DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Loosening up for their first training camp practice, the Miami Dolphins high-stepped sideways up and down the field while House of Pain’s song ”Jump Around” blared on the loudspeakers.
Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes took in the scene and allowed himself a long yawn.
With the first game more than six weeks away, the Dolphins tempered their excitement Friday regarding the 2014 season. Even so, every team is undefeated and optimistic in July, and the Dolphins were no different as they opened camp.
”We want to play deep into January and February,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. ”Our goal is to win the division and play in the playoffs. Anything less than that is not up to our standards.”
Actually, that’s way above the Dolphins’ recent standards. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, which is also their most recent winning season. They needed to win only one of their final two games last season but lost both by a combined score of 39-7 to finish 8-8.
Tannehill and coach Joe Philbin are back for their third season with the team, but a woeful offensive line has been overhauled, there’s more depth at receiver and running back, and the defense has the potential to be excellent.
”We want to win. That’s what we’re all here for,” new general manager Dennis Hickey said. ”We’re really excited about this team and what they’re going to be able to accomplish.”
Some prognosticators rank the Dolphins among the NFL’s worst teams, but owner Stephen Ross anticipates postseason play.
”I don’t think I start any season without wanting to make the playoffs,” Ross said. ”If you don’t have those expectations, you shouldn’t be in the game. You own a team because you want to create a winner.”
On a 90-degree day, Philbin was already on the hot seat, and Ross was asked if the coach must make the playoffs to keep his job.
”I’m not going to say here he has to, because I can understand what the headlines would be,” Ross said. ”I like Joe Philbin very much. I’m expecting Joe Philbin to be here a long time. But every year you want to see improvement.”
The Dolphins desperately need a better locker-room culture after a troubled relationship between offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin led to a bullying scandal that sent the franchise reeling. Incognito and Martin are gone, and the Dolphins brought in outside consultants for training sessions with players to foster better leadership.
Center Mike Pouncey, implicated in the scandal, said the culture will be much healthier this season.
”Coach Philbin and Mr. Ross have done a bunch of things to change that,” Pouncey said. ”Right now we’re heading in the right direction. Everyone has bought into the way we want it done around here.”
The start of camp came as Pouncey and his brother Maurkice were named in a lawsuit filed by three people who said the twins attacked them at a Miami Beach nightclub July 12. The Pounceys’ attorney has said the brothers were not involved in any altercation.
As anticipated, Pouncey (hip) and running back Knowshon Moreno (knee) began camp on the physically unable to perform list. Both worked on the side Friday, and while Pouncey is expected to miss at least a couple of games, he said he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery.
Moreno, who signed a $3.275 million, one-year contract after a breakout season with Denver last year, is expected to join practice sometime during camp.
Every other player passed his conditioning test. Defensive end Dion Jordan practiced and will be allowed to play in exhibition games, even though he has been suspended for the first four games of the season after testing positive for a stimulant prohibited by the NFL.
Receiver Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson were back on the field after recovering from knee injuries last season. Koa Misi remained at middle linebacker after moving there from the outside as an offseason experiment deemed successful.
The first practice was predictably sloppy. With Pouncey out, quarterback Ryan Tannehill dropped at least three snaps. He misfired deep to Mike Wallace – a frequent occurrence last year – the first time he threw long, but they later connected on a 40-yard throw that brought a cheer from spectators.
While the stands were only half full, season-ticket sales are up, and the first three home games are projected to be sellouts.
”Miami wants to support a winner,” Ross said. ”We start winning, we’ll have a lot more support, and there will be a lot more enthusiasm.”
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