Dolphins not giving up on chances for playoff run
The Miami Dolphins are still hopeful of making a run to the playoffs.
Even at 5-5 going into Sunday's trip to Oakland, and coming off an embarrassing 16-0 loss to Chicago last Thursday night, the Dolphins resumed practice Monday feeling both realistic and optimistic.
''It's possible,'' linebacker Channing Crowder said. ''(Coach) Tony (Sparano) said all our team goals - winning the division, winning the Super Bowl and all that - are still in sight. We just made it hard for ourselves.''
That long shot idea of a postseason berth is why Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long, who can't fully extended his left arm because of an injured shoulder, is playing with a harness. It's why running back Ronnie Brown, despite being on a career-long drought of 15 games without a 100-yard rushing performance, hasn't ripped into his fellow players and the coaches. And it's why Sparano isn't panicking, at least not on the outside.
After all, it was just two years ago the Miami Dolphins were in a similar position. In 2008, the Dolphins, coming off a 1-15 season, were 6-5, and then won their final five games to finish 11-5 and win the AFC East. And that same year linebacker Karlos Dansby's Arizona Cardinals team, at 9-7, made an unlikely Super Bowl run.
''So when you're standing in front of (the team),'' Sparano said, ''and you're telling them what is possible and, it still is possible, then there's some credibility there.''
But, the Dolphins remain long shots for the playoffs. They've lost to their top two AFC East rivals, the New York Jets (8-2) and New England Patriots (8-2), as well as two of the AFC's top wild-card contenders, Baltimore (7-3) and Pittsburgh (7-3).
Miami also has major health concerns. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall didn't participate in the portion of Monday's practice open to the media, possibly due to a hamstring injury he sustained in Thursday's loss to Chicago. His status for the Oakland game isn't known.
And the Dolphins are likely to again start quarterback Tyler Thigpen, who was recently on the third team. But injuries to Chad Pennington (shoulder) and former starter Chad Henne (knee) in a 29-17 victory over Tennessee moved Thigpen into the starting role against the Bears.
Further, Miami might also have to again play its third-team center in guard Richie Incognito. Joe Berger, the usual starter, missed the Chicago game due to a knee injury. And during that game his backup, Cory Procter, sustained a season-ending knee injury, forcing Incognito to come in at center.
The Dolphins signed offensive lineman Eric Ghiaciuc on Monday, but it's not clear if he'll be ready to play.
Against this backdrop, the Dolphins hold out playoff hopes.
The players say they know what's at stake every game.
''It's not like college or something where the coaches have to get you going,'' cornerback Vontae Davis said.