NFL national anthem policy: Kenny Stills, Robert Quinn want free speech

Kenny Stills wants the NFL to have no policy on the national anthem. (AP)

DAVIE — The simplest and most ideal solution Kenny Stills is offering amid the NFL’s national anthem policy debate is to get rid of it altogether.

The league and the NFLPA are discussing revisions to the rules the owners enacted in March, and the mandate for players to stand or stay out of sight is on hold for now. The two Dolphins players who have demonstrated in the past, Stills and defensive end Robert Quinn, are waiting for that resolution until they decide how they’ll handle the anthem this season.

But if they had a say, it’d be an easy choice.

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“I’ll just say one thing: It’s called freedom of speech,” Quinn said when asked what should happen. “Simple as that. It’s freedom of speech.”

Stills agreed, saying, “Obviously I’d like to see there be no policy at all, and the guys have a choice to go out there and do what they want to, and we can support each other and the decisions we want to make.”

This was the first time Quinn and Stills have spoken to the media since the Dolphins drew national attention last week when an Associated Press report indicated they submitted documents listing suspension as a possible penalty to for violating the anthem rules.

The team later said it hasn’t made a decision on the policy yet, and the NFL and the union are continuing to discuss a potential resolution. Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he’s waiting until something comes down from the league, but can’t envision a player being suspended over the national anthem.

The impasse didn’t stop Cowboys owner Jerry Jones from declaring that his players will be required to stand for the anthem and won’t have the option of remaining out of sight.

“I wouldn’t expect anything different,” Stills said of Jones.

Quinn and Stills said there hasn’t been much dialogue with management about the issue and their attention is centered on preparing for the upcoming season. The Dolphins opened training camp today and play their first preseason game Aug. 9 at home against Tampa Bay.

Stills has worked frequently with owner Stephen Ross in social justice efforts and appears to have had a good relationship with him during his four years playing for the Dolphins. He hasn’t spoken much with Ross about the national anthem issue since last season.

Quinn, who came in on a trade with the Rams this offseason, said he’s never discussed it with Ross.

“No one brought it up,” Quinn said. “Until we have a discussion, that’s just where it is right now. If the topic comes up, then it comes up. But right now, I’ll hold my opinion to myself and try to do my best to make this football team better.”

While Stills kneeled the last two seasons, Quinn raised a fist during the anthem last year. The NFL’s no-kneeling policy did not specifically address an action like Quinn’s, though it could be covered under the requirement to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”

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Miami Dolphins rookie LB Mike McCray, a favorite of Stephen Ross, retires before training camp

McCray ended his NFL career before it really got going. (Getty Images)

It’s always surprising to see a young player retire from football, but the recent decision by Dolphins rookie Mike McCray was especially unusual considering he was headed into training camp with a realistic chance of making the roster at linebacker.

McCray, a 23-year-old who shined at Michigan before joining the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent, went through all the rigors of the offseason before opting to step away Tuesday.

“I am so much more than just (an) athlete,” McCray wrote on Twitter to announce his move. “For some time now, I have been playing the game of football for the wrong reasons and during this time I sacrificed my happiness and well-being. I want to encourage those reading this to do what feels good on the inside and not what looks good on the outside.”

He added that he intends to stay involved with football despite no longer being a player. The Dolphins placed him on the Reserve/Retired List and signed undrafted rookie linebacker Frank Ginda to fill his spot.

McCray was a favorite of owner Stephen Ross, a fellow Michigan man, and looked good in his first few months with Miami. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke praised him and fellow undrafted linebacker Cayson Collins late in Organized Team Activities, and the team has been looking for depth at the position.

McCray had 79 tackles, including 16 for negative yardage in his senior season, and was named to the honorable mention list for the all-Big Ten team. He felt teams underestimated him leading up to the draft and said in May he was bent on proving them wrong.

“Everybody that wasn’t drafted probably feels the same way, but right now I’m just coming in and trying to help the team win,” he said. “That’s my biggest goal right now.

“I bring a good football IQ. I work hard and play hard every play, no matter if we’re winning or losing. I just want to help the team win. I’m a good leader as well.”

The Dolphins are going forward with Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan as projected starting linebackers, with another 3-4 spots open for competition. Veterans Stephone Anthony, Mike Hull, Chase Allen and others will battle with draft picks Jerome Baker (third round) and Quentin Poling (seventh).

