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Classic '96 moment plus Wed. morning notes

The Olympics were in Atlanta in 1996 and The Herald offered me a chance to skip the heat and endless hours of the first three weeks of Dolphins training camp in exchange for the heat and endless hours of covering the Games -- while not having the opportunity to go home in the evenings, of course.

So I missed the first two weeks of Jimmy Johnson's first training camp.

When I finally got back, I took a couple of days off and then eventually got back to covering the team. After my first practice back was over, I greeted special teams coach Mike Westhoff, one of the few holdovers from the Don Shula staff. Assistant coaches were allowed to speak to the writers without state department permission back then because the Iron Curtain of Parcells and Belichick had not yet descended on the NFL.

So I asked Westhoff about his special teams and he said what he always said, that they would be fine because, well, he's a freakin' great coach. And he is.

He went on to tell me he already had his first special teams headhunter. His name? Larry Izzo.


"Larry Izzo," Westhoff said. "He's going to be good on teams. He's fearless. And he's on the team."

I didn't pretend to know everything about Johnson's new team but I knew Izzo wasn't a draft pick. And I knew he wasn't a star. And I knew there was no way he could be guaranteed a roster spot when Westhoff reminded me he was an undrafted college free agent from Rice of all places.

So I asked Westhoff, how it was that Izzo was on the team. "That, you have to talk to the head coach about," he answered. "That's not my department."

Well, I started snooping around but before that got very far, Johnson came over to me out of the blue and said he heard I was asking around about Izzo. "Before this gets written all wrong I want you to know what really happened," Johnson said.

(That's pretty cool, too. A head coach wanting the correct facts out there instead of letting misinformation about his team fester.)

Anyway, Johnson proceeded to tell me the famous Larry Izzo story.

Seems during the first preseason game (which I missed because I was covering something like Field Hockey or something) Izzo had blown up the wedge on a kickoff. And that explosion showed up clearly on the tape Johnson graded and then went over with his players in a team meeting.

And so in that meeting, Johnson showed the play, then showed the play again, and then stopped the show. "That is what I expect from a Miami Dolphins player," Johnson told his team. "That is the kind of play and the kind of player the Miami Dolphins are going to be about. And so if you want to be part of the Miami Dolphins, that's how you're going to play.

"And if you play like that, you will be on the Miami Dolphins. I'm looking for 53 guys that can give me that kind of play. I have two so far. Dan Marino is the first," Johnson said. "And Larry Izzo is the second. He's on this team."

Johnson had announced to his team that an undrafted rookie from Rice, a kid that looked more like the paper boy than someone about to be in the paper, was the second player to earn a roster spot behind Dan Marino. And all this after one preseason game.

"I was pretty surprised," an unassuming Izzo told me in an interview room adjacent the Dolphins media room that day. "I believe him, but I'm not going to assume anything. I'm going to play hard every day and see what happens."

What happened is that Johnson was true to his word and Izzo made the team. And he not only made the team, but prospered. Izzo played all 16 games his rookie year and was second on the team with 10 special teams tackles. He had one blocked punt and deflected three others against Seattle, Indianapolis and Houston.

That Houston game was particularly memorable because Izzo was basically celebrating a homecoming and he also had a 26-yard gain on a fake punt that helped the Dolphins win the game. He was voted a special teams Pro Bowl alternate that season.

It's now 13 years later and Larry Izzo has three Pro Bowl trips under his belt, he has three Super Bowl rings on his fingers, and was a team captain on all of those Super Bowl winning teams in New England. This offseason Izzo left the Patriots and signed with the New York Jets.

His special teams coach will again be Mike Westhoff. 

Some Wednesday morning training camp notes:

Shawn Murphy continues to get the snaps with the first-team offense while on defense, Sean Smith and Randy Starks are working with the first unit.

Davone Bess is getting his chance the past couple of practices to work with the first-team offense ahead of Greg Camarillo. I'll be watching Camarillo closely this evening because I've noticed a bit of a dropoff from him in recent days. I don't know if this is knee-related.

The Dolphins did nearly an hour of special teams work in the morning practice. There should be no excuse for poor teams play this year. If the Dolphins are devoting this much time to special teams work this camp, more so than they did last year, it stands to reason coach Tony Sparano will invest some roster spots for special teams play.

That is the reason one cannot dismiss the chances special teams starters such as Jason Allen, Brandon London and Nathan Jones will make the team. Cutting such players comes with a price -- it affects depth, yes, but also affects quality on special teams.

Anyway, Donald Thomas continues to work with the second-team offensive line. The plan, even though Sparano said there wasn't one, is to let Thomas work his way on second-team until next week. Then the competition with Shawn Murphy for the starting RG job begins in earnest.

That gives Thomas two weeks to either beat out Murphy or not. If Murphy falters, he loses the job. As Sparano accurately noted earlier, it's Murphy's job to lose.

By the way, it was a tough morning for Pat White: Threw an interception, fumbled a snap for the third consecutive practice and he took a sack by Lionel Dotson and two buzzer sacks -- sacks where the timing buzzer the coaches have installed to make sure the QBs get the ball off on time goes off before the throw.


