The name Chuck Klingbeil might not mean much to younger fans today, but the former nose tackle has a secure place in Dolphins lore for an improbable starring role in Don Shula’s 300th career victory, in 1991.
Klingbeil, who spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Dolphins ending in 1995, has died of unknown causes. He was 52.
Longtime fans will recall Klingbeil as the hero of a 16-13 victory over Green Bay on Sept. 22, 1991, when he fell on a fumble by quarterback Don Majkowski in the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that eventually gave the Dolphins license to give Shula his first (and only?) Gatorade bath in celebration of his milestone.
“What were the odds of all that, of me scoring? A million to one?” Klingbeil asked after the game, although he evidently thought his odds were no worse than even. Before the game, for no apparent reason, he told fellow nose tackle Brian Sochia he was going to score a touchdown.
“I was just joking around,” Klingbeil said. “But I did say it. That’s weird, isn’t it?”
Long before anyone heard of Cameron Wake, Klingbeil was a star plucked by the Dolphins out of the Canadian Football League. The season prior, he helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders win the Grey Cup by earning MVP honors in the championship game.
Klingbeil went on to start 65 of the 78 games he played for Miami, making 242 tackles and recording 7.5 sacks.
Injuries pressed him into duty against the Packers on an afternoon so hot and humid that the weather helped gift the Dolphins a win.
The strange sequence was set up by a 54-yard punt by Reggie Roby that went out of bounds on the Green Bay 2. With no one near him, Majkowski cocked his arm back to pass.
“But the ball didn’t go back with him,” Klingbeil said. “It stayed right where it started. When his hand moved, the ball just hit the ground, like a great big Christmas present.”
Majkowski was so sweaty, “The ball just slipped out of my hand,” he said.
Klingbeil cradled it like a baby as officials’ arms shot straight upward. Scared he’d be penalized, Klingbeil didn’t dare spike the ball.
The play kick-started the sluggish Dolphins and Dan Marino, who had heard boos earlier. A 40-yard pass from Marino to Mark Duper set up the winning 31-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich.
Although Klingbeil’s time in Miami eventually ended because of a shoulder injury, he remained a powerlifter who could squat 700 pounds. His hopes of a comeback ended when he was rushed to the ER one night and diagnosed with a hole torn in his esophagus. He became an assistant coach at Michigan Tech.
Even on the day of his career highlight, Klingbeil could sense he’d accomplished something with a lasting impact.
“Being Coach Shula’s 300th win, that makes it even sweeter,” Klingbeil said. “It’s exciting to be a part of history.”
DAVIE — The Miami Dolphins wrapped up their 13th scheduled practice on Thursday. And here are some of the highlights from Adam Gase’s final availability until training camp starts near the end of July.
DAVIE — Ja’Wuan James is the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL in 2018, at $9.34 million.
But James doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I am just focused on having a good year here,” James said Thursday, when asked about Miami’s decision to process their fifth-year option. “I am focused on having a good year for this team and that’s it.”
James, 26, signed a 4-year, $8.4 million contract as a rookie. So, presumably he’s happy about earning more than that in one season.
But is James still hopeful a long-term deal can be reached with the club?
“I’m really just focused on the season and getting better,” James said. “I’m focused on this hamstring and getting myself to 100 percent.”
James is generally one of the most affable, cordial, gregarious players in the Dolphins locker room. He is extremely approachable and professional. He just clearly doesn’t want to talk about his contract right now.
James was asked about Pro Football Focus ranking him as the fifth-best pass-blocking tackle in the NFL.
“I feel like I’m just trying to get better every day,” James said. “I’m just focused on coming back from this injury. Being a whole lot better. And finishing this season.”
One interesting thing James alluded to a few times was overcoming his season-ending hamstring injury. James missed the last eight games of last season with a severely pulled and torn hamstring.
“I feel like I’m past it,” James said. “I just feel the first couple of days, it felt different. The game is so fast and stuff. Just from not being out there. But once I started picking it up I was fine.”
James has been working closely with first-year offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn.
“Just using my technique the same every time,” James said. “That’s the hardest part, just doing the same thing, every time. No matter who you’re going against. Silent count. Whatever it is. Maintaining the same consistency in my technique.”
DAVIE — Patrick Surtain was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins and like rookie Cornell Armstrong, he played at Southern Miss.
So Surtain expressed a desire to connect with Armstrong, and it recently happened.