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Miami Dolphins’ Minkah Fitzpatrick gets ‘extra motivation’ knowing Stephen Ross may need convincing

Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick during offseason workouts at Nova Southeastern University. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — The word following the NFL Draft was that if there was one thing the Dolphins could be assured of, it’s that first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick wouldn’t need anyone lighting a fire under him. His work ethic at Alabama was held in that much esteem.

But the fire was lit anyway.

Shortly after the draft, a report in The Boston Globe indicated that when the Dolphins were on the clock with the No. 11 overall pick, one person in Miami’s draft room needed a lot of convincing that Fitzpatrick, a defensive back, was the right way to go.

That person was owner Stephen Ross.

“Yes, I heard about it,” Fitzpatrick said after practice Tuesday. “He’s a businessman, so he’s going to see the business side of everything. It’s a little extra motivation just to prove that I am the worthy pick, that I deserve to be here.”

Fitzpatrick said he has not spoken with Ross since the draft. That includes Tuesday, when Ross watched the workout from the sidelines at Nova Southeastern University.

Because the Dolphins have Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald at safety, Fitzpatrick’s selection wasn’t based on need, but raw talent. Fitzpatrick said he has worked at strong safety, free safety and nickel back, with his reps split evenly among the three. The Dolphins have not yet experimented with all three on the field, which we’re expected to see in the fall.

Regardless of where the versatile rookie lines up, he’s already making an impression.

“He’s done a good job,” coach Adam Gase said. “He’s got his hands on a lot of balls. He’s had a few interceptions. He seems to be all over the place. He has a great motor, a great work ethic. It’s great seeing him progress since that first day. You can tell he takes this very serious and this is what he does. He puts everything he has into this.”

If Gase sounds like Fitzpatrick’s college coach, Nick Saban, there’s a good reason. Gase said nothing that Fitzpatrick has done has been a surprise. Rather, it’s validation for what Saban told the Dolphins before they drafted him.

“Any time Coach Saban has the amount of praise that he had for him … ,” Gase said. “You don’t hear him say a lot of the things that he said.”

Last week, Fitzpatrick signed his four-year, $16.4 million rookie contract, including $10 million guaranteed. It was cause for celebration for a lot of players. Not Fitzpatrick.

“Not really,” he said. “I just signed the contract and that was it.”

He plans to buy a house — “I’m going to need somewhere to live” — but otherwise, his focus isn’t on his wallet.

“It is a goal but it’s not the end goal,” Fitzpatrick said. “I said it earlier in the media, I didn’t come here just to be a first-round pick. I wanted to be a great player here and establish a great legacy here. So you’ve just got to keep on pushing it.”

Pushing, as in making interceptions and breaking up passes whenever he gets the chance.

“Have I been counting them? Yes. I think every DB counts them,” he said. “I’ve got two picks and a couple of pass breakups. That’s it, really. I’m just doing my job.”

That might not sound bad for most rookies. Fitzpatrick sounds determined to not be like most rookies.

“Once I get more and more comfortable, it’s just going to keep going up and up,” he said.

Maybe then, he won’t have to have that talk with Stephen Ross.

Maybe then, Ross will have all the evidence he needs.

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Kenny Stills is the type of player who could change the NFL, but it wants to change him instead

Is Kenny Stills a problem or a solution for the NFL? (Miami Herald)

DAVIE — Talk to anyone in the Dolphins’ organization, starting with Stephen Ross at the top, and there is a widespread opinion of Kenny Stills that he embodies everything what they want in a player.

He produces on Sundays, which used to be pretty much the only criteria that mattered in the NFL, but he also does everything else right. He’s reliable in practice, deeply loyal to Adam Gase’s vision and virtually unreachable on off days because he devotes so much of his free time to the betterment of South Florida’s youth.

Dolphins coaches point him out to younger players as the model of what they should aspire to be.

That would all seem to make Stills highly coveted, and the Dolphins didn’t hesitate to re-sign him a year ago, but he wonders whether he’d find himself unemployed like Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid if he wasn’t under contract. Players who have committed actual crimes have had an easier time finding work.

Actually, Stills doesn’t wonder. He’s pretty sure what would happen.

“That’s a good question,” he said, pausing to give it real consideration. “Look at what’s happening to the guys that have protested that are free agents. That’s my answer to the question.”

Another question: Who wouldn’t want this guy? And how can it be that the league simultaneously celebrates his community service and bans him from protesting on the platform he’s earned?

