Ndamukong Suh, who knows something about defense, got a lesson on the subject on a whole different level.
Suh is one of five Dolphins who just visited the troops at Camp Bondsteel, an installation located near Kosovo.
Suh and the team posted a short video on social media Monday showing Chase Allen, MarQueis Gray, Mike Hull, Eric Smith and Suh mingling with soldiers during another of the NFL’s tours in which players visit with personnel, sign autographs and learn about their duties.
“Can I get a picture?” one soldier asks Smith, who replies, “Yes, ma’am. You don’t even have to ask.”
The camp is a 955-acre facility built in 1999 and named after James Bondsteel, a decorated Army staff sergeant in the Vietnam War.
DAVIE—Don’t be surprised if Dolphins rookie offensive tackle Eric Smith is dancing on the field at some point in the next two weeks. That’s Smith’s way of staying loose, and it was working well for him before a knee injury knocked him out for most of the season.
Smith made the regular-season roster as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia and has gone all year without dressing for a game. He was on Injured Reserve most of that time, but was activated today and is in consideration to make his debut Sunday at Kansas City.
“I want to prove to myself that I can play with the big boys,” Smith said. “Same motto as the beginning.”
Smith played all four preseason games and looked good. Dolphins coach Adam Gase praised him from the beginning for holding his own in training camp against veteran William Hayes and first-round pick Charles Harris.
That work helped Smith be ready for the games, and he was so at ease that teammates noticed him bopping around between plays.
“I just went out there and had fun,” Smith said. “If I went out there tense, those are the guys that usually mess up.
“That’s just who I am. I’m relaxed. I’m prepared, I studied the plays, I know the footwork, I know where I’m supposed to sit. Don’t go out there and overthink. Just do what I’m supposed to do. That’s how I’m treating it these last two weeks if I get in.”
Smith is a 6-foot-4, 321-pound prospect who started all four years with the Cavaliers. He beat out several more experienced tackles to make the final cut, but injuries have relegated him to being a long-term project.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing for Smith, though, because it’s afforded him a chance to further acclimate to the pros. He has several veterans in his section of the locker room and sits right next to eighth-year tackle Sam Young.
For Smith, who also takes reps on the field goal unit, the extra time to study and practice has helped get him ready for what could be a crucial two-game audition.
“Most definitely,” he said. “A lot of mental reps. I’ve gotten much better. I’ve been learning and growing from watching these guys work on their techniques and tactics.
“The day I got hurt was a letdown, but guys were high-spirited and told me, ‘You’ll be back. You’re good.’ Coaches reached out to me and told me to keep going. It was an awkward situation, but I never had a negative mindset about it.”
Smith thought there was a chance he’d end up missing the entire year when he went on Injured Reserve on Oct. 3. However, he was back to doing full speed running and cutting on the field. He started practicing again within the past few weeks, and the Dolphins added him to the roster when Jermon Bushrod was ruled out for the season with a foot injury.
If Miami is sticking with its starters for the final two games as Gase indicated, there’s no obvious spot for Smith. Laremy Tunsil is entrenched at left tackle, and Young has been playing well on the right side. If there’s an opportunity to get him in, though, it seems like the Dolphins are eager to test him out with an eye on him contributing next season.
“He did a lot of really good things that we liked,” Gase said. “I love how engaged he’s been since he’s been hurt. He just constantly kept working… It just starts moving so fast and you’re trying to keep your body right and keep up with what’s going on because as the season goes on… if you’re not practicing, it can get tough. He did a great job of staying up to speed and making sure that when he got a chance to jump back out there, he was ready to go.”
DAVIE—The Dolphins are on Day 4 of the Chris Foerster scandal, and questions persist about the extent of his issues and how much the organization knew or should have known.
A video was released showing Foerster snorting lines of white powder, and the woman who claims to be the recipient of the video said it was taken at his desk in the Dolphins’ facility. She made various other claims about Foerster using cocaine.
Gase gave a vague answer Monday when asked if he had any indication that Foerster had problems, and today he was pressed on whether the behavior depicted in the video was more widespread in his building than merely one assistant coach.
“I don’t—To me, it was an isolated incident,” he said. “Really, that’s the best answer I can give you. A lot of people are just a little surprised.”
It’s unclear whether he’s saying it was isolated as in no one other than Foerster was involved, or if he meant that it was a one-time incident for Foerster.
Gase and the team are eager to move past this scandal as they prepare for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. New assistant coach Dave DeGuglielmo, an offensive line specialist, was on the field for today’s practice working with assistant offensive line coach Chris Kuper.
The only Dolphins offensive lineman to address the Foerster situation was rookie tackle Eric Smith, who is on Injured Reserve. None of the starters ventured into the locker room during media availability Monday.
