Miami Dolphins

Move over, Turnover Chain. This is why there was an ax in the Dolphins’ locker room

Miami Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek loudly instructs players during a drill in training camp late July.
Miami Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek loudly instructs players during a drill in training camp late July. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Rule No. 1 of the Dolphins’ locker room in 2018: Don’t mess with their defensive linemen.

You never know what they will have in the lockers.

On Wednesday, there was an ax resting on Robert Quinn’s seat.

Yes, an actual ax. Paul Bunyan-style.

But Quinn is no lumberjack.

Instead, the blade was his spoil for Sunday’s victory.

Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek awarded Quinn the ax in a meeting Wednesday for having the best game of the group.

Quinn had four tackles, including three solo, in the Dolphins’ 27-20 victory over the Titans. As a unit, the Dolphins defense forced three turnovers and surrendered only 13 points (the Titans had a touchdown on special teams).

“Robert had a hell of a game,” Dolphins defensive end Akeem Spence said. “And he had the most production in the room. So he won it.”

Written on the ax’s handle: D-Line Pride. And winning one should be a source of pride for Dolphins defenders. (We would include a photo of the ax with this report, but team rules prohibit still photography inside the locker room.)

Miami Hurricanes Coach Mark Richt speaks to the media about the turnover chain after the University of Miami defeats Savannah State 77-0 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.

Here’s the back story:

During training camp’s long, hot days, Kocurek challenged his players to “keep chopping wood” — to pursue the ball relentlessly, all over the field. He also wanted his group to “sharpen their tools” every day.

Apparently, he meant it literally and figuratively. The ax in Quinn’s locker Wednesday was proof of that.

But Kocurek is not bound to just one type of trophy.

If Quinn or Cameron Wake have an all-pro season, they could end up with a small arsenal in their trophy case, based on Kocurek’s history. Spence played for Kocurek in Detroit in 2017, and said that he gave away a variety of items from an army-navy surplus store as prizes.

Kocurek, hired this offseason, is still new to South Florida, so fans might not know much about him. He is man’s man, a guy who would look just as natural in a full-body hunting suit as a Dolphins polo and shorts.

And he’s one intense dude. He is pure energy on the practice field, hoping to translate some of it to his players.

So it should come as no surprise that he shops at Bass Pro Shop — even for gifts for his high-achieving players.

So what does it take to win a weapon?

“Tackle downfield. If a defensive lineman runs downfield, makes a tackle, there’s a certain amount of production points,” Spence said. “Blocked field goal or something like that. QB pressure or hit. Interception, blocks. Just doing things to affect the game where the crowd doesn’t notice and helping out your teammates and stuff like that. I think that’s pretty cool.”

And it’s not always one a week. Could be more. Could be less.

“Sometimes, he’ll give out two of those,” Spence said. “If we had a big game up front and two guys perform great, he might grade [them] out at the same production, and he’s like, ‘S---, I can’t choose between the two,’ then he’ll get another one made up and ‘both of you guys will get one.’ Just so guys have something to play for in the room, competing against one another, pushing one another. That’s a pretty cool gift.”

Sadly, we were unable on Wednesday to catch up with Quinn, who has already been a force in his short time with the Dolphins, to ask what he plans to do with his ax.

But Spence has a suggestion.

“I have the sledgehammer that I won up in Detroit,” he said. “I forgot what game it was for. I got all the guys to sign it, and the sign that goes with it as well. We got some pretty cool gifts.”

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