Tony Sparano spoke with the media for over an hour on Tuesday morning and rather than filtering his thoughts to you in drops, I figured I would open the faucet full-throttle today and tomorrow.
So I am posting the complete transcript of his talk with reporters -- of which only I and Edgar Thompson of the Palm Beach Post stayed for the entire session -- over the next couple of days.
In Tony Part I, Sparano shares his thoughts on Ernest Wilford, Terrell Owens, Andy Alleman, the return of Tom Brady, and the hiring of Rex Ryan in New York. He talks (because we asked) about Brandon London, the idea behind cutting Vonnie Holliday, about Cameron Wake, the offensive line in general, Jake Grove in particular, and much more.
Enjoy the words right from the coach's mouth:
On Ernest Wilford: “The plan for Ernest right now will be that he will be in training camp and competing and doing those things. Every year something different happens out there on the field with these players. If it didn’t we wouldn’t know anything about Greg Camarillo or Davone Bess. So this is another opportunity for our guys to go on the field and compete and Ernest is one of our guys.”
On the young DL: “Young guys that all improved during the course of the season at some point or another. We’re really happy with their progress. We hope they take the next step. Obviously we’ve moved on from Vonnie Holliday. So that gives guys like [Phillip] Merling a chance to become more of a full-time player out there, kind of the way [Kendall] Langford was for us. We look forward to getting those guys on the field. Dotson is a guy who showed a lot of upside right now but we’ll have to see. He doesn’t have a lot of game time [experience] right now but we’ll have to see what happens when he gets out there.”
On Camarillo, Smiley participation In OTAs. “Right now they’re both doing really well. That’s all I’ll say, they’re both doing well. I’m not sure what the time table is for either one of those guys. I have an idea what the timetable is but none of that is etched in stone at this particular time. They’re both doing really good and we have to hope at some point we get a chance to see them.”
On Wake and the pass-rush: “Well, one of the things we feel like we can’t get enough of is pass-rushers. With Cameron we feel we need to put him in a position to rush the passer. It’s what he’s done well. Maybe not try to ask him what he hasn’t done. This would be a good opportunity to put him in one of the outside linebacker positions and see him rush the passer.”
On the need to assist Joey Porter in the pass rush: "The moves that were made this offseason to assist Porter were just really right now Cameron and we just added a couple of defensive line – we added Tony McDaniel. But Cameron is the guy we brought in to assist that whole thing. Now I’ve been happy from what I’ve seen out of our players that were here last year. Charlies Anderson I’ve seen him around the past three and a half weeks and the program hasn’t started yet. To see Charlie Anderson out there doing what he’s doing and see some of the other guys that are in the weight room lifting prior to the program starting, that’s encouraging.”
On Vonnie Holliday: “Well, again, I’m getting out of my jurisdiction here with some of this. All I can say about Vonnie is, yes, he was an outstanding guy in the locker room and he was a good player for us. But from our end, we need to get younger. We really do. At the end of the day Phillip Merling was brought in to be the replacement and he was there and did play well. From our end this kid has an opportunity to go in and play. That’s what’s most important right now is that you take a look at this draft and you added Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling and we need them on the field at the same time. Vonnie is a good leader. We’ll miss Vonnie. But it’s time to move on.”
On what saw or didn’t see in Samson Satele that led to the trade: “It isn’t really about what I didn’t see in Samson but it was more importantly having the opportunity to upgrade the position. Jake Grove really was a guy in free agency we looked and targeted for a long time, knowing there was a possibility that something like that could happen. I know Jake, I’ve done the guy coming out. I think everyone in the place knew an awful lot about the guy. For us it’s an upgrade in an area that is critical in our division. You look at our division and the people those guys have to play against, that’s not taking anything away from Samson. Obviously he did a good job because we won 11 games. This was an opportunity to upgrade because we’ve seen this guy play against our division.”
On Jake Grove's being the right replacement: “We’ve done our due diligence with the whole thing, obviously. Jeff and Bill have done a tremendous job of getting into the background of all these guys we’ve brought in here. I don’t think that was really a concern of ours at the time. It certainly isn’t. When you talk to people about Jake and his strength totals and the way he works in the weight room, you certainly get the picture. From our end, our offseason program is something that is important to us and Jake’s there on campus right now. He’s involved in lifting right now and the program hasn’t even started. So we feel like that’s something that helped an awful lot of our players last year.”
