Football is an emotional game. When your team is 0-5 and desperately trying to hang onto any semblance of hope, that emotion can be amplified. That was the case with rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who found himself ejected from the game almost the moment it started.
christian wilkins tossed after one play. perfect. pic.twitter.com/HP8EpGQYEM
— josh houtz (@houtz) October 20, 2019
Some would argue that the punch Wilkins threw wasn’t enough to warrant an ejection, but the referees felt differently. Wilkins sat out the rest of the game, watching as the Dolphins came close to pulling off their first victory of the season. Unfortunately for the players, they fell apart in the second half – a recurring pattern – and ultimately lost by a score of 21 to 31.
“I was just really extremely selfish.” Wilkins said after the game. “This is the ultimate team sport. It’s not just about me and I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed in myself about something, especially something that was in my control. It really, really shouldn’t have happened, there’s no place for it in this game and that is not the standard I hold myself to. Because I love this game I try to respect this game as much as possible and play it as competitively as possible. This game is meant to be competitive, not combative at all. I really let myself down and my teammates down in just a selfish moment so early in the game.”
Anyone who knows Christian Wilkins describes him as a humble, fun-loving guy who is passionate about football. Throwing a punch seems so out of character for him. Even Wilkins himself couldn’t believe he’d done it.
“It just happened so quickly, it was only the second play of the game.” Wilkins said. “I just tried to come into the game with some energy on edge and just fired up. It’s an emotional game. So again like I said it all happened so fast but there’s no place for it in this game and just no place for it for me because I don’t want that reputation on myself. That’s not something I’m proud of, that’s not something I intended on doing coming into this game or anything like that.”
Wilkins, 23, has not been the playmaker everyone expects him to be in his rookie year. Through six games, Wilkins has only 18 tackles and a pass deflection. Those aren’t the numbers of a first round draft pick. However, his role at Clemson was to open the way for other players to make players. That, also, isn’t happening. It’s hard to stay positive when losing seems to be the agenda. The level of talent is so low on the roster, there isn’t much anyone can do.
However, this one isolated incident should not be a cause for concern. Christian Wilkins isn’t the type of guy to regularly pick fights. It’s unlikely he’ll become the next Ndamukong Suh, with a reputation for dirty plays. Wilkins is clearly contrite over his mistake, and intends to not make it again.
“You know, it’s just a learning experience, too, you live and you learn.” He said. “That’s just a message to myself. A learning experience for my teammates and also a learning experience for people watching at home, kids watching at home. There’s no place for it, you have to play the game the right way.”
It’s clear that the tank is taking its toll on the players. Their desire to win does not coincide with the front office’s roster moves. No doubt, they will keep trying to compete and avoid the dreaded 0-16 season. If they can hang on until 2020, their suffering, hopefully, will be rewarded.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung