DAVIE (CBSMiami/AP) — When new Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey signed Cortland Finnegan after an injury plagued season it was with hopes that he would pick up where he left off as one of the league’s elite cornerbacks.
Less than two weeks into training camp, early indications are that Hickey made the right decision in signing the veteran.
Interceptions kept coming for Finnegan at such a rate Tuesday that when practice ended, he said he didn’t know the total.
It was three.
“I’m not counting,” the Dolphins newcomer said. “For me it’s about the bad plays, and how do I eliminate those. Sometimes offense has our number, and sometime vice versa.”
Twelve days into training camp, Finnegan has yet to practice any trash-talking. In the past, his mouth sometimes overshadowed his nose for the ball, but so far he’s drawing only raves from the Dolphins for both his comportment and cornerback play.
A former All-Pro selection, Finnegan has earned a spot on the first team and appears intent on reviving his career after an injury-plagued 2013 with the St. Louis Rams.
“Last year was a dose of humility,” he said. “You’ve got to be willing to fail in order to grow. That was the first time in my life I experienced failure of that magnitude. It was a growing process, and I learned from it.”
Finnegan said he arrived at camp with a point to prove and a desire to improve, and he praised coach Joe Philbin’s staff for helping him eliminate flaws in his technique. He has been lining up opposite 2013 Pro Bowl selection Brent Grimes, ahead of second-year pros Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.
Mindful of his reputation for drawing flags and fines, Finnegan said he wants to avoid stupid mistakes but needs to play with an edge. That includes talking trash.
“It’s part of my game, and it comes out when it needs to,” Finnegan said. “You don’t want to hurt the team, and coach Philbin stresses that — no dumb penalties. It might be a spark I give the team on a big hit; you never know what it can be. But you’ve got to have a little spunkiness. It can be a positive. At this point in my career, it’s about being smart.”
Philbin said Finnegan has indeed been a positive addition to a Dolphins’ locker room rocked by last year’s bullying scandal.
“I’m not overly familiar with some of his past, but I think the example of what you do is the most important,” Philbin said. “He has spent an awful amount of time since the day he got here with Will Davis and Jamar Taylor, showing them the ropes and giving them little tidbits on the field, in the meeting room, in the locker room. He has fit in very well, and I like what he has done.”
Finnegan made the All-Pro team in 2008 and signed a $50 million, five-year contract with the Rams in 2012. They released him after he started only five games last year because of hamstring and eye injuries.
Now, at 30, the Milton, Florida, native is back in his home state and looking healthy again.
“My tank is on full, baby,” he said.
Teammates agree. Receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson have struggled to get open against Finnegan in practice.
“He’s a really smart guy,” Wallace said. “He has seen every route combination you could possibly bring.”
Said Gibson: “I never really doubted him. That was more other people. You watch practice and you can see he excels. I’m really excited for him.”
Finnegan’s resurgence comes as good news in his hometown of Milton, a town of 9,000 in the Florida Panhandle.
“We’ve got a Roadhouse, a great doughnut shop and good football,” he said. “The whole community shuts down on Friday nights.”
This year, Finnegan’s eager to give both Milton and Miami something to watch on Sunday afternoons.
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