The NFL ham-handedly slapped together a policy last week that requires players to kneel or stay out of sight during the national anthem, and anyone who follows the Dolphins has been waiting for Stills’ response. He took questions on it for the first time after today’s practice, and his eloquence was a brilliant reminder of the depth of his cause.

It’s not rage, at least not in Stills’ case. It’s a patient, positive approach and it’s undeterred by the league telling him to let it go. It’s one of the attributes that makes him an appealing leader. Stills isn’t here to go to war. He’s here for peace.

He’s reasonable enough to see the other side, too, and while he doesn’t like that the players’ message has been twisted to be seen as unpatriotic or anti-police or whatever other interpretation is chosen, he grasps the predicament that presents for the owners.

It also hurts, and he’s not hiding that either.

The anthem clash is one of the ways in which it’s painstakingly clear that the NFL is not a partnership between players and management. Stills traces this most recent divergence back to the start of Kaepernick’s protest, when he felt the league chose to be combative rather than supportive. And even then, his words convey lament rather than anger.

“I just feel like from the beginning,” he said, “if the narrative would’ve been set one way and the league would’ve had our backs and really put the message out there the right way and tried to educate people on the work that we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we might be in a different place than we are right now.”

Stills was restrained but effective in discussing the policy, opting to let his actions speak for him and saying, “I feel like you guys know how I would feel about the anthem policy … I really don’t want to get involved in some back-and-forth and more divisiveness than we already have going.”

This is the ideal player to stand at the forefront of the movement for using football to advance racial equality, and he embraces that responsibility. The NFL would be better off with more guys like this, but it seems headed toward making him adversary. His contract expires after the 2020 season, and all bets are off when that happens.

“All I can do is continue to do the work that I’ve been doing,” Stills said when asked about the contradiction of being a Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee as well the face of a protest the league seeks to squash. “The people here that work for the Miami Dolphins organization see and recognize the work that I’ve been doing and know really who I am as a person, and that’s all I can really stand and focus on.”

Stills might keep kneeling. If he doesn’t, it certainly won’t be because he’s been intimidated by Roger Goodell or Donald Trump.

He said he’ll take his time contemplating whether to continue protesting between now and the fall. Under the new policy, the team would be fined for any action like that. It also has the ability to level its own penalties on the player, which would set up an incredibly awkward situation considering how valuable he is.

He’s not preoccupied by that hypothetical, and he’s not the type to let himself be bogged down by just about anything. He believes the league is trying to silence him, but he’s still as upbeat as ever.

“Do I feel silenced?” he said. “No, I’m right here talking to you guys right now. Whenever I have a message to get out, I seem to find a way to get my message out.”

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WSJ: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ anthem policy influenced by Donald Trump

Ross testified that Trump influenced his position on player protests. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has moved around on his position regarding players protesting during the national anthem, and a Wall Street Journal article revealed that Donald Trump had a substantial influence on his decision to require players to stand or remain in the locker room last season.

Ross, in a sworn deposition for Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the NFL, said Trump’s comments to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones were relayed to the rest of the ownership and changed the way he viewed players kneeling.

“I was totally supportive of (protesting players) until Trump made his statement,” Ross said in his deposition, according to the WSJ. “I thought he changed the dialogue.”

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Ross also said he believed the protests were hurting the Dolphins financially.

His testimony was not a huge surprise considering Ross has occasionally mentioned Trump over the past two years and made a similar statement when the Dolphins enacted a stand-or-stay-in-the-locker-room rule last October. That came two weeks after Trump said players who kneel should be kicked out of the league and referred anyone who protests during the anthem as “a son of an (expletive).”

“It’s a different dialogue today,” Ross said before the Titans game Oct. 8. “Whenever you’re dealing with the flag, you’re dealing with something different. (Trump) has changed that whole paradigm of what protest is. I think it’s incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, is to stand and salute the flag.”

He added, “I really applaud those guys, but I think it’s different today from the standpoint of Trump has made it all about patriotism with the flag. I think it’s so important today, because that’s what the country’s looking at, that we look at it differently and there will be different ways of protesting or getting your cause out there by the athletes.”

That rule lasted less than a month before Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas convinced coach Adam Gase to rescind it, and the players continued kneeling the rest of the season. In his deposition, Ross indicated the decision to bar players from kneeling was his decision, not Gase’s as was conveyed at the time.

