Crawford a favorite among teammates |

Crawford a favorite among teammates

Tim Parsons

OAKLAND – Miami Dolphin Mike Crawford’s reputation for eccentric behavior isn’t contained to Miami-area media and the Tahoe Daily Tribune. His teammates think he’s crazy, too.

The Northern California homecoming for the former Whittell football star was circumvented Sunday by Dolphin coaches who elected not to activate the rookie middle linebacker/special teams player for what would have been his fifth NFL game. Crawford didn’t even make the trip west. However, the three starting Miami linebackers were thinking of him after an easy 34-16 win over the Raiders.

“Mike’s a little strange, but he’s fun to be around,” said second-year outside linebacker Anthony Harris. “He’s a character. He does wicked stuff like dying his hair and jumping off buildings and snowboarding.”

Fellow rookie Derrick Rodgers used Gump-spun philosophy to describe his absent friend. “Crazy is as crazy does,” he said. “It’s all a matter of what you think is crazy. Some people think bungee jumpers are crazy. Now that thing about Mike wrestling a bear? I think that was crazy. If a bear comes near me, I’m not going to be around long enough to let it wrestle me.”

Zach Thomas, last season’s Rookie of the Year and the starting middle linebacker, believes Crawford has a bright future in the league and that he’s a bit eccentric. But he’s skeptical about one thing.

“He’s a different kind of guy. He’s got that dyed hair and that California style. You know, ‘Hey bro.’ But that stuff about him standing up and wrestling a bear, I don’t believe it.”

Thomas also could be called crazy.

After defensive end Tim Bowens recovered a fumble in the end zone to put Miami up 31-10, Thomas baited profanity-spewing, beer throwing Raider fans. The Dolphins’ leading tackler this season had a game-high nine against Oakland, including a Jeff George sack.

Although Crawford’s playing time has exclusively been on special teams, the Dolphins’ depth chart lists him as the second-team middle linebacker behind Thomas.

“Mike’s going to be a good linebacker,” Thomas said. “He’s very aggressive, but he still has a lot to learn. He did a good job for us last week.”

Crawford’s four games this year came in the season opener when Thomas was recovering from a injury, week 5 against Kansas City, and the Dolphins’ two games before coming to Oakland.

“I know exactly what he’s going through because I went through the same thing last year,” said Harris, who has started every 1997 game. “It’s tough, but eventually it makes you a better team player.”

Rodgers, one of 13 first-year players on the team, also felt sympathetic.

“It’s too bad Mike’s not here because I know he was going to have a lot of people up here. The reason he wasn’t activated has nothing to do with how he was playing. We just needed another fullback for this game.”

Rodgers says he’s close to Crawford.

“Since we’re both rookies we get together and talk a lot, especially on the practice field because were both on the second team. Mike’s fitting in. He’s a hard worker, and he was picked by (coach) Jimmy Johnson. When you are picked by Jimmy Johnson, you’re going to get your chance to be successful. “

Harris, the team leader in sacks, agreed.

“Mike’s real aggressive, works hard and he gives it his all every time he’s called upon. He’s also a little weird, but he’s a good person.”

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