Friday, August 14, 2009

Miami Dolphins rookie Brian Hartline confident despite logjam at WR


August 13, 2009

Talk about taking the fast track to adulthood.

Dolphins rookie wide receiver Brian Hartline has crammed enough life events into four months to make the heads of most 20-something bachelors spin with a combination of fear and envy.

He decided to forgo his final year of athletic eligibility at Ohio State. He wrapped up his degree in communications. He got married. And he moved his new wife to South Florida shortly after being drafted by the Dolphins. Impressive, right?

Hartline still has plans for something more.

``I'm not a guy who puts ceiling on things,'' the fourth-round draft pick said. ``I don't want to put a limit on what could happen.''

By the time his crazy year is over, Hartline is shooting to be one of the team's starting wide receivers. More than a week into camp, he has at least shown flashes that suggest he could be in the mix.

The rookie stood out during the team's first scrimmage at the end of last week, and he has also made several nice plays during the team's regular practices.

``Obviously, the first goal coming in was to make the 53-man roster, learn from these vets and then you never know what could happen,'' Hartline said. ``But just being the competitor I am, after a couple of weeks of thinking that's the goal, I'm jumping the goal up to, `hey man, why not? I want to start. I want to be a top-three guy. Why not?' ''

For him to fulfill that goal, it's going to be a serious challenge -- something the rookie certainly realizes.

He is stuck at one of the deepest positions on Miami's roster, and it would be reasonably easy to justify any of eight receivers making a roster that can't afford to keep more than six (and possibly as few as five) pass catchers.


Although his current level of play -- and his rookie status -- almost guarantees he will stick, the concept of starting would require him to beat out, at the very least, Greg Camarillo, Ted Ginn Jr. or Davone Bess. That doesn't even include Patrick Turner.

Still, his teammates have been impressed to this point.

``He's a good dude, and he's got the right attitude,'' Camarillo said.

When Camarillo saw that Miami took two wide receivers during the NFL Draft -- adding to the six already on the roster -- he knew Hartline must have been talented. He also knew exactly what his team was trying to do.

``We knew we didn't have that much depth at that position last year, and they wanted to increase the level of competition in the receivers' work room,'' Camarillo said. ``We knew what they were doing. They were increasing the competition, and it's working.''

Despite a solid impression during the first week of practice, Hartline still has some strides to make before completely selling coach Tony Sparano on his potential as an immediate impact player.

During Wednesday's practice, for instance, Hartline had a ball stripped by a defender, which might not have been a major deal had it not been a fumble drill when the mistake occurred.

``Again, it's a part of being consistent, and it really is part of being mature,'' Sparano said. ``It's coming out here when it's hot, and, you know, maybe when you don't feel great all the time, and to be able to do it over and over again, so I was on him about that.''

But Sparano also realizes that Hartline is a mature person -- and a smart one. Those are two of the qualities that impressed the coach when he was scouted at Ohio State. But being NFL mature is different than being college mature.


Hartline knows that. He also realizes his rise to becoming a solid receiver won't be easy -- and becoming a starter for the Dolphins will be an even bigger task.

``I want to keep making strides,'' he said. ``I don't want to stop."

``You're going to hit some down points, but I'm just trying to maintain a steady pace, keeping my goals high and never really putting a ceiling on anything I do.''

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