DAVIE—As is often the case when something like this happens, at least some of the Dolphins’ players were completely blindsided when a video surfaced of offensive line coach Chris Foerster snorting a white, powdery substance.
Foerster resigned in disgrace this morning after the video circulated Sunday night, creating a jarring scandal for the organization in the middle of the season. Eric Smith, a rookie tackle who is out for the season with an injury, said one of his college friends sent him the video late Sunday. He assumed it was a joke, until he pressed play.
“I had no words—still, to this moment,” Smith said. “It’s been about 12 hours since I’ve seen the video, and I’m still in shock. I have no true expression or emotion for the situation. It’s a lot to take in. You don’t see this every day, and definitely not with every team… I still don’t have any words to put toward the situation.”
Foerster, 55, came to the Dolphins in 2016 after 23 years as a pro and college assistant. He also served as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 2004.
Of the 12 offensive linemen on Miami’s roster, seven were in their second season working under Foerster. Three of his former players came through the locker room today—Sam Young, Isaac Asiata and Smith—and a few others thought better of walking in as they continued down the hallway.
Smith stopped for about three minutes, saying mostly what a surprise it was and showing his concern for Foerster’s wellbeing.
“We’re all staying positive,” he said. “We have nothing negative to say about him. This all hit us very suddenly, and we were all shocked. This is a whole different perspective that we have of our coach.
“Everybody has their own life outside of football, but of that magnitude? It hit us hard. We love the guy. We truly love the guy. You can talk to everybody on the o-line; we all have our own emotions towards Coach. That was big on us.”
The Dolphins promoted defensive back Jordan Lucas to the active roster Tuesday, filling a spot created when offensive tackle Eric Smith was moved to injured reserve with a knee problem.
Lucas, 24, was the Dolphins’ sixth-round pick in 2016 who appeared in eight games and assisted on two tackles on special teams. He added another special teams assist in the wild-card loss to Pittsburgh.
Lucas, a 6-foot, 202-pounder who can play cornerback and safety, had been added to the Dolphins’ practice squad Sept. 3. He played at Penn State.
Smith, an undrafted free agent from Virginia, was inactive for the first three games of the season.
DAVIE — Nearly 10 percent of the Dolphins’ 53-man roster consists of rookies who weren’t considered among the 253 best rookies in the country, because they weren’t drafted.
Monday marked the first day safety Maurice Smith, cornerback Torry McTyer, linebacker Chase Allen, offensive tackle Eric Smith and punter Matt Haack could step onto the practice field in Davie knowing they are NFL players, not just hopefuls.
“I think it says that our scouting department did a really good job,” coach Adam Gase said. “ … They did a good job of targeting guys and finding the guys that fit our culture and our program. We found guys that are competitors and it really worked out.”
One or two roster surprises in a season are no big deal. But when there are five, it’s time to learn more about how and why. So here’s a closer look at five Dolphins who beat the odds.
Who inspires you to play and why?
CB Torry McTyer (UNLV): I always watched my dad (Tim) play because when I grew up, he was in the NFL, I was kind of born into football. He was my big inspiration. Make plays when the opportunity presents itself — that’s the biggest message he gave to me.
S Maurice Smith (Georgia): My family, my son (Maurice Smith III, 2 months old). They pushed me this whole time. They were not too much relying on me but they were making sure I made the right decisions so I could fulfill my dream. And now, more so my son, just because I have someone else looking up to me and I can be a good role model in this part of my life. (Bonus question: Does your son have Dolphins gear? He’s got a lot of Dolphins stuff. I didn’t want to put him in it and take pictures until I actually made the team, so we’ll start putting the pictures out soon.)
P Matt Haack (Arizona State): My family. I’ve got a big family and we’re really close and I’m the first one in my family to come out and do something like this. I think it’s kind of on me to represent them the best way that I can. They’ve had my back since I was a little kid and believed in me through all the ups and downs.
LB Chase Allen (Southern Illinois): I’d say my parents. They taught me to have good morals and work ethic, so that’s the reason I got here.
OT Eric Smith (Virginia): My mom. I’m the oldest of four. She’s always kept me straight. Being the man of the house, even to this day, she kept me on the right path. Football taught me lessons. But my Mom taught me lessons as well.
What is something teams that did not draft you missed?
McTyer: A hard-worked, dedicated player. Just want to leave everything on the field.
Maurice Smith: They missed out on a relentless worker.
Haack: I never had my head set on getting drafted. I’m a specialist. It’s a pretty unique situation to get drafted. For me personally, being a lefty is an advantage and being consistent, putting the ball up with good hang time makes it harder for returners to catch.
