As the Miami Dolphins prepare to begin a quarterback competition in mid-August, the incumbent Ryan Fitzpatrick knows his position as a bridge to future franchise quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It turns out that he’s very comfortable with his dual role of leading the 2020 Dolphins on and off the field while also helping to prepare the man who will eventually take his job.
“I don’t know how much time it will be before Tua will be in the lineup. I know that I am the placeholder. We’ve already had that conversation,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve told him, ‘I’m going to do the best I can to lead this team and win football games when I’m out there. Whenever it is that Tua gets his chance whether it’s early or late or whenever, I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader.'”
Placeholder isn’t a new role for Fitzpatrick — who is entering his 16th NFL season while playing on his eighth NFL team. Fitzpatrick is the true definition of a journeyman, but he’s also the perfect quarterback to usher the Dolphins into this new era. The Dolphins locker room loves his infectious energy, fun and free style to playing quarterback, and how he helped galvanize the 2019 Dolphins leading them to a 5-4 record to end the season.
Fitzpatrick is the favorite to begin Week 1 as the Dolphins starter, but Tagovailoa has been cleared for full practice and once he’s comfortable in the offense his talent may force coach Brian Flores’ hand to eventually put him in the starting lineup. Flores says it will be an open competition. Either way, don’t expect any animosity between Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa.
“I have a unique perspective just from the career that I’ve had. I was excited that they drafted him. Since meeting him in person the other day, I’m really excited. I think we really hit it off,” Fitzpatrick said. “Even though I’m an old geezer to him, I think we meshed personality-wise and I’m excited to work with him.”
The Dolphins players have all taken their initial COVID-19 tests and physicals, and now can all begin the strength-and-conditioning program inside the building.
Fitzpatrick, who turns 38 in November, will have a leg up in the early quarterback competition because of his relationship with new Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. He’s spent five years playing for Gailey with Buffalo and the New York Jets. But he isn’t going to hog all that knowledge — he plans to be an open book for Tagovailoa and third-year quarterback Josh Rosen who returns to Miami for his second season with the team.
“It’s not all that difficult for me. I’m going to go out there competing every single day as I know the younger guys are. In the meeting rooms, I’m not going to keep anything to myself too. I’m going to make somebody tell me to shut up,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m going to talk as much as I can and share as much as I can with the intimate knowledge I have of this offense.”
Fitzpatrick said they’ve had a couple of walkthroughs with the rookies thus far, and acknowledged that rookies may be the group most affected by the COVID-19 impacted offseason due to lack of reps.
As for the Tagovailoa-Fitzpatrick relationship, it’s already off to a great start and the veteran quarterback got a strong early impression of the rookie.
“I mean he’s a really interesting guy, he’s got a lot of energy to him. And you can even just tell the guys are gonna gravitate to him, there’s just something about him that is very likable and I can already tell that he’s going to be one of those guys that gets along with everybody, that guys are going to want to follow. He just has that kind of aura about him,” Fitzpatrick said. “Part of it is probably the way that he played in college and just kind of the name and the reputation that he’s built for himself. But there’s not a whole lot of ego involved and he’s very likable. The general conversations, whether about football or life, it’s been really fun so far.”
Carroll Hardy, who hit for Ted Williams and built Broncos’ ‘Orange Crush’ dies at 87
HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — Carroll Hardy, a multi-sport star best known as the only man ever to pinch hit for Ted Williams, died Sunday at age 87.
Hardy was also known as the football executive who helped assemble the “Orange Crush” defense in Denver during the 1970s.
The University of Colorado, where Hardy was a three-sport star, said he died of complications from dementia. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Hardy went on to play professional baseball and football after starring in track, baseball and football at Colorado from 1951-55.
CU athletic director Rick George called Hardy “a true icon of the state. His list of accomplishments in his lifetime and the people he touched are really second to none. We have lost a great Buffalo.”
Hardy earned a record 10 letters altogether in the early 1950s. An All-American honorable mention in 1953 and ’54, Hardy rushed for 1,999 career yards with a whopping 6.87-yard average per carry, which remains the best in school history among players with at least 60 carries.
Hardy led the nation in kickoff return average in 1952 and had six interceptions for the Buffaloes.
