Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke is spending a lot of time this offseason preparing for the rigors of game day by matching wits with head coach and offensive play-caller Adam Gase in two-minute and other drills during practice.
But starting next Friday, after the Dolphins finish a three-day minicamp, Burke and all the Dolphins coaches and players will be on vacation.
And when Burke does a vacation he really does a vacation.
“I’m going to Uganda to hike with mountain gorillas,” Burke said Wednesday. “We’re going to track some mountain gorillas for a couple of days. There’s only 700 or so left in the wild and so the day after the minicamp we’re flying out and we’re going to be in Uganda for about two weeks.”
Burke and his girlfriend plan to fly to Amsterdam on Friday, spend a couple of days there, then hop an 11-hour flight to Entebbe. The couple will spend about nine days in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
“There’s a base camp or lodge we’re staying at that’s got seven or so cabins on a ridge on the side of a mountain,” Burke said. “You go out there in the day and you get to sort of witness [the gorillas] in their natural habitat.”
Male mountain gorilla stand about 59 inches and weigh approximately 430 pounds. Females are about 51 inches tall and weigh about 220 pounds. There were said to be about 880 in the wild in 2016, per various sources. And, as with many wild animals, they can be dangerous.
“You’re not supposed to approach gorillas and supposed to not make eye contact,” Burke said. “That’s a pretty threatening situation. So eyes down and no sudden movements. Adam told me if I die over there, he’s going to come and kill me twice. It’ll be fun. It’ll be good.”
Burke will be spending his third consecutive summer vacation in Africa. Two years ago he went to Uganda to do missionary work with former Dolphins offensive line assistant Jeremiah Washburn. That same year he hiked Mount Kilimanjaro. He’s also been to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia on safari.
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While Burke is going to be vacationing, receiver Leonte Carroo, who was disappointing a year ago, said Wednesday he’ll be spending the summer at camp working on improving his speed.
Carroo, who said he’s lost 10 pounds from his 220 pounds as a rookie, said he’s taken up Pilates and has followed instruction from Kenny Stills on a regimen to improve his body and ultimately his play.
The Dolphins brought in safety T.J. McDonald on a one-year contract this year knowing he would be suspended the first eight games of the season for violating the NFL’s substances of abuse policy.
That means McDonald will be able to practice and play when training camp begins but will then be unable to practice until his suspension ends in November.
So training camp and the preseason will be McDonald’s best chance to learn the Dolphins defense before he actually has to play two months later. And how will the Dolphins utilize McDonald this preseason?
“We have not come to anything close to those determinations,” Burke said. “That will be from Adam and [general manager] Chris [Grier] but we’re going to have to get him some work. As much as he’s a veteran, he’s new to the system and we’re asking him to do some different things. And we know he’s not going to get any football for however long that’s going to be. We haven’t had that conversation but that’s something we’re going to have to decide as an organization what the right price point is for him to get the work he needs to get but also not steal work from guys who are going to start the season with us.”
McDonald said if he’s asked, he’ll ask to play as much as possible.
“I’m a football player. I want to play. I want to play no matter what,” McDonald said. “Preseason is definitely a time for me to get used to playing in the system. At the same time there’s going to be guys that also need to get time to be ready for Week One so I understand that.”
McDonald said he’s made changes to his lifestyle to avoid the issues that got him suspended in the first place.
“The people I’m around, the people I’m close with. I just had a son three months ago. That’s something that’s been a huge change in my lifestyle,” he said. “I just want to make sure I continue to do the right thing and make my family proud.”
Other notes from Burke today:
▪ Defensive end William Hayes comes to the Dolphins with a reputation for setting the edge with the best of them and also stopping the run. But Burke dismissed the idea of playing Hayes at defensive tackle.
“I don’t see him bumping in as a fulltime inside guy for us,” Burke said.
▪ Burke said moving linebackers around continues to be “a work in progress.” But ...
“We hope as we get closer to the season things start to crystallize a little bit,” Burke said, “and we get a better feel for how we want to utilize those guys.”
▪ Speaking of linebackers, Burke said rookie Raekwon McMillan “definitely has a presence about him. He doesn’t present like a rookie. That’s helped him.”
Burke spoke as if Bobby McCain, who he said “has had a good spring,” is well ahead of the competition for the starting nickel (slot) cornerback job.
“Bobby hasn’t done anything to discourage us from what he’s shown,” Burke said.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero