Barry Jackson

Miami Dolphins split on Trump/Clinton; on-field Dolphins notes

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 photos.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 photos. AP

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday evening:

• Next week’s presidential election has spurred spirited debate inside the Dolphins’ locker-room, and linebacker Spencer Paysinger said Dolphins players appear about evenly split between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“There are a lot of Trump supporters in this locker-room. There are a lot of Hillary supporters,” said center Mike Pouncey, declining to say who he’s backing. “We try to keep it football, but this is stuff guys talk about.”

Last month, a straw poll of NFL players revealed that 20 of 22 black players interviewed planned to vote for Clinton and 21 of 21 white players intended to vote for Trump. But Paysinger said inside the Dolphins’ locker-room, support is not split along racial lines.

At a rally in Miami, Donald Trump told supporters that despite his lead in Florida, he wants them to vote like they’re behind. Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, N.C., President Obama said "it's strange" that Trump's rhetoric has become accepted. Hillary C

“It’s the biggest thing happening in our country; why should we not talk about it?” Paysinger said. “The good thing is we can all talk about it and not let it affect anything outside of the locker-room.

“If there’s somebody in this locker-room who wholeheartedly believes in Donald Trump’s ways, I’m like, ‘Man, you’re crazy,’ but I’m not about to not talk to you for the rest of eternity.

“Whenever you hear somebody [on the Dolphins] say they support Trump,” Paysinger continued, “it’s all the same thing – they say he’s a winner, that he will get the country back where it needs to be because he’s not a politician. You hear the same half dozen to a dozen things and truthfully, I haven’t heard one real argument about why he has a viable chance to be president beyond those few things. I might end up voting for Hillary, maybe even writing in Bernie Sanders. There’s no part of me that would consider voting for Trump.”

Dolphins safety Isa-Abdul Quddus, who is Muslim, said of Trump: “I hope people are smart enough to not elect that man. He says a lot of ridiculous things. I can only imagine what he’ll do in office.”

I tried to find a Trump supporter in the Dolphins locker-room, but none acknowledged being one, though as Pouncey said, he does have support (albeit confidential) support among Dolphins players.

Of Trump dismissing his well-publicized 11-year-old vulgar comments as “locker-room talk,” guard Jermon Bushrod said: “When was the last time Donald Trump was in a locker-room? Grown men, I don’t hear talk like that.”

But linebacker Jelani Jenkins – who, like Bushrod, declined to say who he’s supporting – said he has heard some players say “some things similar” to what Trump said in that tape.

Paysinger said “a lot of the [Dolphins] players don’t like either candidate. It’s like picking, like Colin Kaepernick said, the lesser of two evils. A lot of people can’t trust Trump because of what he says and what he does. A lot of people can’t trust Hillary because she doesn’t seem too genuine. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people just don’t vote because they don’t like the candidates.”

Count offensive linemen Kraig Urbik in that group. “We have [322] million people in the country, and these are the two people running for president?” Urbik asked incredulously. “It’s a huge mess, an absolute disaster. Both candidates are [expletive]. So I’m not going to vote.”

This campaign, Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks said, “has been more slandering each other instead of talking about issues. It’s disappointing. I don’t trust [either] candidate.”

• Here’s how defensive coordinator Vance Joseph assessed two of his new players today:

On safety Bacarri Rambo: “Well, he’s in the same boat as Donald Butler’s been for us. He’s a veteran player that’s played. He’s going to play some safety for us obviously in some sub packages. It allows us to play Michael (Thomas) at some nickel and dime this week. He’s a guy that’s played at a high level. He’s smart; he’s tough. He’s got some range in high zone, so losing Reshad (Jones), it kind of gives us a guy who has showed range in high thirds and high halves and quarters. It helps to have a guy like that.”

On cornerback Bene Benwikere: “He’s working. He’s working to be a good player for us. He’s a nickel player. As a nickel player, it’s like being a linebacker sometimes but being a defensive back sometimes. It’s a lot more learning for him, so he’s not there yet. He’s working towards being ready. Hopefully in a couple of weeks he can get up and show us what he can do.”

• Joseph said cornerback Chris Culliver is not “totally ready” to play in an NFL game yet.

That means linebacker Zach Vigil is a good possibility for the Dolphins’ open roster spot. The Dolphins are eager to get him back on special teams.

“Getting a guy back like Zach Vigil helps and a guy like Jordan Lucas has played more in the last couple of weeks,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said.

• The Dolphins have encouraged Ryan Tannehill to run more, and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen put it this way today:

“We’ve certainly told him that teams that convert third downs in this league are teams where the quarterback runs for one or two a game. That’s a fact....

“It’s a hard teach; but I think (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase has done a good job of just encouraging him. ‘Hey, you’re a good athlete. Don’t be afraid. One, two (seconds), pull that thing down and … you don’t understand how valuable your legs are in this whole thing.’

• According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins’ Laremy Tunsil has graded out better than all but two NFL guards the past two games, and for the season, he’s 21st overall as a run-blocker among all guards and 46th as a pass-blocker.

Tunsil “is just improving in big strides. Big strides!” Christensen said.

• Yes, even Dolphins players are surprised by what Jay Ajayi is doing.

"I didn't know that he had it in him like that,” left tackle Branden Albert said. “I really didn't. I knew he ran hard, but I didn't know he ran this hard. It seems like the more we get into the game, the more he gets better. That's an added bonus for us.”

Speaking of the running game, sharp Dolphins observer Chris Kouffman, who has written Dolphins content for Bleacher Report and elsewhere, notes Miami is averaging 6.3 per carry when Marqueis Gray is the one tight end in three receiver sets.

The Dolphins’ 2017 schedule is close to being finalized. Please click here for that, plus news on a rising Hurricanes draft prospect.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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