It was a typical sled drill that a linebacker has probably done 500 times in his career.
Wait for the coach to snap the ball to charge the sled, lift the makeshift offensive player in the air for a couple seconds before shedding it to whatever side the coach signals, then charging and tackling the pop-up dummy 5 yards into the backfield.
Jerome Baker, who has led the Miami Dolphins in tackles three straight seasons, walked up to Channing Tindall and gave him a few pointers before the rookie’s turn arrived.
Tindall, a member of Georgia’s national championship team who the Dolphins are hoping can immediate impact as a third-round pick, nodded his head as if he understood. But when the ball was snapped, he clumsily went through the drill.
Baker quickly approached him with a review and some more pointers.
The veteran linebacker then jumped into the line and ran through the drill himself one more time with Tindall watching closely.
“He’s going to be a great player. He’s just got to, [like] any rookie, just try to soak in as much information as you can, ”said Baker, who found himself in a similar position in 2018 as a third-round pick, learning from Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan.
“[He needs to] remember you got to this point by playing football. It’s not that hard when you think about it. It’s still football like it was when we were younger, ”Baker continued. “He’s got a lot of things to improve on but he definitely has potential.”
And it’s on the veterans like Baker to help bring out that potential by passing on wisdom and sharing their knowledge from past experiences.
At least it is for teams that have a good culture.
You’d assume every player takes this approach, but some aren’t willing to guide a young player they know is threatening their job stability.
Just as often as I’ve seen veterans like Baker lend a helping hand, I’ve also seen and have been told that some veterans leave rookies to fend for themselves.
Just look at the comments a well-established starting quarterback like Ryan Tannehill made the week after the Tennessee Titans selected Liberty quarterback Malik Willis in the third round last month.
“We’re competing against each other, we’re watching the same tape, we’re doing the same drills,” Tannehill told the Titans media. “I don’t think it’s my job to mentor him, but if he learns from me along the way, then that’s a great thing.”
While it’s technically the position coach and coordinator’s job to bring a young player along – teaching him about the scheme and playbook – it’s classy for a veteran to show a young player the way.
Reggie Bush taught Lamar Miller, and all the other backs who once played behind him in Miami, how to train and take care of their bodies knowing that one day one of them would replace him as the Dolphins starter.
Legendary Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas regularly gave pointers and tips to Channing Crowder. He also critiqued his practices and games to help the young linebacker’s progress.
Defensive backs like Will Allen, Brent Grimes and Bobby McCain taught the youngsters in their unit how to study film and break down a receiver’s tendencies.
This is critical for NFL teams to develop a healthy culture and maximize the potential of young players – which requires selfless veterans who are willing to lead.
Young Dolphins safeties Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones routinely praised Eric Rowe the past two years for what he taught them about playing the position – before and after they leapfrogged him on the depth chart.
Just imagine if Rowe kept all the insight and wisdom he gained over his seven-year career to himself.
Rowe did this despite knowing their emergence as a blossoming safety duo made him and his $ 4.5 million contract expendable. But the fact he’d rather be a good teammate might explain why he’s still around.
Selfless leaders are hard to find, which explains why general manager Chris Grier said he went out of his way to add a few to Miami’s roster this offseason like Terron Armstead.
The three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman signed as a free agent stayed 30 minutes after Tuesday’s practice session to work with Liam Eichenberg and Robert Jones on their stance and technique.
Eichenberg and Jones are in their second seasons, so having a veteran like Armstead providing guidance could help them contend for starting spots this summer.
If Armstead helps them get better, the same way Baker is helping Tindall improve, the team will progress in a manner that should be everyone’s goal.