The NFL handed down a policy last week that essentially mirrored what the Dolphins attempted. Players are required to stand and “show respect” for the American flag during the anthem, remain out of sight. The league will fine organizations that have violations of the rule and allows teams to establish their own conduct guidelines as long as they’re consistent with the league’s.

When players began kneeling at the start of the 2016 season, Ross was arguably their most vocal supporter among the owners. He waited in the locker room in Seattle after the season opener to address the media and express that he stood by them.

“I don’t think it was any lack of respect,” he said. “I think everybody here on our team and this whole organization respects the flag and what it stands for and the soldiers and everything. These guys are making a conversation of something that’s a very important topic in this country, and I’m 100 percent supportive of them.

“It’s a country where you’re allowed to indicate what your preferences are and how your feelings are. That’s what makes it so great. I think it’s great and I applaud them for what they’re doing.”

Ross has supported the players’ cause in other ways through programs and scholarships locally, as well as through the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. His team also gave Stills the community service award each of the last two seasons.

On the anthem, though, he’s struggled to navigate the issue. He recently said he would insist that players stand, then followed that by saying his comments were misrepresented. He has not commented publicly about the new policy, which commissioner Roger Goodell claimed was unanimously supported by NFL owners.

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New national anthem policy a low point for free speech in the NFL

Dolphins players Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas wait in the tunnel during the anthem before an October 2017 game. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

How gracious of the NFL to allow its players the privilege of hanging on to their precious freedom of speech.

As long as they exercise it where no one can hear them.

Just when it seemed like Roger Goodell and the owners couldn’t botch the national anthem issue any worse, here comes this week’s so-called solution. Never underestimate this league’s capacity for debacles.

The new rule is essentially this: You will stand for the anthem and “show respect” or stay out of sight in the tunnel. That’s identical to what the Dolphins implemented last season with minimal explanation before rescinding it within weeks at the request of their players.

National anthem at Hard Rock Stadium. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

It’s bad that the new policy is full of holes, putting coaches in a spot where they’ll have to uphold something ambiguous and setting up what they’ll see as needless conflicts between them and their players.

It’s bad that the players had zero input, undercutting all the propaganda the NFL puts forth about this league being a partnership and how football is family.

It’s bad that this is framed as an issue of patriotism, when few actions are as patriotic as risking future employment prospects because you want this country to be better. The protesting players aren’t making an anti-American, anti-military statement, and Donald Trump doesn’t get the final word on how their demonstrations should be interpreted.

It’s even a little bad that the league wasn’t sophisticated enough to do its dirty work without tripping over itself. The new protocol passed in a slipshod process that sounded like a straw poll. It took mere minutes before some owners voiced dissent and less than a day before ESPN uncovered that there was never an official vote despite Goodell declaring there was unanimous support.

But the real problem isn’t the flaws in the policy. It’s the compulsion to form a policy at all.

While the league might technically have the legal right to limit how players express themselves in the workplace, why does it want to? Does a 10 percent drop in ratings — at least some of which is self-inflicted by how much the NFL has diluted its product — for what is still by far the nation’s most popular television program justify quieting the men who make it worth watching? Just because it can doesn’t mean it should.

Dolphins players kneel during their game at the Jets last season. (AP)

The protests have been twisted by talking heads and politicians, and the actual message has been grossly misrepresented. It’s not anti-police, anti-military, anti-Republican or anti-white. How many times do the players have to say that? It wasn’t even anti-Trump until he went on the offensive.

It constantly needs to be restated that their purpose is to call for racial equality, which still eludes our country. Shining a light on it is a positive for all of us.

It’s not a conversation that needs to be shut down. Even the players who disagree with the demonstrations ought to bristle at the league clamping down on their colleagues’ freedom.

The protests initially prompted the NFL to launch a campaign and a series of meetings aimed at coming alongside the protesting players, but the new anthem policy brings motives into question. Was it all just to get them to stop kneeling?

Two days before it handed down the anthem policy, the league worked with the Players Coalition to finalize a $90 million commitment to social justice programs. That money will help people regardless of the true intent behind it, but it’ll won’t feel so heartfelt if it eventually surfaces that it was meant to balance out what came next.

Zeroing in on South Florida, look at the potential mess this creates for the Miami Dolphins, who had a hard enough time navigating the situation the past two years.

