Cohen: Everything Upbeat For Mike Wallace

Posted May 22, 2013

The big play receiver is quickly adjusting to his new team and his new quarterback and says confidently: "This is where I want to be."

His first OTA practice was over and Mike Wallace was dodging the raindrops. Yes, he’s fast, as fast as this franchise has seen at receiver since perhaps all the way back to Mark Duper. But he isn’t fast enough to stay dry in a downpour. At least, not this downpour.

“I’m in good shape,” Wallace proclaims, “but I obviously need to get in better shape.”

If there was one lasting impression for Wallace in his first 11 on 11 practice with the Dolphins, it was the tempo. Everything happens in a hurry on the Dolphins practice field. Players sprint to their assignments. The next play is called in rapid sequence. Things are happening on both fields. Heads are spinning. Legs are churning.

“It’s going to take me a while to get used to this,” Wallace said, leaning against a wall outside the Dolphins locker room. “Everything is so up tempo. I mean we practiced hard in Pittsburgh. But not this fast, not with so many things going on at the same time. It’ll be an adjustment.”

He smiled: “But I’ll be fine.”

You bet he’ll be fine. For Wallace knows, he is exactly what this football team has needed, what this offense has been lacking to take its productivity to another level. He is Mr. Big Play. Mr. Stretch The Field. Mr. Touchdown. There is the reason the Dolphins wasted no time handing over millions of dollars to Wallace at the very start of free agency. This is a marriage that had to happen, a player the Dolphins so desperately needed.

“I’m here to open up the field,” Wallace said.

Wallace is quickly becoming comfortable here. He doesn’t mind the heat, doesn’t mind the rainstorms and kind of likes all the alternatives that South Florida offers. “But the other stuff can wait,” he said. “I’m here to play football. This is where I want to be and what I want to do.”

If you were lucky enough to have a seat near the Dolphins practice field beginning in mid-April, you would have seen Wallace and Ryan Tannehill working out together three times a week. First, short patterns. Then mid-range. Then all-out. Hundreds of balls were thrown; a real comfort zone was forming.

Tannehill to Wallace. Get used to it. Enjoy what promises to be an exciting ride.

“Man, Ryan has a cannon for an arm,” Wallace said. “I mean when he throws long, he throws really long.”

Which is exactly what Wallace wants. Be bold. Go for it all. Don’t worry about overthrowing him. With his speed, is that possible anyway?

Wallace says when he is standing at the line of scrimmage and sees only one player trying to cover him, his pulse quickens, his mind races.

“That’s the matchup I always want,” he said. “Ryan and I want to work so hard together that we’re on the same page.”

This is what OTAs are all about. Establishing a rapport. Building a trust. Understanding an offense.

Wallace was just one of several new offensive additions to take the field Tuesday morning. Each player brings his own brand of excitement. There was wide receiver Brandon Gibson, running routes with uncanny precision. There was tight end Dustin Keller, lining up in the four-wide formation and looking every bit like a tight end with receiving skills. There were rookies trying to get someone’s attention and veterans searching for that elusive chance.

This has been an offseason of promise for the Miami Dolphins and that promise is so evident on the practice field. After all, there is a reason that so many players wanted to play for this team, and Mike Wallace may have said it best.

“You look at the talent here and you know that this is an ascending team,” he said. “You see the commitment and you just want to be a part of it.”

Even for a man with world-class speed, Wallace is in no rush. He realizes this is a new offense and a new system and it’s going to take time to adjust. “In some ways,” he said, “I feel like a rookie again.”

So for now, his main objective is to get used to the speed of the practice and learn as much about his quarterback as he possibly can.

Life is good for Mike Wallace. He is 26 years old and has more money than he ever thought he would make. He just bought a big house not too far from training camp and his mom will show up next week to help him decorate.

“I used to rent a furnished place in Pittsburgh for about six months,” he said. “Now I own a house and I’ve got a bed and not much else.”

There will be time for decorating and time to enjoy what South Florida offers. But for now, it’s all about football for Mike Wallace, all about getting to know his teammates and making sure he gives to this offense exactly what it needs.

“As much as I have already accomplished,” he said, “I don’t think I’ve peaked yet. I want to be an asset to this team. I’m going to stay hungry. You look around here and you see hungry players. How can you not like that?”

Indeed, this chapter for Mike Wallace is only just beginning. There are more OTAs and then mini camp next month and then training camp begins in late July. There is so much to learn, so much ground to make up, so many relationships to build, so many passes to catch.

Mr. Big Play has some Big Plans. For now, though, he just wants to get used to the tempo of these practice sessions.

“I like it though,” he said. “You practice fast, you play fast.”

Which is exactly what the Dolphins want from Mike Wallace.
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