What’s the best way to avoid an uncomfortable conversation?
Pull a Belichick.
As in Bill Belichick, the famously tight-lipped Patriots coach.
Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi pulled a page straight from Belichick’s media relations playbook when pressed Thursday on the face mask Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes rammed in his face Christmas Eve.
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“On to New England,” he told reporters.
Well, not quite. Rizzi did actually share a few details about the head butt heard ‘round South Florida, including what friends and family have told him in the days since.
“Most of the people that I know told me I'm too old. Get the hell out of there with guys with equipment on.”
Here’s the back story:
It was late in regulation Saturday, and Jakeem Grant returned a kickoff 41 yards to the Dolphins’ 46. Bodies went crashing out of bounds, and a brouhaha ensued.
Rizzi found himself right in the middle of it.
“I was clearly just trying to be a peacemaker there,” Rizzi said. “They had a bunch of guys running off the field onto our sidelines. I was just trying to keep the peace. Trying to stay in between their guys and our guys. Listen, things like that on the sidelines sometimes happen, when their players come onto your sideline. Just trying to be a peacemaker, stay in the way, get guys out of the way.”
Rizzi continued: “Good job by the officials trying to get guys out there quickly. Hey, things like that happen. Move on. No big deal.”
Rizzi didn’t get into details about what was said either by or to Hughes to provoke the head butt, other than there was “a lot of testosterone going around.”
The refs evidently missed Hughes’ head butt; they didn’t throw a flag. Rizzi said he has not heard from the league since, and that he’s inclined to let the issue go.
“I think a bigger deal has been made of it than what it was,” he added.
What was not a big deal: Andrew Franks crushing a game-tying 55-yard field goal late in regulation.
Rizzi called it “the biggest play of the game.”
He’s right. It’s amazing the kick was good, considering all the moving parts (the clock was running as Miami had no timeouts), Franks’ inaccuracy from distance in his career (he entered the game 1 for 3 from 50-plus), and an equipment malfunction.
In the mad scramble to get the ball spotted, the officials didn’t have a chance to switch out the regular, “quarterback” ball for the kickers’ K-ball. Didn’t matter. Franks drilled the kick that probably put the Dolphins in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“The preparation part is what I'm most proud about,” Rizzi said. “It's something we cover every week. You always preach to the players, when this comes up, it's going to be a very important time. Now, did I know it was going to be the kick that might have been the clincher? No.
“[But] we do know that in this league, points are at a premium. With all the one score games we've been in, you never know how big those things are. It was a proud moment for me. Looking back on it, the sense of urgency. Be quick, don't hurry. We didn't look like we were frazzled. It was well orchestrated. That was gratifying.”