The Dolphins and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality have many meaningful efforts running locally and nationally, and a lot of them are geared toward social justice.

Stephen Ross has a track record of working toward racial equality. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

They do extensive work with Miami-Dade County schools in the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, which uses mentors and educators to help minority students graduate and become men who will contribute to society. Ross personally funds the budget for R.I.S.E. The organization awarded grants to 11 community-driven groups this year, including several that focus on empowering young black people. They also facilitate various events that with youth programs and local police departments.

Ross’ passion is evident, but he doesn’t have the answer for this issue. He was the league’s most vocal owner backing players who protested in 2016. Last year he said he wants players to stand. He’s publicly agreed with some of Trump’s comments on it and denounced others. No doubt he’s not on board with the president’s most recent pronouncement that “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” if you don’t stand for the anthem.

Ross was in the room when the NFL laid out its policy, and there’s been no indication of what he voiced in there. He hasn’t issued a statement.

The most prominent protestor on his team is receiver Kenny Stills, an exemplary employee in every way. Stills is what every company wants. He’s arguably the best skill player on the roster, an ideal leader in the locker room and winner of the team’s community service award the last two seasons.

The Dolphins aren’t really going to do battle with Kenny Stills, are they? The guy who does everything right?

Gase wants to devote all of his attention to what’s on the field, not the anthem issue. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

If he kneels, as he has the last two seasons, he’ll be in violation of league and team rules (the NFL left room for organizations to formulate their own policy as long as it’s compatible with the league’s). It’s unfathomable that Adam Gase would consider penalizing Stills over this with even so much as a light fine.

That might be the most complicated individual scenario in the league. It’ll be much simpler for teams when it’s the 53rd guy on the roster.

Gase, by the way, obviously wants no part of any of this. Every waking hour is devoted to scheming outside zone runs and bubble screens. Someone has to tell him when a holiday’s coming up or when hurricane preparations need to be made. For better or worse, he spends little time concerning himself with anything beyond the football field. He truly just wants to coach.

This feels like a dark hour for free speech, but there’s an upside to the fiasco. Trying to stifle a movement invariably makes it louder, and some players who have been wavering about whether to get involved will be compelled to join it.

It looks like players are still allowed to raise a fist or find some other way to express themselves as long as don’t drop to a knee, and the media will report vigilantly on players who stay in the locker room and continue enhance their platform.

Maybe fans will take up the cause and kneel. Goodell can’t fine them.

Best of all, this policy might very well crumble before the NFL ever gets a chance to enforce it. There are months to go before the first preseason game and longer until opening weekend, and this edict hardly looks sturdy enough to last that long.

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NFL bans kneeling on field during anthem; Miami Dolphins can adopt additional rules

New Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson said he’ll wait until he hears from coach Adam Gase before saying how he’ll react to the NFL’s new anthem policy. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — The NFL has spoken with a policy designed to end the bitter controversy over national anthem protests.

Now it’s up to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and coach Adam Gase to enforce the new rules and add a wrinkle or two of their own.

NFL owners, meeting in Atlanta, voted Wednesday to require all team and league personnel who are on the field during the anthem to “stand and show respect” for the flag and the song. Those who choose not to stand for the anthem can stay in the locker room or away from the field, although each club can adopt its own additional rules, provided they don’t conflict with the overall policy.

Violators can be fined by the league.

The Dolphins have had multiple players kneeling during the anthem over the past two seasons to protest social injustice. Of those players, only receiver Kenny Stills remains on the roster. But the Dolphins have added receiver Albert Wilson, who kneeled in the past as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Stills was not made available to the media Wednesday.

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“I’m pretty sure coach is going to have his say-so on it,” Wilson said shortly after leaving the practice field.

Wilson was reluctant to say much more because he hadn’t had a chance to read the entire statement from the league, and he wanted to hear from Gase.

“Once coach gets with us on it it, I’ll pretty much have something else to say after that,” Wilson said.

Dolphins players kneel during the national anthem before their game against the Carolina Panthers last season. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Appearing at a news conference as the meetings wound down, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We want people to be respectful to the national anthem. We want people to stand, that’s all personnel, and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. We have been very sensitive in making sure we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is important and one we are going to focus on.”

Ross and the Dolphins did not issue an immediate statement Wednesday.

The NFL Players Association did have something to say, pointing out that it was not consulted by the league as it formed the policy.

“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA said in a statement.

