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Minkah Fitzpatrick on Playing for Tanking Dolphins: ‘It Was Awful’

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Dolphins DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

The trio of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin discussed a variety of topics recently on the Varsity House Podcast with Shaun Crawford, who was teammates with Claypool and Boykin at Notre Dame. One of the more noteworthy discussions during the near 90-minute podcast was Fitzpatrick’s revelation of what it’s like playing for Mike Tomlin and the process of getting traded from the Dolphins to the Steelers in 2019.

While Fitzpatrick isn’t allowed to roam around like how Troy Polamalu used to. Tomlin does allow him to play with freedom.

“That’s something I really appreciate about Coach T is the freedom that he lets us have,” Fitzpatrick said. “Once he knows what you’re doing and you’re comfortable with the scheme, he lets you play ball. When I first got here on that Tuesday morning, the first thing he said to me was, ‘Look, we’re going to put no restraints on you, you’re going to be starting this Sunday at free safety, but just play ball.’ I didn’t even know the playbook or nothing like that, but he said just play ball. That’s been like my motto between me and him since I’ve been here is just play ball. Be Minkah, be instinctive, be athletic and do what you do.”

The Steelers lost to the 49ers, 24-20, in Week 3 of the 2019 season, but Fitzpatrick made a profound impact in his debut game, recording an interception and forced fumble. It was a clear sign that the Steelers had a special player.

“It was crazy for sure. It all happened so fast,” Fitzpatrick said when Claypool asked him what it was like changing teams during the season. “I requested a trade during (training) camp and they told me no multiple times. And then, finally, after the second game, once they realized what they were doing — that’s a whole another situation — but once they realized what they were doing, ‘Alright, we can get some value for him.’ So, I got traded on that Monday (and) got on the plane Tuesday morning. It didn’t even make sense. I had a little Adidas duffle bag. Like T-shirt, underwear, socks, shoes. Started on Sunday in San Fransisco. It was crazy, honestly. Looking back on it, I don’t even know how I did it for real.”

Crawford then got to the elephant in the room and asked Fitzpatrick about his tenure in Miami and why things went sideways.

“The main issue was just how they were going about that season. Their approach to it, that was really bothering me,” Fitzpatrick said. “And when it came to position-wise, they were moving me around, but it was like in the box. It was at linebacker. I’m on the edge setting the edge at 205 (pounds), you know what I’m saying? Stuff like that, it was just a difference of opinion in type of player I was between me and a couple of the coaches. You know, I like moving around. I like being able to do different things and play different positions because it doesn’t put you in a box. Offenses always got to know where you’re at. It wasn’t the fact that I was moving around the field, it was where I was going.”

Crawford followed by asking Fitzpatrick about the Dolphins not wanting to win games and trying to tank. Fitzpatrick simply responded by saying, “I’ll bite my tongue.”

Boykin, who was with the Ravens in 2019, then reminded Fitzpatrick about the first two games of the 2019 season when the Dolphins lost to the Ravens, 59-10, in Week 1 and 43-0 to the Patriots in Week 2.

“I don’t even want to talk about that, bruh, ” Fitzpatrick said. “Those first two games, it was the Ravens and the Patriots, it was awful. That was like Lamar (Jackson’s) coming out party.”

Fitzpatrick’s head coach when he was with the Dolphins was Brian Flores, who is now the Steelers’ senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach. Despite things not working out in Miami, Fitzpatrick said there’s no animosity between the two.

“It’s been good,” Fitzpatrick said during minicamp. “You know, Coach Flores is a great coach. He’s a smart guy. He’s a guy that lives to a high standard and a piece that I think we really needed. He’s a real detail-oriented guy. He is a detail-oriented coach. He won’t let things get brushed to the side. He is going to address them directly. He might not tell you how you want to hear it, but he’s going to tell you. That’s important to have in the locker room. When you have guys in there with egos and that, he’s still going to get on you. He’s a great coach and I’m excited to have him. He’s focused on winning and I’m happy to have him here.”

On Feb. 1, Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and all 32 teams, alleging racial discrimination in hiring processes across the league. Flores specifically named the Dolphins, Giants and Broncos in the lawsuit. In regards to the Dolphins, Flores claimed that owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for each loss the team suffered in 2019, so the Dolphins could get a higher draft pick.

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