For the second time in as many weeks, the head coach of the Miami Dolphins met with South Florida media to provide training camp updates.
Right out of the gate, Flores was asked about the kind of message he has for his team as Flores embarks on his second season as an NFL head coach.
"I think safety is probably the first word that comes to mind – just trying to make this place as safe as possible," Flores said. "I think decision-making comes to mind, and sacrifice. A lot of the things you talk about from the football standpoint, I think they apply in a couple areas or in a lot of areas. On the field, off the field, I would say safety is first. That's kind of the first (thing) that comes to mind for me."
As we've come to learn with Coach Flores, no detail is too small. And in an August unlike any the National Football League has seen before, contingencies extend beyond the roster and personnel groupings. With daily testing and measures in place to provide the safest possible work environment at the facility in Davie, one consequence is the potential to lose someone essential to the football operation for quarantining purposes.
Just as the roster has a depth chart, the Dolphins coaching staff has developed something of a next-man-up mentality as well.
"Everyone's got a backup," Flores said. "Everyone's got two backups. It's something we've talked about. We're taking the same approach we take with the players. If I go down, we're doing this, if the d-line coach goes down, we're doing this and so on and so forth. It's something we've talked about, but it's not just on the coaches and players. It's staff. It's our strength and conditioning coach, head trainer, head equipment guy, nutritionist. You have to have a plan for everyone, especially in times like these.
Flores opined a similar response to a question later in the virtual press conference. As he spoke to last week, Flores highlighted a level of urgency this team must take to get prepared for regular season football, now just six weeks away.
"It is an odd year, it's a different year; but like I said last week when I talked to you guys, these are the cards we've been dealt, so we've got to play this hand," Flores said. "There are going to be some obstacles but we've got to make the best of the situation. I think as coaches, as a coaching staff, we understand that. We have a plan in place, so we've put a lot of thought into trying to build a competitive team in a short period of time."
Developing depth on the roster has been a priority both for Flores and General Manager Chris Grier – tangible proof coming by way of the offseason activity on the defense side. Asked about the thinking behind some of the additions up front on the defensive line, Flores referred back to the same message he gave the day the Dolphins announced him back in February of 2019.
"We wanted to bring in good players – guys who fit the criteria we're looking for: tough, smart, talented, able to communicate – and I think we feel good about the guys we acquired; but at the same time, it takes time for a defensive line to gel, so we need to hit the practice field," Flores said. "We need to get together in meetings and talk through calls, communication, scheme, where guys fit the best, what specific role is best for each individual player. That's what training camp's about, so we've got a long way to go. There was a makeover to a degree, but we've got a long way to go."
The Dolphins have been on the field for light conditioning drills during what has been dubbed the acclimation period – a simulation of the offseason program in effort to replace what was lost in organized team activities. Installation is part of that process both on the field and in the classroom, but the strength and conditioning work is a slow build-up.
"I think guys are in okay shape," Flores said. "We've got a long way to go, but they're working. They're working pretty diligently and I've seen already some improvement in the first week and I'm sure they'll continue to improve."
In that same vein of a consistent message, Flores' vision for the criteria required to be a Miami Dolphin – for the traits he believe will ultimately determine this team's on-field success – has not changed. He detailed that vision in a question regarding the plan for quarterback Josh Rosen.
"The vision for Josh is the same vision for every player – come in, it's a new offense. There's new teammates," Flores said. "He needs to learn the playbook, get to know your teammates, work hard in practice, try to improve every day, take advantage of your opportunities, take advantage of your reps and let your play on the field – what you do on the field will at the end of the day – you'll earn your reps on the field based on how you play in practice. That hasn't changed for Josh or anyone else on the roster."
Versatility has been a pillar of any Flores media availability, and the on-field product represents that belief. Coach was asked about the challenges of implementing his schematics that are steeped in players' abilities to contribute in multiple fashions.
"I think the versatility and the scheme is built into what we do offensively, defensively and in the kicking game," Flores said. "A player may be this position in this group and this position in another group. I don't think that changes. I think that remains the same for our team and I imagine that is the way it is for a lot of teams. We still need guys are multiple. We still need guys who can play multiple positions, and I think that's even more important this year in a year where you can lose one, two, three or a group of guys. We're going to need other guys to step in."
Preston Williams' rookie season exemplified the coaching staff's desire to be multiple and to contribute in the kicking game. Williams, who averaged 11.5 yards per punt return in addition to leading the team in receptions and receiving yards through nine games, is working his way back from a season-ending injury.
"Preston has worked extremely hard since the injury," Flores said. "He's worked his way back to where he was cleared for activity again. It's walk-through right now, so there's strength and conditioning in the morning. So he's running, he's lifting and we'll see him in a walk-through setting; but again, for Preston, it's a new offense so we're learning the terminology, the depths on some routes and things of that nature."