NFL

Dolphins at full health for start of camp

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DAVIE, Fla. (AP)

At least one Miami Dolphin took the field for the start of training camp Friday in the best shape of his career: coach Tony Sparano.

Thanks to a rigorous diet and workout regimen, Sparano is 55 pounds lighter than last season.

''I didn't lose a little weight; I lost a whole person,'' he said with a chuckle. ''I feel great. I've got a lot of energy. I'm sure the boys weren't happy to hear I have that much energy, but I do.''

Sparano's players were feeling spry, too, as the long preseason grind began. Several key players returning from surgery were cleared for full-speed participation, including newcomer Brandon Marshall, running backs Ronnie Brown and Patrick Cobbs, quarterback Chad Pennington and cornerback Will Allen.

Sparano said the Dolphins are at full health. He was pleased with the results of conditioning tests and said everyone made their targeted weight - including him.

''Coach looks great,'' quarterback Chad Henne said. ''It shows he put some hard work in, just like we did.''

Before the first practice, players unveiled T-shirts bearing the words, ''I'm starving ... feed the wolf.''

''We're starving for success,'' linebacker Karlos Dansby said. ''We're hungry. We're all fighting for one goal, and that's to win it all.''

Mindful of their goal, the Dolphins began five weeks of preseason practice with a 2-hour workout that was spirited despite sweltering 93-degree sunshine. Highlights included two long completions from Henne to Marshall, who beat cornerback Sean Smith both times.

''We're going to be battling for the rest of our careers, hopefully,'' Smith said. ''It's definitely going to be a day-to-day challenge.''

The Dolphins acquired Marshall from Denver in an April trade. The Pro Bowl receiver underwent hip surgery in May, which curtailed his offseason work.

When asked if he thought about the hip on the field, he responded, ''What's that?'' Then he grinned. ''I already forgot it, see?''

Marshall's two long catches prompted the biggest cheers of the afternoon from spectators. He was among the last players to leave the field after practice, lingering to sign autographs for fans.

''It feels good the way they're welcoming me,'' he said. ''It just makes me work harder. I love the support of the fans and the community, and I'm going to try to do my best to do right by them.''

Back on the field were Brown, Pennington, Cobbs and Allen, all of whom are returning from surgery necessitated by season-ending injuries last year.

Brown missed the final seven games because of a foot injury. Pennington lost his starting job when he was hurt in the third game, and he'll compete for the No. 2 job behind Henne.

With the focus on those returning, reserve quarterback Pat White's absence was the most glaring. The Dolphins didn't give a reason, but before practice Sparano said a couple of players might be held out. With the return of Pennington and reserve quarterback Tyler Thigpen, White faces a tough battle for a roster spot.

The Dolphins worked on everything from the wildcat to drawing the defense offsides, calling timeout three consecutive times when defenders - mindful of the offense's strategy - failed to jump.

Lining up with the first team were Miami's first two draft choices, defensive end Jared Odrick and outside linebacker Koa Misi. That didn't spare them from rookie hazing, although the 304-pound Odrick said he had not yet been forced to carry a veteran's shoulder pads.

''Let's not talk about that, because they start getting ideas,'' Odrick said. ''They'll be like, `Oh yeah, rook, you didn't carry my pads yet.' I had to throw Channing Crowder's trash away today. Let's not bring that stuff up. I'm willing to do it, but let's not remind them.''

With veteran Phillip Merling sidelined by a recent Achilles' tendon injury, Odrick's the front-runner for a starting job. Merling remained on the roster rather than being placed on the physically unable to perform list, suggesting the Dolphins believe there's a chance he might return this season.

Along with 14 rookies, newcomers included Dansby, guard Richie Incognito and three recently acquired defensive linemen - Charles Grant, Marques Douglas and Montavious Stanley.

Dansby spent his first six NFL seasons in Arizona, and even he was impressed by South Florida's summer weather.

''The heat is unbelievable, man,'' Dansby said. ''I thought I was prepared for it, man, but that heat is a monster. I've just got to try to get used to it as quick as I can.''

Sparano, the weight-loss expert, has scheduled two practices for Saturday.

Tagged: Dolphins, Steelers, Will Allen, Chad Pennington, Karlos Dansby, Ronnie Brown, Brandon Marshall, Chad Henne, Pat White, Jared Odrick

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