New York Jets co-owner Christopher Johnson said he’ll pay any fines his players may receive because of the anthem policy.

The Dolphins have largely given players freedom to express themselves, except for a brief period in which players were told if they wanted to protest, they had to do it in the locker room or tunnel — much like the new policy states. That stance didn’t last long because players said shuttling back and forth from the field to the locker room during pregame created logistical issues within a short period of time.

At the height of the controversy, President Donald Trump advocated firing any player who didn’t stand during the anthem, which angered some kneeling players, including Michael Thomas, now of the New York Giants.

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” the NFL wrote. “This is not and was never the case.”

The league said it would continue to work with players “to strengthen our communities and advance social justice,” citing a “unique platform” the NFL enjoys in this country.

Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, launched the controversy by becoming the first to kneel during the anthem. He was joined by safety Eric Reid, and both remain unsigned today. Reid recently filed a collusion grievance against the league.

Former Dolphins players who protested have also included tight end Julius Thomas, running back Arian Foster and linebacker Jelani Jenkins.

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Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross welcomes Michigan LB Mike McCray

Stephen Ross personally reached out to Mike McCray when the Dolphins signed him. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — The Dolphins have an expansive and thorough team of scouts, and owner Stephen Ross might have been part of that operation this year.

He didn’t use a clipboard and a stopwatch, but Ross thought highly of Michigan linebacker Mike McCray and that couldn’t have hurt when McCray was looking for a team after going undrafted. It’s always nice for a job applicant when the owner of the company went to the same school, and Ross is one of Michigan’s most notable alums.

“It’s that Michigan connection,” McCray said this afternoon. “We’ve all got that certain connection.”

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McCray is one of 21 players in town this weekend for rookie minicamp, but it’s likely few — if any — of his peers got a phone call from Ross after they landed with the Dolphins. McCray said he told him congratulations and advised him to be ready for a challenge.

“He told me when I come here, just come to work,” McCray said. “That’s what I’m gonna do.”

Ross graduated from Michigan in 1962 before going into law and becoming a real estate developer. He is the biggest donor in the history of the university, with a $50 million gift last year pushing his total contribution to $378 million, according to the Detroit Free-Press.

Ross remains highly attached to the football program, and McCray said they’d met multiple times while he was in college.

“We didn’t really talk a lot because he’d come to visit and be in and out, but just kinda being able to talk to him and learning what he knows,” he said. “He’s a really smart guy and he’s one of the richest people in the world. Just coming in and building that connection, maybe in the long term it’ll help me out.”

That’s not the only reason Miami snatched up McCray. Not even close. He’s a 6-foot-4, 242-pounder who made the all-Big Ten team honorable mention list after piling up 79 tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble last season. He also had 73 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and six pass breakups as a junior.

That was a strong comeback by McCray, who missed all of the 2015 season after having shoulder surgery and battling other injuries. The Dolphins saw potential there, and he’ll get a real chance to make the roster.

The top two linebackers are Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso, and third-round pick Jerome Baker figures to be one of the top candidates for the third starting job. Beyond that, McCray is one of 10 players vying for what will probably be three or four additional spots.

“I really don’t know anything like that,” he said. “But I’m gonna come in and try to earn my keep.”

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Miami Dolphins execs who convinced Stephen Ross that Minkah Fitzpatrick was right pick now on hot seat

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick reacts to being the first-round pick of the Dolphins. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Two sentences about the Dolphins, buried deep in an NFL notes column in The Boston Globe, have caused all kinds of ripples around the league and South Florida, but nowhere should those ripples be actual waves more than in Davie.

“A well-placed league source tells us that the Dolphins had the pick of Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick all ready to go at No. 11 when owner Stephen Ross stepped in and implored his team to trade back, both to acquire more picks and to save money on the first-rounder,” The Globe reported over the weekend. “Ross’ football people talked him out of it, and the Dolphins went ahead with the Fitzpatrick pick.”

The report came courtesy of Ben Volin. It carries weight because Volin is a respected pro football writer and formerly covered the Dolphins for The Post, so to him, this isn’t a faceless organization among the 31 rivals of the New England Patriots. Ben knows people here.

Did Ross merely question the selection of Fitzpatrick or argue against it — “implore” his people not to do it? There’s huge difference. The only way to know for certain would be to be in the room, to know the context of the discussions, the volume of the discussions and the amount of push-back by the participants.