On the diamond, Hardy was CU’s all-time career batting average leader (.392) with 118 hits in 301 at-bats with 15 homers, 80 RBI, 107 runs scored and 45 stolen bases.
He once ran a 9.8 in the 100-yard dash on the indoor track.
Hardy was the 33rd overall pick in the 1955 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. and averaged 28.2 yards a catch as a rookie with 12 receptions for 338 yards and four touchdowns.
Before reporting to the 49ers camp, Hardy signed with the Cleveland Indians and played on their A-league team in Reading, Pennsylvania. In 1956, he was hitting .365 in 21 games with the Indians’ Triple-A team in Indianapolis when he was ordered to report to the U.S. Army.
He returned to the Indians after his two-year tour of military duty and his major league career spanned a decade from 1958-67 with stops in Cleveland, Boston, Houston and Minnesota.
Hardy was the only man ever to pinch hit for Red Sox icons Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
“I’d like to have people remember me for hitting 400 home runs and a lifetime batting average of .305, but I didn’t do that,” Hardy once told the Denver Post. “But it’s not bad being remembered as the only man to ever pinch-hit for Ted Williams.”
Hardy’s first major league homer was a three-run shot in the bottom of the 11th to beat the White Sox when he was sent to the plate in place of Roger Maris in 1958 when both were with the Indians.
Boston traded Hardy to the expansion Colt 45’s in 1963 and he later joined the Twins, who sent him to their affiliate in Denver.
During his two-plus seasons with the Denver Bears, he began scouting part-time for the Denver Broncos in the offseason.
That led to a 24-year stint with the Broncos in various roles including assistant ticket manager, director of scouting, pro personnel director and assistant general manager.
He finished his major league career with a September call-up with the Twins in 1967, then turned his attention full-time to football.
Hardy was credited with helping to build Denver’s “Orange Crush” defense that led to the Broncos’ first Super Bowl appearance in 1977. That dominant defense included Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Louis Wright, Lyle Alzado, Otis Armstrong and Barney Chavous.
Hardy also helped assemble the Broncos’ 1986 and ’87 Super Bowl teams before his retirement.
Hardy was born in 1933 in Sturgis, South Dakota. He is survived by his wife of nearly 64 years, Janice Mitchell, son Jay and daughters Jill and Lisa.
With the coronavirus pandemic, funeral services will be for family only, but a celebration of his life will be held at a later date.
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jatavis Brown retires at 26
The Eagles placed Brown on the reserve/retired list Sunday. The word internally was he simply felt it was time for him to step away.
Brown signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia in March that would pay him a base salary of $910,000 and included $550,000 in guarantees. He was in the mix to compete for a starting spot and was at a minimum expected to be a special-teams contributor.
The Eagles already had the least amount of salary-cap dollars committed to the linebacker position for 2020 ($5.9 million), according to Spotrac. The Eagles get about $900,000 in cap relief as a result of Brown retiring.
Lions trade CB Michael Jackson to Patriots for 2022 draft pick
Jackson played in one game for Detroit last season, a 19-16 loss at Washington, where he played two special teams snaps. Detroit had claimed him off waivers in September, 2019, after he was cut by Dallas. Trading Jackson clears up part of one of the deepest positions the Lions have on the roster with a handful of cornerbacks still competing for backup jobs behind likely starters Desmond Trufant, Jeff Okudah and Justin Coleman.
This is the sixth trade, not including in-draft moves, between the Lions and Patriots since Bob Quinn took over as general manager in January, 2016.
The Patriots have multiple openings on their roster after an NFL-high eight players opted out of the 2020 season. Jackson provides depth at cornerback, which is one of the deepest positions on the team’s roster, with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, followed by Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross and Myles Bryant.
The Patriots could have waited and put in a waiver claim for Jackson, but since they are lower in the NFL’s priority order, they wouldn’t have been guaranteed they’d get him. So similar to how they traded for McCourty in 2018, when the Cleveland Browns had declared their intentions to release McCourty, the Patriots swooped in at the last moment with a trade.
The Lions also waived wide receivers Travis Fulgham and Chris Lacy, linebacker Christian Sam, defensive end Jonathan Wynn and guard Josh Garnett, a former San Francisco 49ers first-round pick on Sunday.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss contributed to this report.
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