TAMPA — It was a time for reunions when the Dolphins practiced with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the AdventHealth Training Center on Tuesday.
There were connections on a lot of levels, starting with veteran Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick working against the team for which he played the past two seasons to fellow quarterback Josh Rosen seeing his offensive coordinator in Arizona last season, new Bucs OC Byron Leftwich.
“Being on eight teams, this has happened more than once to me, where I've gotten to go back,” Fitzpatrick joked. “But this one, having played here the last two years and just the irony of being able to practice this year with them, I got to see a lot of the guys. But still some people I can't wait to say hi to.”
Among others, Fitzpatrick made sure to catch up with Bucs quarterbacks Jameis Winston, with whom he shared starts last season.
“Yeah, I mean, we're friends,” Fitzpatrick said. “So it was good to just catch up with him for a little bit. There are a lot of guys on this team I have special relationships with. He is certainly one of them.”
The Tampa Bay coaching staff is littered with former Dolphins assistants, including defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers.
A lot of Head Coach Bruce Arians’ staff worked with him during his time with the Arizona Cardinals, including Leftwich, the one-time first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars and longtime NFL quarterback.
Leftwich spent three seasons with the Cardinals, first as an intern in 2016 before becoming QB coach in 2017 and adding offensive coordinator duties during the 2018 season, where he got to work closely with Rosen.
“Byron is awesome,” Rosen said. “I love him. He helped me out a lot on and off the field. Your rookie year is a lot. Football, not football, and everything in between. He helped keep me steady and on track. Football, itself, I learned a ton. I was in games seeing things I’ve never seen before, and making adjustments, and he’s breaking it down for me and helping me become a better player.”
Points with Preston
Rookie wide receiver Preston Williams has become a hot topic for the media, and so it was that Head Coach Brian Flores was asked after practice Tuesday after Williams working with the first-team offense.
Flores emphasized, as he has done in the past, that he’s just looking different players different opportunities, though he did talk about Williams potentially being able to contribute on special teams.
“He definitely can do that,” Flores said. “ He's big, he's fast, he's tough, he's physical. We talked about finding some roles for him in the kicking game. I think he can definitely help us there.’
Working to return
Wide receiver Albert Wilson continues to be limited in practice as he works to return from the hip injury that ended his 2018 season last October.
But Flores said Wilson’s progress has been good.
“He’s working extremely hard,” Flores said. “We’ve got a plan for him to increase the reps for him on a day-to-day basis. We saw a little bit more of him today. Hopefully we’ll see a little bit more tomorrow and as we go through training camp, hopefully we see even more of him. He’s a good player.”
Flores was asked whether Wilson would be ready for the start of the regular season.
“It’s hard to say,” Flores said. “For him, he’s doing everything he can that he can be ready sooner than that. We’ll see. If he is, we’ll try to get him out there because he’s going to need some reps as well. Game action. It’s been a while since he’s been out there.”
Joint practice benefits
The Dolphins and Buccaneers will practice with each other again Wednesday before they meet in a preseason game Friday night.
Flores, Fitzpatrick and Rosen all spoke of the benefits of joint practices after they were done Tuesday.
“I think it's great, I really do,” Fitzpatrick said. “I like the joint practices because you start going against your defense and that scheme and you get locked into certain looks. And then all of the sudden you get into a preseason game and guys’ heads can start spinning a little bit. To be able to get out here and get a few practices in against a Todd Bowles defense, which gives you a lot of different looks, we're going to have plenty of things to sit and talk about tonight and for the next few days. But he really challenges you as an offense. And so this is a great opportunity for us. And one-on-ones with different defensive backs, putting our backs on linebackers and safeties and tight ends, it brings a little bit more energy to training camp.”
Said Rosen: “I thought it was a lot of fun. Get to compete, the 1-on-1 period is a little extended, so I got to throw against some different DBs, against some different looks in team periods. I’ve got a lot to study tonight, but it was fun. I thought overall it was a positive.”