On whether he thinks it is more difficult to go 1-15 to 11-5 or 11-5 to title: “In my mind I don’t want to take anything away from what our football team did this past season. But that’s over. We’re moving on right now. In my mind, the next step is the harder step, it really is. To turn this thing around, that’s difficult. I want to take nothing away from what those guys accomplished – our coaches, our players, our organization. But to make the next step – consistency, to win 11 games and continue to push on and get into the playoffs and maybe take the next step in the playoffs is the most difficult step. I’ve been on teams that were really good teams. Really good teams. And I’ve not won a playoff game or haven’t been involved in any of that. So it’s hard to take that step.”
On re-signing his own free agents in 11th hour deals: “To be honest with you, how close any of those things got is not really important right now. What’s important is we got those guys here. We spent, at the end of this thing, $70 million on three players to make sure those players were here. That being said, the players wanted to be here. And that’s a credit to what’s going on with the program and the direction that it’s going and them – the players themselves. Vernon Carey, Channing Crowder, Yeremiah Bell, I’m sure they all would have had options out there. But they wanted to be here and wanted to be part of this whole thing. That said a lot to us. And I think we showed them the same respect.”
On Gibril Wilson: “Obviously from my experience in the NFC East and when I was in Dallas playing against him and he was with the Giants, I thought the guy was a tremendous football player. A physical guy. Always around the football. Plays through injuries, does all those things. This guy is a really a productive player. We had the opportunity to get him and get younger, that was a really good problem for us.”
On Eric Green: "With Eric, obviously we moved on from Goody, and this was an opportunity to find a young corner that has something to prove. This is his hometown, not his home town, but he’s from the area out there. He grew up a Dolphins fan. This really meant a lot to the kid. We, as you know, like to take chances on guys that feel they have something to prove. We feel it keeps them hungry. This is a hungry player that’s coming into our organization that has some real talent.”
At this point Sparano is asked why the Dolphins weren't interested in Terrell Owens. He declines to answer the question. Then he's asked what he thinks of Owens.
On T.O.: “Terrell is an outstanding player. He’s a real good player. He’s in our division now. And having to face him twice a year, I know the thigns he can do during the course of a game. He can take over a game no different than Randy Moss can take over the game. From our end, that’s a challenge. You bring these big physical receivers into our division, Buffalo gets better making that move. We have to, we have to address the challenge when we get to it. He’s a guy who will require the same amount of attention as Randy Moss or a Fitzgerald, those kind of guys.”
You were exposed to those things. You need them. Why not get him?: “No comment.”
On Andy Alleman: “We picked him up last year from New Orleans. To be honest with you, I’d done a lot of work on him when we were at Dallas. We brought him in for our top 30 day, I remember that visit. We had a chance to spend a lot of time with him. So I knew Andy pretty well. It was a great opportunity for us to bring in a guy who had some position flexibility. That’s why we took him. He played more guard and he got better and better as the season went on and that’s what we think he’ll continue to do.”
On the offensive line: “One of the things, first of all, is these guys have to get healthy. That’s not completely done yet. Guys like Donald Thomas and those kind of guys are a lot further along. So that’s good to see. I just feel like in our division your core, the inside three players, and having Jake and Vernon now for a long time, that kind of solidifies an area a lot of these teams are still looking to find. They’re still looking to find the tackles. But the core, having to play against Jenkins and Stroud and Wilfork, that group has to be physically strong enough, physically tough enough to do the things they need to do. I think that’s the group, when you look at it, that needs to come along. Justin was playing better when he got injured. We make a move and have Jake Grove in there and that’s an opportunity to upgrade that position. Then at the same time, you get Donald Thomas back and now you have Murphy, now you have Alleman, and now you got guys that are providing some competition with Joe Berger. That will be a good problem for us.”
On which position -- center or left tackle -- is more important: “In our league left tackle is the most important position. I just think the guy that guy has to block every week. Now in our division, you can argue that point a little bit with the way we have to play and what we do to move the ball. But left tackle. Week in and week out, left tackle.”
