Coach Brian Flores said despite Minkah Fitzpatrick’s trade request, he does not feel the relationship is broken and said Fitzpatrick will have a significant role in Sunday’s game against New England.
Flores declined to say if the defensive back’s request will be granted, but a source indicated that at this point, the Dolphins would consider trading the second-year defensive back only for a significant return.
Fitzpatrick, speaking at his locker after Friday’s practice, declined to confirm or discuss the trade request but said: “I’m a big part of this week’s game plan. I’m going to give my all to this team because I am a Miami Dolphin. I’m going to make sure I perform my best. That’s all I’m focusing on right now. If I don’t play well, I can’t focus on this trade, and this and that. I’ve got to focus on being my best right now.”
He declined to answer when asked if he expects to be with the Dolphins for the duration of the season. His agent has received permission to seek a trade, but nothing had materialized as of midday Friday, and the Dolphins have not told Fitzpatrick what they would accept in return.
Flores said he wasn’t irritated that Fitzpatrick would ask for a trade and praised him, saying: “He’s done a really good job all week. This is a tough kid, a hardworking kid. He loves football. I expect him to play well Sunday. He’s going to be a big part of the game plan.
“I’ve had this kind of similar situation and others in the past, so I think we’ll be able to move past it and move through it. I think as an organization, we’ll be fine.”
Fitzpatrick — who has been upset about his role, which has required him to learn six positions — said his job Sunday will include significant responsibilities.
“Every single week it’s multiple things — whether covering tight ends, covering running backs, covering receivers,” he said. “It’s always something different.”
Is the way he’s going to be used Sunday suited to his skill set?
“My skill set is I’m a football player and I’m playing football, so yes,” he said.
Fitzpatrick figures to be used extensively at safety on Sunday, with Reshad Jones ruled out with an ankle injury.
Teammates appeared supportive. One player said Flores did not discuss Fitzpatrick’s trade request with the team.
The team’s two defensive captains — defensive back Bobby McCain and linebacker Jerome Baker — said they had discussions with Fitzpatrick after learning of his trade request.
“All I said to Minkah is I’m there for him as a friend,” Baker said. “I wanted him to know I’m there for him as a friend, as a brother. I’m there for you whatever you decide to do.”
Baker said he did not ask Fitzpatrick why he wants to be traded or try to talk him into changing his mind.
“I wouldn’t even ask that; it’s his decision,” Baker said. “I wanted him to know I will still be your fan, will still be your boy.”
Baker indicated he knows Fitzpatrick’s decision wasn’t capricious.
“Knowing the type of guy, he prays, he meditates,” Baker said. “Anything he does, he really thought it over. I support him whatever he does. If he goes to another team, I would root for him until he plays us. I know on Sunday he’s going to do whatever he can to help us win. It’s not going to be any letting up.”
McCain said he spoke to Fitzpatrick but said he would keep his comments to himself, while adding that teammates aren’t angry with Fitzpatrick.
“He’s going to be really good for this league,” McCain said. “He knows he’s a big part of this team, big part of this defense. I do know he’s a good player and he’s a big part of the game plan this week.”
Center Daniel Kilgore, asked Monday about reports of players asking for trades, said: “If you don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here.”
Kilgore was asked Friday if he feels that way about Fitzpatrick.
“That’s Minkah’s business and at this point, I’ve moved on to Sunday,” Kilgore said. “I won’t talk about another man’s business. I’m sure he will handle it, the team will handle it.”
But is there a broader problem of players wanting out?
“I don’t think so,” McCain said. “If there is, there is. I can’t control it.”
Flores’ program is demanding, and one player cut Labor Day weekend said some players are growing weary of what it’s like to be a Dolphin.
So is Flores’ program too difficult mentally and physically?
“It’s football; if it’s too hard, you wouldn’t be here,” McCain said. “If it’s too hard for you, you can go play [elsewhere]. We want mentally, physically tough players.”
WEBB TO GET START
Flores said J’Marcus Webb, signed less than two weeks ago, would replace Julien Davenport as the starting right tackle.
Davenport was placed on injured reserve with a hyperextended knee and slight tibia fracture, injuries sustained during practice Thursday. His roster spot was not immediately filled.
The Dolphins can bring two players off injured reserve after eight weeks, which is seven games in Miami’s case this season. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter and Davenport are the three candidates for those two mid-year return slots.
▪ Besides Jones, receiver Albert Wilson (calf/hip) also was ruled out for Sunday’s game after not practicing all week.
McCain (shoulder) was limited Friday and listed as questionable, as was linebacker Trent Harris (foot), who also was limited.
Defensive end/linebacker Charles Harris (wrist) and Kilgore (shoulder) also were listed as questionable but practiced fully Friday.