tight end reception market, which is pretty obvious, if you ask me.
Gesicki jokes about how Smythe and he make fun of each other, as Durham says Mike should be in the receiver room. Gesicki countered by claiming that Durham is merely an extended tackle. Gesicki also dropped a nugget that, “Chandler [Cox] is in his room as well.” Chandler Cox is in his second season and was seldom used as a fullback in his 2019 rookie season after being a 7th round selections from Auburn. Something to monitor perhaps for any tricky packages or personnel sets.
He closed with a sentiment that resonated with Wilkins, as they seem to be worrying about only the task at hand at the present time. Gesicki said confidently, and as a player who realizes his value to this team, “right now, focus is on the Miami Dolphins and helping each one of us get better day in and day out."
It seems to be working.
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