“He told me to go out there and get as many reps as I can,” Armstrong said Wednesday. “He said, ‘Don’t hide in the back, go out there and just do what I do, do what I did to get here and just play ball.'”
As a sixth-rounder, Armstrong knows there’s know guarantee he’ll make the Dolphins’ 53-man roster. Of course, there was no guarantee former fifth-rounder Bobby McCain was going to make the Dolphins as a rookie and he just earned a $27 million deal.
McCain recently said Armstrong reminds him of himself. And so Armstrong has also connected with McCain.
“One day after practice, I just went up to McCain,” Armstrong said. “I just got out of that shell of just hiding back, so I had to go talk to him. I was like ‘Man, why did you do this? Why did you do that?’ Because I want to be up there where those guys are at one day. I decided to just stop shying around and just go out there and speak to all of those guys and treat them like they’re my brothers.”
In what ways is Armstrong’s style similar to McCain’s?
“Physical,” Armstrong said. “I like the way he plays. He’s a physical guy. He’s not scared to go in there and get rough with you. I like that. That’s just how my game is.”
Armstrong said McCain’s success gives him confidence.
“Man, it gives me a lot of motivation,” he said. “Yes, I look up to (McCain) a lot. Just to see that and where he came from – a fifth-round guy, late-round guy – yes, it means a lot. It does.”
Armstrong, whose focus in the spring has been at outside cornerback, said he’s had a few pass deflections.
“Every day I could say I laid a brick, I laid a foundation, to get better every day,” he said. “I may have a few mistakes but the next day, I’ll build off that. I’ll make sure that I don’t mess up again on the same mistake. Every day I’m just laying a foundation and just stacking bricks.”
DAVIE — As the Dolphins continue working through possibilities for their football headquarters, they’ve reached a straightforward conclusion: Their current setup is unfit for an NFL team.
The organization has done the best it can to modernize the practice facility in Davie, located on Nova Southeastern University’s campus, but isn’t content to leave it as is. The decision now is whether to embark on a major modernization and expansion of the current facility or build a new one elsewhere.
“Nova Southeastern is a fantastic partner to us, but there are some things about this facility that are dated and that need to be improved in terms of the amount of space that we have,” team president Tom Garfinkel said today. “The players walk across a hallway to take a shower, you know? It’s not ideal from some of those standpoints, so I think we recognize it’s time to upgrade some of the things in the facility.
“We’ll either do that here or build a new one. We’re weighing our options.”
While the Dolphins are highly active in that process — Stephen Ross owns the stadium and has pumped millions of his own dollars into recent renovations with the ambition of transforming it into a world-class entertainment venue — it has no bearing on their plans for a practice facility.
The team will remain at its current location through the 2019 season at a minimum. While Garfinkel did not give a timetable for opening a new or revamped facility, documents submitted for the World Cup bid indicate the Dolphins intend to have something completed no later than 2022. That was included because soccer teams will be able to use it for practices.
Garfinkel joked that in a perfect world they’d figure out what they’re doing “tomorrow,” but added there’s no deadline forcing the Dolphins to make a decision.
“When it’s time to go, I like to go,” he said. “We’re working hard on it right now. Once we make that decision, we go.”
He reiterated multiple times that this is rooted solely in the desire to build a better practice venue and there are no issues with Nova.
“We have a great relationship with them; Everything’s been fine,” Garfinkel said. “It’s just the facility itself, compared to other NFL facilities, is a little small. We have some space constraints that we want to improve on.”
The only alternative that’s been made public is Miramar, where the city has already held a town hall to discuss a proposed site.
It’s also possible for the team to build one on Hard Rock Stadium’s property, where it’s currently constructing a tennis venue to hold the Miami Open beginning next year. The stadium’s grounds are more expansive than many people might realize and certainly have enough space for a practice facility.
The organization has also looked into several other potential sites around Broward and Dade Counties.
As for Hard Rock Stadium, it’s already hosted many international soccer events and wouldn’t necessarily need any noticeable alterations to be in play for the World Cup.
“The stadium is really well-suited to it now,” Garfinkel said. “I don’t know that there’s big changes that’ll go into place for the World Cup, but that’s 2026, so that’s a ways off. We’ve got some time to figure that out.”
The Dolphins have been based on Nova’s campus since 1993 and seem amenable to staying there if they can build the facility they want.
All football staff work out of the Davie facility, which has two outdoor practice fields, the indoor practice bubble and training equipment. The business operations are housed in Hard Rock Stadium.