The rest of us, however, need to file away this knowledge in a handy section of our noggins, ready to pull that file out on a moment’s notice for further review. Because there are three members of the organization directly affected. And no, coach Adam Gase isn’t one of them. Not now.

Minkah Fitzpatrick: Put yourself in his shoes. You’re a 21-year-old rookie, haven’t even had your first NFL practice, and a report comes out indicating that the owner of your new team didn’t want you.

Talk about your “Unwelcome to the NFL” moment.

The good news is, once Fitzpatrick gets over that initial “What?” reflex, there’s every indication this brouhaha will have little or no effect on him. This is a guy who saw a hurricane turn his family’s home into a swamp and he reacted by rolling up his sleeves. A guy who treats the end of practice as a signal his workday is half done, if that. A guy who played under Nick Saban and not only lived to tell about it, but actually made Saban smile with his work ethic.

You think someone questioning his ability — even if it is the club owner — is going to derail his career?

General Manager Chris Grier and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum: The Dolphins maintain that Grier runs the draft, but Tannenbaum is Grier’s boss, so who’s ultimately making the call is in the eye of the beholder.

Tannenbaum is in his 24th year in the NFL and fourth as the head of the team’s football ops. Grier has been in the league 22 years, including 19 with the Dolphins, and is entering his third year as GM.

While we don’t know how steadfast Ross may have been against Fitzpatrick, it’s clear that Grier or Tannenbaum or more likely both signed off on the choice.

And that’s the crux of this.

Ross remains convinced he scored a coup when he hired Gase. In Ross’ eyes, Gase paid dividends with a playoff berth in 2016, was dealt a lousy hand in 2017 and probably in 2018. (At least that’s according to oddsmakers, who are fooled by teams every year but get it right far more often than they get it wrong.)

Word around the league is Fitzpatrick is one of the safest first-rounders and was the right move for the Dolphins in that situation. If Ross was hoping for a sexier pick, a spark plug for the offense who could help fill seats — and, let’s be honest, a quarterback for the future — it’s understandable.

The part about saving money? Much tougher to buy. Yes, the Dolphins parted with several big names this offseason, but I look at that more as cap management than reluctance on Ross’ part to sign a check. He has maintained, for good reason, that he would never let pure dollars stand in the way of improving the roster. That’s consistent with the choice of Fitzpatrick.

Example: According to the handy-dandy chart NFL people use to put a value on picks, the No. 11 overall slot used for Fitzpatrick is worth 1,250 points. If the Dolphins had traded down to save a buck, a potential partner might have been Green Bay, which could have sent Miami the Nos. 18 and 45 choices (worth 1,350 points). Whether it would have saved money is debatable.

Fitzpatrick is slotted to receive a $16.6 million package, including an $11 million signing bonus. The two picks from the Packers would have cost $18.4 million over the full four years and $9.6 million up front.

Years from now, this will be wildly amusing if Fitzpatrick turns out to be the next Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed. It’ll be a tale the guys tweeting on Freezing Cold Takes will be glad they stashed in their own filing system.

But if not — if a Dolphins owner already casting a skeptical eye isn’t among the happily converted — you won’t want to be one of the guys who twisted his arm in that draft room.

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Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross deposed in Colin Kaepernick grievance, per report

Stephen Ross has been interviewed due to Colin Kaepernick’s grievance. (Melanie Bell/The Post)

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was deposed Tuesday in Colin Kaepernick’s grievance against the NFL, according to a report by Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports.

Ross is the third owner deposed, following Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Bob McNair of the Texans. According to Yahoo, Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have all been deposed.

According to the report, Kaepernick’s attorneys may be interested in comments Ross made in New York that appeared to tie his stance on player kneeling to President Donald Trump. Ross later clarified some of those comments, explaining that in his opinion, kneeling is an ineffective social justice tactic, a topic he said he cares passionately about.

The Dolphins considered Kaepernick when Ryan Tannehill was injured prior to last season, according to a source, but opted for Jay Cutler because of his familiarity with Adam Gase’s offense.

Kaepernick is out to prove some sort of collusion among NFL owners to keep him from returning to the league. Ross said at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando that he believes in players’ rights to speak their thoughts.

“That’s what America is all about,” he said.

Ross has also personally funded the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to the tune of $7 million. RISE uses sports to bring people together to promote understanding, respect and equality and to promote race relations.

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