DAVIE, Fla. — The act of looking ahead comes naturally to fans and media members.
In contrast, NFL coaches and players admit to looking no farther than the next opponent … usually.
“I think now you have to look ahead,” Miami Dolphins linebacker Kevin Burnett said Friday. ”You better understand what you’re playing for.
“We have to understand that we have to put together a string of wins in order to put ourselves in position to make a run at the playoffs. ”
(Cue former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora) Playoffs? Don’t talk about … playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?
The Dolphins (4-6) take a three-game losing streak into Sunday’s game against Seattle (6-4). After that, Miami will host New England (8-3) before visiting San Francisco (7-2-1).
Miami’s record and upcoming schedule combine to make many observers chalk up 2012 as a rebuilding season under first-year head coach Joe Philbin.
But don’t tell that to Dolphins veterans.
“Say what you want to, I don’t know how many years I have left to rebuild.” Burnett said. “So ‘rebuilding’ is not in my vocabulary. I don’t have time to rebuild.”
Burnett is in his eighth season. Defensive tackle Randy Starks is playing in his ninth, his fifth with Miami.
“I’ve played, what, two playoff games in nine years? That’s not a lot,” Starks said. “To say I accept this as a rebuilding year? That’s not something I’m willing to accept.”
Not all the Dolphins are seasoned veterans, though. The active roster lists 23 players with two or fewer years of NFL experience
“We try to let the young guys know, but they don’t really know yet,” Starks said. “This stuff is hard. It’s hard to win in this league, it’s hard to stay in this league, it’s hard to go far in this league. Before you know it, you look up and it’s career over with.”
The coaches take a different approach in creating urgency among the players.
“Whether you’ve had 135 games like (linebacker) Karlos Dansby or you’re playing in your 11th game like a rookie might be playing this week, it really doesn’t matter,” Philbin said. “Your job is to perform. If you’re out there, that’s what you’re getting evaluated on.
“If you’re not useful to the organization, then you’re probably not going to be around long, whether it’s young, old … it doesn’t really matter.”
This week’s evaluations concern performing against the Seahawks, who like the Dolphins boast a rookie quarterback. Russell Wilson has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,827 yards and 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
The 5-foot-11 Wilson hasn’t received the publicity awarded Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, but both have mobility and elusiveness that can frustrate a defense.
“A lot of quarterbacks when they roll out, they’ll take the short throw or run it; he’ll throw a deep one,” Burnett said of Wilson. “He reminds me of Donovan McNabb, when Donovan would extend play for nine, 10, 13 seconds.”
Seattle’s offense also sports Marshawn Lynch, the league’s third-leading rusher with 1,005 yards. Lynch will be facing a Miami defense that has allowed 394 combined yards on the ground the past three games.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Miami’s offense also have struggled recently. Through their past 10 quarters dating back to Week 9 at Indianapolis, the Dolphins have been outscored 66-20.
The Dolphins went more than nine quarters without an offensive touchdown before Tannehill connected with Davone Bess in the fourth quarter at Buffalo last week.
All three Miami units (offense, defense, special teams) likely will have to play much better than in recent weeks to beat Seattle.
“You have to go there and play thankful, you have to go out there and play with urgency,” Burnett said, “because there are a lot of examples of guys who didn’t get that next year to rebuild. You better take advantage of your opportunities.”