DAVIE, Fla. It might be a bye week for the Miami Dolphins. But Olivier Vernon has some work to do.
Im going to go in the lab and come up with a sack dance, said the rookie defensive end from the University of Miami.
Yes, this is important stuff in the NFL. If youre a guy who gets to the quarterback with any degree of regularity, you better have a dance to go with it.
Vernon entered last Sundays 17-14 win over St. Louis with just half a sack on the season. But he took down quarterback Sam Bradford twice, including a key late sack that resulted in the Rams having to go for a 66-yard field goal that was wide left on the final play.
After Vernons sacks, he showed plenty of joy but there wasnt much choreography. Dolphins end defensive Cameron Wake let him know that after the game.
Cam was telling me if I get a sack, I cant just draw a blank, Vernon said. So I got to figure out something.
Wake knows plenty about pass rushing and dancing. He has 34.5 sacks in four Miami seasons, and is third in the NFL this season with 6.5.
After Wake gets a sack, he holds his arms close to his body and then unleashes them. Let him explain what hes doing.
You got to let the animal out of the cage, he said. Locked up. Chains breaking. Its a beast. Its a hulk.
It might look like a raw display of emotion. But when Wake came to the Dolphins in 2009 he figured out exactly what he was going to do when he got to the quarterback.
You got to plan it, Wake said. If you dont, in the heat of the moment, you end up looking (foolish). So you got to think about it ahead of time and try to make it unique to whatever your skill set is or your personality is. Mine is easy because Im an explosive guy Im a pit pull.
Wake is one of several Miami players who roll out unique sack dances whenever they get to the quarterback. Linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has 31.5 career sacks, has a bodybuilding-like move he calls flexing. Defensive end Jared Odrick, who broke loose with six sacks last season after having played in just one game as a rookie in 2010, has the Pee Wee Herman, easily the teams most controversial dance.
Miami players either love or hate the moves Odrick unveiled when he got to then Denver quarterback Tim Tebow in a game last October. Just as was done in the Pee Wee Herman movies, Odrick dances while holding his arms down and moving them back and forth. After an Odrick sack during home games, the PA announcer plays Tequila, the song from the movies.
Its pretty good, said defensive tackle Paul Soliai. Its funny. Everybody knows him as the Pee Herman sack man.
Linebacker Kevin Burnett, who had six sacks with San Diego in 2010, begs to differ. Burnett said he had a dance with the Chargers in which he rolled seven with dice but that hes put that in mothballs since hes now a coverage linebacker for Miami.
Its ugly as hell, Burnett said of what Odrick does. Its probably the worst sack dance Ive ever seen.
Odricks dance started after then Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan wanted his players last season to scoop up loose balls during practice and try to score. That expanded into defenders doing dances whenever they got a touchdown.
JT (since-retired Jason Taylor) kicked it off by doing the Tootsie Roll and then another guy did something like a Dougie, Odrick said. I was watching Pee Wee that week on television. So I said to Kendall (Langford, a former Dolphins defensive tackle), If I get a touchdown during practice, Im going to do the Pee Wee Herman. He said, No, you wont. So I got a fumble and returned it for a touchdown and did it. He said, You wont do it in a game. I said, Watch me.
With Odrick getting all his sacks last season in the final 11 games, including four takedowns at home, the dance gained some popularity. A number of Odricks No. 98 jerseys began appearing in the stands.
I have some big supporters of the Pee Wee dance, Odrick said. Its something fresh and new. Well see if we can keep it going. Well see if the Pee Wee sticks.
Unfortunately for Odrick, he has just two sacks this season, with 1.5 on the road. But when he got a half sack Sept. 23 against the New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium that was good enough for Odrick to do his dance and for the PA announcer to play Tequila.
Dansby also hasnt had much of a chance this season to try out his moves. Dansby, who had as many as eight sacks with Arizona in 2006, has just one in Miamis first six games. But hes always ready to dance.
You got to predetermine what you want to do and you got to have rhythm, said Dansby, offering a demonstration while flexing his arms. When I was in Arizona, I did the Bird (a dance in which arms serve as wings). But here Im flexing. Youre out in South Florida, the Sunshine State, you got to flex a little bit. If you dont, theyre going to think youre weak.
When it comes to the best sack dance on the Dolphins, Dansby does concede he doesnt have it. But Odrick doesnt get his vote.
That Pee Wee Herman is outrageously bad, Dansby said. Cam has got the best. I aint going to compete with him. Hes pretty energized and electric coming out of the cage and breaking chains and that stuff. I love it, man. It gets me excited when I see him get a sack.
So who does Wake believe has the teams top dance?
I do, he said. Hands down.
Naturally, Odrick takes offense. He figures the Pee Wee Herman will continue to increase in popularity enough that some Dolphins fans with leftover No. 99 jerseys from Taylors career might get out markers and turn that second nine into an eight.
Nevertheless, there soon could be more competition on the Dolphins for best sack dance. Vernon is an up-and-coming pass rusher, and it remains to be seen what he will concoct in the laboratory.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson