In a year of change and adaptation, Brian Flores' first media availability of 2020's training camp was conducted virtually. The Dolphins head coach answered a variety of questions ranging from the team's preparation and precautions taken heading into an unprecedented season, positional battles, minority coaching candidates and player availability for practice.
"I think we try to create an environment that is as safe as possible," Flores said. "I think our medical staff – headed by Kyle Johnston, our head trainer – I think they've done a really good job of changing the locker room, changing the protocols in the locker room, the training room, the weight room and making this place as safe as possible."
It's going to take a team effort to make it all work, both on and off the football field. The Dolphins' facility has undergone drastic changes to accommodate our new normal, and the responsibility falls on each individual to continue taking those safety measures.
"My message to the players has been about really making good decisions, being responsible," Flores said. "I think they're going to have to make some sacrifices outside of the building and inside of the building. I think if we can do that, we've done everything we can possibly do to try to limit the spread of this virus. There are some challenges, but I think we're trying to meet them head on and do the best we can with them."
With regards to the football field, Flores remains consistent in his message and desire for an atmosphere based on competition. That's true for every position, including the quarterbacks.
"I think you always want competition," Flores said. "We're in training camp, so every position is an open competition. Obviously some players are further ahead than others. I think we all kind of know and understand that. But yes, we want competition and there are no jobs that will just be handed out."
The two incumbent quarterbacks – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen – played last season for the Dolphins, while rookie Tua Tagovailoa was selected with the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Under Flores and General Manager Chris Grier, the Dolphins have invested heavily into the position. Fitzpatrick signed a free-agent contract last offseason, Rosen was acquired via a 2019 draft-day trade and Tagovailoa was selected in April.
Flores, one of four minority head coaches in the NFL, and Grier, one of two minority general managers in the league, are the only minority head coach-general manager combination in the league.
"I've said this time and time again, I think there are very capable minority coaches throughout the league and on our staff," Flores said. "And if given the opportunity, I think they'll perform and do well. That's kind of my thought on that. Hopefully we take the steps where minorities get those opportunities, and I think they'll be able to take advantage."
Running a football team from any position of management – be it in personnel or coaching – is challenging. It's a grinding profession that is reserved only for the toughest people in our industry. This year, more than ever, the challenges are apparent, but Flores won't make excuses for the circumstances surrounding the 2020 season.
"There's no point in dwelling on or being upset about the circumstances," Flores said. "We've just got to make the most of the opportunities that we're going to be given here. Yeah, every rep is going to be important. Every rep in individual is – those evaluations, those are the evaluations. The improvements those guys make – the players make – in practice, in walkthroughs, they're going to be – it either keeps them on the team or doesn't keep them on the team."
The Dolphins will ramp-up to the official start of training camp with a strength and conditioning program. The acclimation period, as well as each meeting, walk-through and rep, is an important part of the process, says the Dolphins head coach.
"There's an acclimation period here for the next, let's just call it two weeks," Flores said. "There's strength and conditioning and some walkthroughs; but from a football practice, drills – that standpoint – there won't be [a lot of that]."
Flores said that as of his 10 a.m. media availability, no Dolphins players of coaches have opted out of the 2020 season.
Xavien Howard was placed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list as he continues his rehab. "When he's ready to play, he'll be out there," Flores said.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will not have any restrictions when the team hits the field. He has been cleared medically, passed the physical and will be available for the first day of practice.