NOTEBOOK: Clabo And Grimes Ready To Face Former Team; Other Notes

Posted Sep 20, 2013

Two Pro Bowlers are taking a low-key approach to Atlanta’s visit.

This is the third consecutive week the Miami Dolphins are facing an opponent that used to employ one or more of their own players, in this case former Atlanta Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo and cornerback Brent Grimes.

Both new Dolphins have been in the league long enough to know how to put these kinds of games into proper perspective, and that’s precisely what Clabo and Grimes have done this week. Clabo quickly tried to take the focus off of him and shift it to the battle at the line of scrimmage between the Jerry brothers – Miami’s right guard, John Jerry, and Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry. But Pro Bowl left guard Richie Incognito wouldn’t let is fellow lineman escape that easily.

“It’s Tyson Clabo who played in Atlanta for eight years facing his former team and this is Tyson Clabo’s Super Bowl,” said Incognito when asked about Clabo’s assertion that he was not the story. “So we’re all pulling for him.”

One day earlier, Clabo was surrounded by reporters and peppered with questions about seeing the Falcons for the first time since he was allowed to test the free agent market in the offseason. He fended them off the same way he hopes to fend off Atlanta’s pass rushers on Sunday.

“If you’re a professional, every game is THE game,” Clabo said. “Every week, THE game, so last week was THE game, so how can this week be any different than last week? It is the next game and in order for us to do what we want to do and go where we want to go we’ve got to play that way.”

Grimes was with the Falcons from 2006-12, with that first season spent on the practice squad. He intercepted 13 passes over that span – 11 combined in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010. He made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and was really coming into his own when he suffered a season-ending Achilles’ injury last September in Atlanta’s first game at Kansas City.

Some players might have an axe to grind after rehabbing from such a devastating injury only to not be brought back to the same team. For Grimes, he saw it as a new opportunity to flourish on a different defense after recovering ahead of schedule, so he’s taking the higher road.

“I understand this football thing and I don’t take things personal like that. I can’t speak for everybody,” said Grimes, who helped preserve last week’s win at Indianapolis with a clutch interception in the end zone of an Andrew Luck pass in the fourth quarter. “Some people might use that and if that helps them, if that helps Clabo block who he’s got to block, hey, if he wants to get fired up about it then that’s what he does. But I just go out and approach every game the same way. I approach it trying to have fun and if you know me I’m out there just trying to have fun and play good football and the rest will take care of itself.”

Both players acknowledged they will handle the pregame warm-up on the field a little differently once they see the players and coaches they spent so much time with again. Grimes plans to go up and talk to Falcons head coach Mike Smith and his other friends on that team, and he and Clabo will likely spend a little extra time out there afterwards as well. But in between, it’s going to be all business.

Clabo let down his guard a little when he was away from the larger media contingent inside the locker room and allowed himself to be a little more candid during his appearance on The Finsiders. He was asked if he was excited about playing Atlanta.

“Of course,” Clabo told The Finsiders. “I have a lot of friends on that team. I was there for a really long time—eight seasons is a long time to be in one place. So of course I’m excited and it should be fun.”

As far as any advantage either team might have by seeing those familiar faces on the other side of the ball, that’s up for debate. Grimes got see wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White everyday in practice, and of course they got see him so they all know a little bit about the other’s style of play.

Jones simplified the topic after conceding that Grimes is a quality cornerback with “great” ball skills and who is very athletic.

“He’s got to cover me, I don’t have to cover him,” Jones said.

Grimes enjoys lining up against any receiver he’s faced before, whether it was during a game or during practice, and he is aware that Jones and White know what type of player he is and will have some ideas on how to exploit him. He is confident that if he reads, reacts and make plays like he does in any game he will be fine, but he does like the fact that he knows a little more about who he’s facing this week.

“It can help just knowing that it’s not unknown,” Grimes said. “Anytime you’re going against any receiver, if you’ve played against him, you’ve played against him before and it’s just like anything. You do anything, if you’ve done it before then you’re a little more comfortable going in as opposed to if you’ve never done it before. They’ve got a great receiving corps – two great receivers that have made plays all over the field. So it’s a big challenge but at least I know I’ve done it before and that’s the advantage of that.”

Smith had high praise for both of his former players and when it came to the business side of things he knew it was going to be a tough decision to move on without them. He called Clabo a “stalwart” at right tackle for the five seasons he was his coach, and spoke even higher of Grime and the type of player he was for Atlanta.

“Brent Grimes is probably the most athletic corner that I’ve ever coached,” said Smith, who was not at all surprised how fast Grimes rehabbed the injury. “He has got unbelievable athleticism. He is small in stature but plays a whole lot bigger and he’s really matured to become in my mind one of the better corners in the league.”

The mutual respect between Clabo, Grimes and their former team is palatable, so Clabo downplayed any advantage being familiar with player’s tendencies will have for him on Sunday. He pointed out that veteran players utilize certain habits because they’re good at what they do, whether it’s creating turnovers, rushing the passer or stopping the run, so it all evens out when it comes to preparation.

“They’re good for a reason and they’ve been playing in this league for a reason, and so those are the things that you really become familiar with,” Clabo said. “You’re sitting on the sidelines and you’re watching them on Sunday and you see them make plays; that’s familiar. And so I know how good they are and how difficult it’s going to be to keep them at bay.”


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