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Crawford describes first week of NFL camp

Steve Yingling

One week into his first National Football League training camp, Mike Crawford feels like he should be outfitted in a black-and-white stripped uniform instead of the Miami Dolphins’ orange and teal.

“It’s pretty much like prison. We have an 11 o’clock bed check and curfew, and we get up at 6:30 (a.m.) every day and don’t get home until 10:30 (p.m.),” said Crawford, a rookie from South Lake Tahoe who is trying to make the Dolphins as an inside linebacker/special teams player.

“I miss Tahoe. I miss the outdoors. It’s so hot here. The other day I had to get three liters of IV pumped into me because I was so dehydrated.”

Adjusting to Jimmy Johnson’s demands away from the practice field have been difficult for Crawford. The team’s two daily practices encompass five hours, but he’s also required to attend a special teams and three position meetings each day. The position meetings routinely last two hours while the special teams meet for about 40 minutes. In addition, the players are required to attend a 45-minute team meeting every other day.

“I’m getting a lot of rest and eating good,” said Crawford on how he is coping with camp. “Another thing at this level is that everything is going really fast. They’re putting in new defenses every day, so you have to study your playbook. If you don’t, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Despite the mentally and physically rigorous daily routine, Crawford has become more confident about his chances of making the Dolphins.

“Coming in, you don’t know what to expect, but from watching film and being out there, I know I can play in this league,” the sixth-round draft pick said. “Whether that means I’ll be behind Zach Thomas or whoever, I just have to be dedicated.

“This is a lot better than being dedicated in college. You do good things here and you really get rewarded.”

Respect best describes Crawford’s early relationship with Johnson, who led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles.

“He’s a great coach so far and he’s all about winning. He’s real hands on. He’ll get in there and run with you and likes doing things his way,” Crawford said.

Most of all, Johnson appreciates the qualities that have transformed Crawford from a small-town high school player at George Whittell into a potential NFL star.

“He’s going to keep guys that produce, have a good attitude and work hard,” he said.

Although the training camp is only a week old, Johnson has started making cuts too close for Crawford’s comfort. Crawford’s roommate, University of Pacific product Vince Bruno, was recently told to pack his bags.

“That’s the reality of it. Everything you do out there, it better be your best because they are always watching you,” Crawford said.

Miami media reports speculate that Johnson will retain eight of the 10 linebackers who remain in camp.

“Johnson has said that all 10 can play in this league, but I don’t want to rely on anything like that. I just want to go out there and continue to work hard and whatever happens, happens,” he said.

However, Crawford quickly learned that his aggressiveness and dedication better not be demonstrated toward the quarterback.

“You can’t hit (Dan Marino). If you hit him, the whole state will be after you. But I told him he should dye his hair white. He said he’d think about it,” said the bleach-blond 1996 All-Big West Conference first-team linebacker.

Reno fervently supported Crawford and the Wolf Pack, but it pales in comparison to the enthusiasm the Dolphin fans are expressing.

“Every day the stands are full of people. Even when we just have a walk-through, everyone is still out there to see you. And they’re all yelling stuff. It’s pretty crazy,” he said.

In fact, 5,000 fans attended the team’s first scrimmage – Crawford received 25 repetitions – last Saturday.

In less than two weeks, Crawford will make his NFL debut against the best the league has to offer – the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. It’s a starting point that isn’t overwhelming to Crawford.

“It will give us a chance to go against somebody else besides our teammates. It doesn’t matter that it’s Green Bay to me because I’m going to be focusing on myself, not making mental errors and what I have to do.”


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