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Crawford tackles first NFL game

Steve Yingling

Walking off Lambeau Field following his National Football League debut on Saturday, Mike Crawford felt like a rookie.

No, there wasn’t a sign affixed to his No. 56 Miami Dolphins jersey, reading “Kick Me.” Rather, the 1992 Whittell High grad allowed his mind to get the better of him at inside linebacker during the Dolphins’ 20-0 preseason setback to defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay.

“I could have played a lot better. I was just trying to read the plays instead of going with my instincts,” said the 1996 All-Big West first-team linebacker out of the University of Nevada. “I wasn’t reacting fast enough, but that’s what these preseason games are for … to learn and for rookies to get used to this level.”

As a second-team linebacker, Crawford received extensive playing time during the second and third quarters.

“I made some tackles, but I wasn’t playing well,” he said.

Crawford didn’t even come within autograph range of Packer quarterback Brett Favre, last year’s NFL MVP.

“I came about 50 yards from Brett, but he barely even played. He probably had to get some golf in afterward,” Crawford said. “But I didn’t pay attention to their (stars). I was trying to focus on myself and making sure I was doing the right things.”

Like many of his peers who are trying to make their first NFL team, Crawford also spent ample time on special teams.

“I did all right on special teams. Sometimes I did some good things and sometimes I made mistakes,” said Crawford, who played on the kick and punt return teams and the punt and kick coverage squads.

Crawford’s chances of making the Dolphins may have been enhanced by another teammate’s misfortune. Larry Izzo, a linebacker and special teams star a year ago, has suffered a season-ending injury along with Kirby Dar Dar (special teams) and top draft pick Yatil Green (receiver).

“That’s the way it goes in football. That’s part of the game, but you don’t want to see that happen to someone like Izzo, who’s a buddy of mine,” Crawford said. “They are only 53 guys who they can keep, so that’s a favorable occurrence for me, but it’s not something you wish to happen.”

The Dolphins returned to Miami at 3 a.m. Sunday, and will go back to work today in preparation for their next preseason game with Denver a week from today in Mexico City.

“They beat us 20-0 and we didn’t even score, so I’m sure we’re going to have a hard week of practice,” Crawford said.

Crawford’s learning fast.


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