DAVIE, Fla. — It was back to business for the Miami Dolphins on Thursday as they tried to focus their attention on Monday night’s matchup against the winless Buccaneers in Tampa.
While a throng of media descended on the team’s practice facility to cover the latest developments in the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito saga, coaches and players had clearly grown tired of the matter.
Head coach Joe Philbin prefaced his press conference by stating that he would answer any questions relative to Miami’s next contest, calling it a “very important game that kicks off the second half of our season.”
His refusal to speak more on the Martin-Incognito situation set the tone for players inside the locker room, who one day earlier candidly talked on the subject.
Wide receiver Brian Hartline said that the team has moved on and hoped things would go back to normal. Despite the distractions, Hartline believes the Dolphins would be fine.
Fellow wideout Mike Wallace said he’d grown tired of “talking about the same thing over and over. Obviously it’s going to get on people’s nerves. It’s starting to get old to me. It’s a serious situation, so I really understand it. But at the same time we need to play football. We can’t be talking about the same thing every day.”
Cornerback Brent Grimes agreed.
“We’re really just focused on this Tampa Bay game coming on Monday Night Football,” Grimes said. “We’re focused on playing a good game there. We can push this stuff to the back. That’s what we want people to talk about — Dolphins football, not Dolphins stuff going on in the locker room.”
Yet with Martin’s departure and Incognito’s suspension, Miami is down two starters on the offensive line.
However, it won’t be the first time the Dolphins have played without the pair. Incognito was injured during the first quarter of last Thursday’s win over the Bengals, while Martin had already left the team.
“Everyone’s focused on doing their job and everyone’s job is to block the man across from them and do as good of a job as they can,” tackle Will Yeatman said. “We’re supposed to have trust in the guy next to us, and that’s what everyone has. We have a tight-knit group, and we’re going to take it play-by-play.”
Even before the saga, Miami’s offensive line had its share of troubles. The unit has given up 35 sacks (worst in the NFL) with 53 quarterback hits (seventh).
The Dolphins acquired Bryant McKinnie from the Ravens on Oct. 21. On Tuesday they signed offensive lineman David Arkin off the Cowboys practice squad.
“Leadership, his knowledge of the game,” guard John Jerry said is what McKinnie offers. “He’s a guy — more outspoken than a lot of people think he is. He’s a great addition to the offensive line.”
Nate Garner, a sixth-year guard out of Arkansas, will move into Incognito’s spot.
The 6’7″, 325-pounder has played in a reserve role in five games this season. The 28-year-old started at right tackle the last four games of 2012 after serving as a reserve in the first 12.
Miami (4-4) has lost four of its past five games and is third in the AFC East behind the Patriots (7-2) and Jets (5-4). They are tied with the Chargers and Titans for eighth in the conference, but just one back of the final playoff spot (Jets) with eight games remaining.
“It’s just time for everyone to step up and just regroup and go out there and play a great game this Monday night,” Garner said.