Allen: I’m not sure. A lot of guys say coming from an FCS school, the competition is maybe less, but I always felt like I could play at this level and I feel like I just proved it.
Eric Smith: Honestly, they missed an opportunity to see me grow with their program. A lot of people doubted me. But I knew that I would get the opportunity and I would make the best of it. Fortunately it got me to the spot I am today.
What did you do on the last day of the draft?
McTyer: I was at home with my family. We were watching the draft. Unfortunately I didn’t get picked up, but I’m happy to be where I am now. It was more so motivation because I feel I could compete with a lot of those guys. Seeing those guys picked before me kind of put more of a chip on my shoulder.
Maurice Smith: We were actually at a beach house, me and my family. Obviously I was hoping to get drafted, but once that didn’t happen, I wasn’t too disturbed about it. I just used it as motivation.
Haack: I was actually sitting at home for a while, had family over, nothing special. We made it a day to watch the draft. My uncle’s favorite team is the Dolphins, so it’s kind of ironic.
Allen: I knew it was out of my hands, so I just spent the day with my family. I really didn’t try to think too hard about it. I knew if I didn’t get drafted, I’d get an opportunity somewhere. Thankfully it was with the Dolphins.
Eric Smith: It was the longest day. I was at my grandmother’s house. I knew it would be a long day. It was an eight-hour day. Waited, got to the last pick. That’s when I started receiving calls from teams, that we may want you. I had been to Miami on a Top 30 visit the week before the draft, so they were already at the top of my list. So I just waited by my phone. We had pizza and chicken wings.
What was it like to walk into the building as an official NFL player today?
McTyer: Oh, definitely a dream come true. Dreaming of this since you were little and it’s here. I’m very fortunate.
Maurice Smith: It was great, a blessing. But honestly, not much changed except my role. And my level of determination increased. This is a beginning, but now I have to continue to work.
Haack: I’m trying to treat it like every day. I’ve been coming here every day since May. I’m trying not to be too high in the high moments and get too low in the low moments. Trying to act like I’ve been there before.
Allen: It still feels weird coming in here and half the guys are gone. The rookies you came in with, a lot of them are gone. It’ll take some adjusting, but I’m glad I’m one of the guys that made it. It’s definitely surreal. I’m just getting used to it.
Eric Smith: It wasn’t a huge switch. It was a huge relief off my shoulders. But at the same time I don’t want to step back. I’ve got to keep it going. Because the same guys I’m working with now, are still going to hold me to a standard. I was sharing that locker right there with Isaac Asiata from May until this past Friday. I came in and I text him. I told him I guess the decision was made. I saw them take my stuff and put it into a separate locker. I was like, ‘We made it. They want to keep us here.’ When it came out that we both made the 53, that was unbelievable.
At what moment did you feel you had a chance to make the team?
McTyer: I always believed I had a shot. The only person that can determine the best I can be is me.
Maurice Smith: Honestly, I think in minicamp, as soon as we got here. … It’s really all about your mindset when you’re coming in.
Haack: You have to be confident and positive about this whole thing, so I came in with the mindset of making the team. Obviously I knew I had competition. If you go through any day going halfway, that’s when you make a mistake. I had to treat every day like I was the starting punter. I wouldn’t say there was one point where I’d say I made it because me and Matt (Darr) competed until the end and he’s a great punter. He’ll be on another team here soon. I have no doubt about that.
Allen: I felt the whole time I was going to get my opportunities. I just had to make the best of it. When two guys in front of me went down, it was next man up, so I didn’t change anything.
Eric Smith: My head coach at Virginia told me, ‘Eric all you need is a shot.’ He told me that from the very last game of our senior year.
What is the coolest reaction you’ve received from relative/friend/coach etc.?
McTyer: A lot of people close to me always believed in me, so it’s not really much of a shock to my family that I made it.
Maurice Smith: I think it was my mom. She just ran up and down the street, just crying and screaming. Our neighbors called the police. I don’t know what got into her. Of course it was one of the best accomplishments of my life but she freaked out. And I heard the police knocking on the door and stuff, so it was crazy. They were like, ‘Congratulations.’ They sat around for about five minutes, just talking.
Haack: My family members or friends back home saying they’re going to buy jerseys and stuff. You know, it’s funny, seeing people in the jersey of the punter on the team. You don’t normally see that too often.
Allen: I’d just say my parents. Talking to them, they know how hard I’ve worked and that this was my goal my whole life. Just talking to them and expressing that feeling.
Eric Smith: I called my mom. All she did was scream. She screamed and screamed. That was by far the best. My girlfriend in Georgia screamed, too. To hear their response was the ultimate. Because they have so much belief in us.