On importance of getting pass rush other than Porter: “Very important. Very important we find somebody who can do that other than Joey. In the last three games of the season where teams started to take the protection completely to Joey, we had to come up with way to still put pressure on the passer. And a year later, you hope Matt Roth is going to be a lot better. He had a heck of a season for us, but you hope he’s going to be a lot better technically and make that kind of jump. Chalrie Anderson I thought at times last year flashed and did some good things. Now there are some guys on the roster we’re excited to take a look at are Walden who has pass-rush skill, Cameron, and these type of players. We have an opportunity to see these type of players during the spring and see if we can’t find a little bit more help out there rushing the passer. As you know you can never have enough pass rushers. That’s what we believe. And right now we don’t have enough.”
On Wake again: “You feel like he’s played a little bit better competition but on Day 1 he’s going to be seeing Vernon Carey and Jake Long. So we’re going to get an opportunity to see pretty fast what he’s able to do right now. But we’re hopeful this guy is going to be a guy who is going to come in and help us. Film doesn’t lie when you watch him. He’s an exciting guy. He does have pass-rush ability. There were a lot of people trying to get at him when we were able to get him. I think this defense will be a good fit for him to be able to showcase his skill set."
“That’s another thing getting back to (Armando’s question about pass rush earlier) that there’s four or five guys in the building right now that we have an opportunity see compete. Young players and this gives us a chance to see what they do and gives us a chance to see if we can get help that way.”
On Rex Ryan question along with Tom Brady: “I think obviously I have a lot of respect for what Rex did in Baltimore. They beat us two times down there everybody that plays that defense knows they not only has very good players, but the scheme and what he did with the players is what I think enhanced that defense. We have to try to stay ahead of the curve and really try to do our due diligence on that defense and we have spent an awful lot of time this offseason looking at those things. Maybe things we could do better and trying to get ourselves prepared for that. They’ve helped themselves with a couple players there and taking a couple of players from that defense. No different than when we took players from Dallas when we came here. It’s just people that are familiar with what you do.”
On Brady: “Tom returning obviously that puts, and again taking nothing away from Cassel because at the end of that whole thing he was playing really well. But Tom Brady is Tom Brady. Anytime you add a player like that on to your team you’re adding great firepower back to your team, great leadership back to your team. that will be a tough challenge. I’m very familiar with Freddy Taylor. I was with Freddy in Jacksonville. Freddy’s a good player. You give Freddy that kind of space, put him in that kind of offense and it can cause problems.”
Does Brady's return put a highlight on Miami's CB spot: “It puts a highlight on a lot of things, Armando. I mean, it’s a highlight on the pass rush. If we rush the passer, those guys don’t have to hold up as long. There aren’t a lot of people in this league that if you don’t rush the passer, they’ll hold up. From our end, we know that’s where it starts. We were fortunate this year getting 17 ½ sacks out of Joey and however many 40-some sacks this year that put us in the top seven or eight in the league. When you put up those type of minus plays, it helps in the back end a little bit. All along people were asking about what was happening in the secondary. But at the end of the day it’s the rush that helped the back end, too. We had players back there that helped us and had great season, but it was the pass rush and what we were able to do helped us. If you can generate pass rush, that will help the back end."
We’ve got guys at the corner positions that we’re going to get a look at. Eric is going to be one of them. He knows he’s got to compete for a job. That’s good for us. We’re in a situation right now that we want that competion on the field.”
On what he saw his last game in Dallas when the Giants pass rush ran over his offensive line: “It certainly doesn’t mean, from our end ... We won 11 games and we don’t kid ourselves. We still know we have a long way to go and a lot of holes to continue to fill. We might have some pieces inhouse we’re excited to see rush the passer right now and all those things. I think obviously if you have good pass rush in this league it helps. Because these quarterbacks are too good. These skill players are too good. to have a good pass rush helps. You can get some of these shutdown corners if you can still have that nowadays, I don’t know that there anymore. Because the skill set is too good on these receivers. That’s a good luxury to have.”
On Bandon London's potential 2009 contribution: “I hope he can make a greater contribution. The fact he played 276 plays and finished third on the team from a special teams standpoint and did a tremendous job that way. But, at the end of the day you hope those players have a little bit bigger piece of the pie in the offense. He’s an athletic guy, a hard working guy, a really hard working kid. He’s has a chance to make a good contribution. That’s what I like about that position right now. The bess’s, Teddy Ginn, Brandon London, Wilford, these guys are all hungry to get better so it gives us good competition.”