It took more than a year, but we’ve finally identified a defensive position Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t comfortable playing.
And who was the source of this information? His mother, Melissa, who took to Twitter to defend her son during Wednesday’s Dolphins-Buccaneers joint practice.
Responding to a critical observation made on the social media platform by a Sun-Sentinel writer, Melissa Fitzpatrick responded:
“... Maybe it’s because he is not a [strong safety] and is being used to suit other people[’s] skill set, not his own.”
The background: Fitzpatrick will play all over the field this fall — safety, cornerback and even some linebacker.
But weighing just 207 pounds, strong safety isn’t exactly a natural fit. And yet, with Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald and Walt Aikens all injured — and with Bobby McCain all but locked in at free safety — strong safety is where Fitzpatrick has lined up this week.
“It is what it is,” Minkah Fitzpatrick said after practice. “She’s being honest and saying how she feels. There’s nothing wrong with it. I wish she would have addressed me first and talked to me first before it happens, but it is what it is. She feels very strongly.
“She’s not wrong,” he continued. “Coach has asked me do something right now. I got to do what they ask me to do. If we have to have some discussions in the future, we’ll have those discussions.”
Fitzpatrick had an up and down day Wednesday. The highlight was when he intercepted Jameis Winston in team drills.
But he also seemed to give up at least two touchdown passes, including one to tight end O.J. Howard that exposed some fault lines in the secondary.
Howard split Fitzpatrick and Jomal Wiltz to get open, but it was cornerback Xavien Howard who came off the field hot.
Howard seemed to go at Fitzpatrick on the sidelines and needed to be calmed down by teammates and coaches. His temperature came down pretty quickly, and they seemed fine a short time later.
“That’s not a common thing,” Fitzpatrick said. “There was some confusion in the back end, miscommunication. He was a little frustrated by a certain thing. Talked to him, got it right.”
At the same time Fitzpatrick was meeting with reporters, coach Brian Flores held his daily news conference some 50 yards away. And he had nothing but positive things to say about the Dolphins’ 2018 first-round pick.
“He’s done a really good job,” Flores said of Fitzpatrick. “He’s a hard-working kid, does a good job with his communication, practices well every day. Obviously, it’s never perfect for anybody but he’s a guy who we’ve used in multiple roles.
“He’s taken to that and really learned them all at a pretty good level,” he added. “Obviously, there’s always room for improvement and technique from a fundamental standpoint just in understanding the game. He’s still a young player. It’s a new system. He’s really a joy to work with from an ability standpoint. As a kid he’s a really good kid, too. So I’m looking forward to working with him some more.”
Assuming Jones and McDonald return to health before the start of the season, Fitzpatrick will likely soon get back to playing in spots more suited to his ability.
“They don’t expect to win every single snap against a 320-pound tackle,” he said. “They just want me to do my job. They’re not going to put me in situations where I have to do that every single play. They know where my strengths are.”
But until then ...
“You just got to do it, man. If you resist it, you’re not going to play well,” he said. “If you think about playing somewhere else, you’re not going to make the most of your position. I’m not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn’t best suited for me, but that’s what coach is asking me to do. I’m going to go out there and practice my hardest.”