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New Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald talks his role with Miami

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald, who signed as a free agent with the club on Friday, held a conference call shortly after the announcement of his joining the franchise. McDonald, who spent his first four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams organization, comes to Miami this year after starting all 16 games last year, with 62 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and six passes defensed.

He also comes with an eight-game suspension to be served when the regular season begins. McDonald was arrested last May for driving under the influence of a prescription drug when he crashed into a parked car. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving involving drugs or alcohol in January and was sentenced to three years of probation and court-ordered alcohol classes and community service.

During his conference call, McDonald discussed the suspension, telling reporters, “I’ve known about the suspension. It was just announced publicly (recently). I’ve known about it. I wasn’t trying to get over on the Dolphins and I think they know that as well. It was just something that I’m definitely paying the price for the mistakes that I’ve made, that I’m definitely going to own up to. It was something that I’ve learned from. I’ve been a free agent. This whole entire time I’ve been on the street and just being a free agent, that’s something that’s been tough in my free agent year as far as that to happen. Teams knew about this. It wasn’t nothing new. It was just new to the media.”

He also said that he tried to stress to the Dolphins that he will make sure nothing like the May incident happens again. “Yes, obviously words are only so much,” he stated. “This is something that will never happen again and I’ve learned (from it) and owned up to (it). I definitely want to grow from (it). (My) priorities changed, everything’s changed. This whole experience is something I’m definitely going to grow from. Whatever I can do to help this team is what I’m ready to do.”

Turning to how he can help the team, and whether he sees himself as a free safety or a strong safety, McDonald said, “I can play both. Personally, I’m definitely a physical player. I’m going to attack the ball. I’m going to be physical at all times, no matter where it is on the field. I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to go out there, be on the field and make an impact and do everything I can to help the team.”

As for the first half of the season, which he will miss due to the suspension, McDonald said, “The only positive for me is I get to go into OTAs, still do all of camp, still do all of preseason. The one thing I can do is earn the respect for my work – through camp and OTAs – of my teammates and the coaches and provide a spark when I can. Week 9, I’ll be chomping at the bit.

“I just got to be hungry, stay clean and be open and honest about everything and make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future,” he continued. “My back is up against the wall. I’m just happy to be able to move forward with this and be able to just get back to playing ball. It’s all about ball for me right now.”

McDonald was asked at the end of the conference call how well he knows safety Reshad Jones and how he plays. McDonald responded, “I definitely know that he’s a great player. I don’t know him personally, but I have a great respect for his game. He’s somebody that I’ve watched over the last couple years. I have a hell of a respect for him, because a lot of guys you see out here, they’re top draft picks and they have a big name coming out of college. At the end of the day, he’s there to strictly just play. He’s somebody that you can’t just turn his film on and not see stand out and be able to flash by the ball. I definitely have a lot of respect for him as a player.”

He also talked about why he chose to come to Miami, where he is reported to have signed a one-year, veteran minimum contract. “I felt it was a great opportunity for me,” he explained. “Coach Gase and everybody here, they’ve just provided me with a great opportunity and the overall culture of the team right now, being on the rise, and a defense that they’re definitely making strides in being one of the top defenses and the offense is a really great offense. The whole attitude of this team plays ball the right way and it’s something that I want to be a part of.”