If you hadn’t made the team, other than working out in case you receive a call from a team, what would you be doing?
McTyer: I couldn’t tell you.
Maurice Smith: I probably would have been back home, just making sure I never lost focus, until the final no. I probably would have been a personal trainer.
Haack: I actually had a backup plan. I had started my master’s last semester of college in sports law and business at Arizona State. So I actually had to register a long time ago for classes. The administration there kept in touch with me to see how things were going. They worked with me really well.
Allen: I didn’t really think about it. This was Plan A, and that’s all I was focusing on.
Eric Smith: I would look into an internship in broadcasting. I’ve always been a social dude. I love to talk to people. At Virginia I took up a broadcasting internship.
Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamperon Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.
“Laremy, he’s a young tackle, but he’s played,” said Smith, 21, from Virginia. “He’s seen a lot. Ja’Wuan has been at my position specifically for three or four years. … I just feed off of everybody.”
Smith obviously is soaking it up. The Dolphins used him on 56 snaps against Atlanta, meaning he was in on 95 percent of the offensive plays. Only tackle Jesse Davis (59 snaps) played more.
“He did a really good job in the game,” coach Adam Gase said. “The defensive ends that he is going against, I know that they’re our backup defensive linemen, but they’re pretty good. He’s had to go against William Hayes, and Charles (Harris). He’s had a challenge on his hands all spring and training camp and he did well. That was good to see. Any time you can find a guy that can contribute at that position, it’s valuable for us.”
Gase has seen maturation during camp.
“I think he’s just getting comfortable with what we’re doing, offense, consistently trying to hone your craft,” Gase said. “It’s just hard. You have so much information going on in your head. (He’s a) young player trying to figure it all out and at the same time, you’ve got somebody trying to drive you back into the quarterback. It’s that fine line of using your intelligence and then your physical ability.”
DAVIE — Eric Smith is an undrafted rookie trying to make it as an offensive tackle on the Dolphins. With odds stacked against him, he knows landing a roster spot requires everything he has, both physically and mentally.
But this weekend, focusing strictly on football is more than anyone could ask of Eric Smith.
Change a couple of details and it’s possible Smith could have looked out his window and watched hate and tension turn into violence and death in Charlottesville, Va.
Charlottesville means many things to many people today. To Smith, it’s home.
‘Anybody who’s denying it is ignorant — point blank, period.’ — Dolphins rookie OT Eric Smith, on racism in America
Yes, this national tragedy is personal to this graduate of the University of Virginia.
“It’s crazy,” Smith told The Post following Sunday morning’s practice. “I’m away, I’m done the school, but at the same time, that’s kind of my home. I spent so much of my life there. I became a man there. And to see that happening right there in your home, I’m heartfelt. I feel for everybody.”
During his time with the Cavaliers, Smith, 21, had an apartment on Main Street. It’s easy to find. Look at the map of where the violence erupted, count two blocks south and one block west, and you’re there.
As far as Smith can tell, he doesn’t know anyone directly affected by the violence triggered when white nationalists, KKK members and Nazi sympathizers clashed with anti-rally protesters. He said the football players were sequestered for their own protection — measures that aren’t foreign there.
“When I was in school, they had KKK meetings,” Smith said. “They told all the football players not to go, not to be around, not to protest or anything because of our safety. So we didn’t go around.”
Smith didn’t need to. Go around town on an average day, you could see Confederate flags, he said. But despite the sporadic KKK meetings, “It never got to what it was this weekend,” he said. “I never had any problems in my four years at Virginia where I had to worry about my safety.”
Smith, who focused on anthropology and media studies at Virginia, earned his degree in 3 1/2 years, but the Dolphins’ offseason program conflicted with his graduation. So Smith held his own graduation celebration, including taking pictures at a site he recognized on TV this weekend.
As a student at the University of Virginia, Smith lived on Main Street, which is just a few blocks from where the deadly violence took place.
The rally began as a protest to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“The statue where I took my graduation pictures,” Smith said. “That was in the middle of the campus.”
The pictures taken on the site Saturday weren’t of people smiling. They were of hate. Instead of graduation gowns, they wore white sheets. Instead of diplomas, they held Nazi flags.
“There’s no way you can deny that racism or anything of that matter is present in America because it just happened on a college campus,” Smith said. “It just happened in a college town. You can’t deny it anymore. Anybody who’s denying it is ignorant — point blank, period.”
Smith said he holds no hate towards the rally participants. He figures there’s already too much hate to go around.
“I hope it calms down,” he said. “I hope eyes are open. I hope something positive comes from it. I feel for the life that was taken and all the 19 other people that were injured, or more.”