DAVIE — Isaiah Ford has added a bit of weight and strength and he knows a lot more about the Dolphins’ offense than he did at this time last year. But having recovered from a torn meniscus in his knee, Ford is still confident in his abilities.
“I think I’m a competitor, first and foremost,” Ford said Wednesday. “I want to win at everything that I do. And I think that starts with my mindset on how I approach everything. I’m a versatile player. I can play inside and out. I can make those contested catches. And I’m a technician. That’s something that I pride myself on, is being really good in and out of my breaks. And running really good routes and things like that.”
Ford has shined at times this spring, one year after Miami made him a seventh-round selection from Virginia Tech. Ford’s path to the Dolphins’ roster is through versatility and consistent production.
“I’ve spent a bunch of time inside,” Ford said. “A bunch of time outside as well. Just being ready for wherever they decide to put me. I’m comfortable playing both, which is good… I think in the slot you have a little more freedom. A little more wiggle room in terms of your releases.”
Ford was injured running a routine slant last summer, against Tony Lippett. Rehabilitating his knee alongside Ryan Tannehill and Raekwon McMillan was a rewarding and competitive experience.
“That helped us push through the dark days,” Ford said. “Where we didn’t really feel like rehabbing or we were down on ourselves. And to have Ryan there as a leader to kind of help us push through was really huge for both of us.”
Ford said the three of them would see who could bike the farthest in 10 minutes while hooked up to a blood flow restrictor.
“Then our trainer stopped it because he got a little scared,” Ford said. “Whoever was up next had to beat it. I think Raekwon was the last to go so he had the record. So nobody else got to go.”
Ford said he appreciates the game more now and realizes how much he missed it. He has a better understanding of the terminology of the offense and what coaches are expecting. He says he’s confident.
“Just be available whenever my number is called,” Ford said. “My job is to compete. To execute. To know my job. To know where I’m supposed to be. And where I’m supposed to be, be there.”
DAVIE — Ryan Tannehill completed most of the 400 catches Jarvis Landry had over the four years of his Miami Dolphins career.
But Landry revealed Wednesday he and Tannehill were actually not close.
“I’m not surprised,” Landry told NFL Network, when asked why he had not heard from Tannehill since his departure. “We didn’t really have a good relationship anyway, so I’m not surprised.”
Tannehill leaned on Landry since the receivers’ arrival as a second-rounder from LSU. Tannehill also at times praised Landry’s competitiveness and toughness.
“I wasn’t trying to look back in the rear view mirror, you know,” Landry said. “I’m focused on here and where we’re taking it here. I wasn’t trying to take a shot at him. I understand how hard every guy in this NFL works, especially at the position, especially at the quarterback position. But at the same time too… I give credit where credit is due.”
Landry is referring to comments he made recently in Cleveland, suggesting the quarterbacks in Cleveland are “a lot better” than what he had in Miami. Landry’s quarterbacks with the Browns are Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield.
DAVIE — Isaiah Ford leaped into the air in the end zone and amid a crowd, came down with the football.
Ford can leap, really leap, especially now that he’s fully healed from that knee surgery last season. Ford celebrated with teammates on Tuesday, hauling in the pass from Bryce Petty.
Mark it down. Ford is a Miami Dolphins sleeper to monitor.
“He’s done a good job,” Miami coach Adam Gase said Tuesday. “He’s made a lot of plays, a lot of catches. I think he’s … We felt so good about him last training camp and it was really tough for him getting hurt because he was making strides. He was starting to break through working him in the slot and he still has ability outside. He had a really good feel for what was going on.”
Ford, a star at Virginia Tech drafted in the seventh round last season, is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. He can play inside or out. Ford is actually the third-tallest receiver on the Dolphins, as it is a diminutive group.
Assuming Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant make Miami’s roster, this leaves players like Leonte Carroo, Ford and Rashawn Scott battling for one or two roster spots.
It is very possible that while some veterans are limited this preseason, Ford breaks out as he has in practice.
“He’s been very productive this spring,” Gase said. “Really, for him, it’s going to be about once we get to training camp and preseason games, the live action stuff, because he hasn’t had an opportunity to do that yet.”
Ford is an exciting athlete with a basketball pedigree. He’s showing good burst and route-running. He can both track deep balls as well as gain yards after catch on shorter passes in the middle of the field.
Somewhat off the radar now, Ford may be squarely on the radar by the end of the summer.