Jun
23
2014
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The Miami Dolphins held a launch party last Wednesday evening to announce both their new season ticket plans as well as their now-county approved Sun Life Stadium renovation.

The event was mainly a sales event, but this wasn’t anything like your typical timeshare seminar in the coral room of the Ramada, this was an exciting event for the fans to take part in that gave them an insight of the team’s storied past, while allowing fans to look forward to what should be a bright future.

The star of the event was none other than former Miami Dolphins’ defensive end Jason Taylor, who recently has been a guest coach of the Dolphins, working with their defensive linemen during OTAs and minicamps.

I was invited to the event and while there I managed to get some work done in recording Taylor’s speech to the fans while indulging in some free food and beverages like the fat boy that I am and mingling with some Dolphins fans and sales representatives, all of whom seem excited about the Dolphins’ future.

The first thing discussed after Taylor was introduced was how he had worked with the team, but he was quick to point out that, “I’m not an assistant coach, let’s get that clear. I’m a very part-time, I’m lower than the interns.” The line received laughter followed by explaining his experience working with the players.

When asked about working with players he had previously played with that are currently on the team (Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Cameron Wake), Taylor explained: “It’s a little different, not being in a uniform now, yelling at them and telling them stuff, but it’s the same thing for me I do the same thing now that I did when I played.

Taylor went on to also talk about how he picked up some knowledge from some of the players, including Cameron Wake, saying: “Wake has a very particular set of skills that I didn’t always have, it’s a real God-given talent of things you can’t really teach.”

After discussing Taylor’s work with the Dolphins’ players, the conversation took a detour into talks of the Sun Life Stadium renovations. While Taylor was at the Miami-Dade commission meeting on Tuesday where the vote was made, he says he “did nothing”, but then added about the stadium renovations: “It’s a great day for the Dolphins’ organization and Dolphins Stadium, and to get this place renovated and have a chance to get some of these marquee events was big.”

The conversation took a detour into the stadium renovations, which is a big deal but nothing new was revealed that hadn’t been revealed before. There will be more information in the coming months, according to the Dolphins’ representatives at the event.

From there came a sales pitch for the Dolphins’ new season ticket membership tiers. The ideas are cool, but I’m not here to sell that, that’s what MiamiDolphins.com is for (however, feel free to DM me on Twitter for details on some of the membership tiers as well as how you can arrange for a private tour of Sun Life Stadium).

After that 13 minute detour (which took up a good 23 minutes of Taylor’s appearance), Finsiders host Greg Likens (the event’s emcee) brought the subject back to the field, asking Taylor about the vibe around the locker room since he’s been there.

Taylor responded by saying: “They’re very optimistic, and they should be. This is a football team that started off decent last year, really had a chance to make the playoffs, and for a myriad of reason didn’t make the playoffs in the last three games. The talent is there, there were some issues to be addressed, talent-wise, particularly protecting the quarterback during the draft.”

Taylor then had praise for Miami’s new offensive coordinator: “I really like Lazor, I’ve been spending some time with Lazor during these OTAs and minicamps, and seeing what he’s doing offensively, the innovation that he has in using Mike Wallace and some of the talent on this football team.”

Taylor however tempered the expectations, saying: “there’s reason for optimism, now it’s only June, and I’ve done this 15 times, and in June you feel great, but when August comes around, we start to lay this foundation between now and August, really for the last couple months, when you kick off training camp at the end of July or beginning of August, that’s when you really get a grasp of what the football team can be.”

Taylor was asked by Likens how scared should an opposing quarterback be of Miami’s defensive linemen. Taylor responded with: “Well, listen there’s a lot of talent at that position, and it’s a good thing to have, and as we’ve seen through the years in every sport, depth is important. If you have a guy like Cameron Wake who’s one of the better pass rushers in this league, you’ll be hard pressed to find a guy in this league whose a better pass rusher than him. Derrick Shelby has played very well, and O.V. (Olivier Vernon) has really been a surprise to a lot of people, what a great kid and a great guy to work with, you watch his work ethic and the way he approaches the game, and as those guys continue to learn–Dion Jordan as he gets more comfortable putting his hands in the dirt, and getting after people and getting away from that shoulder injury–it might instil a lot of fear in guys.”

On Koa Misi at middle linebacker, Taylor described the transition as “being real key for the defense, I think it’s a natural fit for Koa,” then said that Misi at middle linebacker is “a more natural fit for him,” then praised his “willingness to make that change.”

The night wrapped up with J.T. going down memory lane, which is what most of the fans truly wanted to see and hear about.

Taylor gave credit to the people around him for his success, stating: “I had so many guys around me that helped me transition from college to pros, then from year one to year two to year three.” Taylor then said that some of the key veterans that helped him out include Dan Marino, saying “Having a chance to learn from someone like that was great.”

Taylor then named Zack Thomas, saying: “nobody worked harder than Zach. Zach worked hard, but Zach worked very smart, I learned a ton from him.”

As Taylor mentioned some of the other players that helped him out (including Trace Armstrong and O.J. McDuffie), JT would describe his battles with another Dolphin that helped him throughout his career, Dolphins great Richmond Webb.

“I had to go against Richmond Webb, who does not get anywhere near as much credit as he deserves. Richmond Webb, beat my you-know-what everyday. It was so smooth and easy for him and I’d be trying and sweating and frustrated and yelling and cussing at him and trying to fight him and grab his facemask and, he seriously would do it with a smile on his face, and I would get frustrated sometimes. Tim Bowens and Trace [Armstrong] and some of those guys would tell me, ‘look, he’s going to make you so much better because you play against him every day in practice,’ so it’s guys like that that really help springboard my career, if my name was in lights sometimes and I got a lot of credit for doing some things on the field but without the guys around you, we’re nothing. They did all the dirty work, and I got to make plays.”

The night ended with Taylor telling his favorite Jimmy Johnson story, one that delighted the crowd and brought them to laughter.

“I played for Jimmy for three years, he made the playoffs every year. I had a bad third year, I had two-and-a-half sacks my third year, and for a myriad of reasons I wasn’t playing well. One day we were in a team meeting, there were 65 players, all the staffs in there, upstairs the administrators, GM, all in the room. When you’re not playing well you know it as a player. You feel like crap, you’re grinding you’re trying to get through the slump, it’s not fun. You see the coaches in the hallway, you don’t want to talk to them, you see Jimmy [Johnson] in the hallway you turn around you go the other way, you act like you forgot something in the locker room, so I was doing that whole process for about three or four weeks.

“It was Week 5 now, we’re at this team meeting, Jimmy walks up front and, I used to sit all the way in the back of the room, to the right, and Jimmy walks in, doesn’t even look up, doesn’t say good morning, which he really didn’t ever say good morning, but he goes, ‘Is Jason Taylor here?’ and I said ‘yeah’, then he goes, ‘has anybody seen Jason Taylor?’ and I’m like, I got my hand up, and I’m thinking, ‘he can’t see me he knows where I’m sitting’, so he says it again, ‘has anyone in here seen Jason Taylor?’

“At this point, everyone is turned around looking at me at me, and he’s still asking ‘has anyone seen Jason Taylor?’”

From there, the crowd got a few chuckles, as for the punch line, unfortunately my iPhone decided to stop recording, and I didn’t commit it to memory, however, the night ended there, and for all in attendance, it was a tremendously fun and good time.

Could those times extend to on the field this season? The hope right now is yes.

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