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Im sick and tired of your hidden agenda angle you take to these articles. I think you are unprofessional and a pansy. Why dont you put a skirt on you premadona and go cover aquatics. The Dolphins have a right to manage their team internally however they choose. Just because they dont give some weasel reported the keys to their organization and tell him/her all their secrets, does not make them anything less than LOYAL. Maybe you should try becoming LOYAL to the Dolphins and stop trying to stir up the pot. You are a dork. P.S. Leave Miami once and for all, you suck as a reporter.

P.S. If I were Tony Sparano, I would refer to you as "She" just like Parcells did about Terry Glenn about 15 yrs ago

Too much anger in you, Andrew .......

Did you consult your psychiatrist lately ?

Media: Keep the adult public attention diverted away from the real social issues, and captivated by matters of no real importance.
Schools: Keep the young public ignorant of real mathematics, real economics, real law, and real history.
Entertainment: Keep the public entertainment below a sixth-grade level.
Work: Keep the public busy, busy, busy, with no time to think; back on the farm with the other animals.

Sounds like Andrew Watson has lots of issues. Sad. So sad.

I usually agree with what you write Armando. But this time I think the facts are wrong.

The quote about the first person to make the team was in reference to Zach Thomas. The starting middle linebacker that year, signed as a free agent, was let go shortly there after.

Jack Del Rio. Izzo was signed, but not like that.

Andrew, go away.

I distinctly recall JJ going out of his way to announce that IZZO (not Zach) was the first to make the team.......and then "we" let him and Westhoff to (by not fully appreciating/rewarding Izzo, and by Wannstache alienating MW)....Lord, I hope those days of gross mismanagement are behind us.

Andrew Watson needs a hug. Try being asleep at 3 a.m. instead of up with the perverts dude. You'll feel better about yourself and there won't be so much hate and stupidity in you.


Yeah, Mando, do what Andrew says. Leave Miami and go to CBS or FOX or NBC or The New York Times. You're too good for idiots like Andrew. In fact, you should delete that comment much like that dude should be deleted from the earth.

I remember this story exactly as it was written above. Good work Mando!

Classic stuff. I still don't understand the reason the Dolphins let Larry Izzo leave in free agency. Thanks, Dave Wannstedt.

I also remember this story from way back when. Silly fan that I am, I still think of Larry Izzo as a Dolphin.

Who is Shawn Green? Do you mean Shawn Murphy?

omg--White's a bust.....when will Ross call Parcells and Ireland 'on the carpet' over this abysmal pick?!!?

Tommy. You're wrong and mando is right. It was larry izzo.

Andrew didn't get any

Give White some time. For now he'll be lining up on the shotgun on spreads. They'll find a way to lower his mishaps. He'll get the hang of it, though. Quiet the smart fellow.

Dear Mr. Crocodile

"Media: Keep the adult public attention diverted away from the real social issues, and captivated by matters of no real importance.
Schools: Keep the young public ignorant of real mathematics, real economics, real law, and real history.
Entertainment: Keep the public entertainment below a sixth-grade level.
Work: Keep the public busy, busy, busy, with no time to think; back on the farm with the other animals"

Reading your post made me realize how much I miss "The X files"

Soiled :)

The Jimmy Johnson/Larry Izzo story can be found on Wikipedia, therefore it must be true.


Your logic escaped me Andrew. Save the hate for the rest of the AFC East. Spew your venom on a Jets blog.

We have needed Larry Izzo for some time. The stache screwed this time up for a long time.

Andrew supported the McCain/Palin/Joe the Plumber ticket.

Actually, Andrew voted for me. He's a lifelong socialist community organizer intent on turning this country into Belgium, only more muslim.

Is it possible we still do not have a really good QB on the phins roster; Pennington - ok / good, Henne - up in the air and out of bounds so far, White - in the dark...ever sinced Dan retired and for the forseeable future no stud QB!

9/11 was an inside job

WTC 1, 2 & 7 were brought down by controlled demolition.

checkout wtc7.net & watch the collapse videos.

Actually, Andrew voted for me. He's a lifelong socialist community organizer intent on turning this country into Belgium, only more muslim.


andrew has a point, armando's reporting is weak and usually uninformed.

2009 NFL Pre-Season Power Rankings
By Issac Barrow
Aug. 9 2009

2. New England Patriots: There's no way possible the Patriots lose more than four games. Last year, with no Tom Brady, no backfield, and an aging defense, the Patriots went 11-5, and almost went to the playoffs, but a tiebreaker went to the Miami Dolphins. With a healthy Tom Brady, I don't see any reason for the Pats to not win the AFC East. There aren't any real threats. The Jets are rebuilding, the Bills are huge underachievers, and the Dolphins aren't intimidating, despite being the defending AFC East champs. I think they'll win 14, and I don't even think I'm being unrealistic.

13. Miami Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins were a surprise team last year, going 11-5, winning the AFC East, a year after finishing 1-15. It's the coolest hyphen movement in NFL history. The Dolphins were amazing last year, but let's face it, the only reason they didn't win the division is because of Tom Brady's health. Even though Brady was hurt, they won the division on a tie-breaker, so that shows how great a coach Bill Bellichick is. I think the Dolphins will have another good year, but I very much doubt they will go to the playoffs.


What's the prognosis on Penny's shin?

Pat White is a BUST so GO GET VICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OH,by the way, remember i said it first-that SEAN SMITH will make the pro bowl THIS SEASON!

Great training camp story Mando.

Sheesh, camp started last week and we haven't even played a single PRE-season game and the final verdict is already in on White as a bust?!?! Come on. I agree he's struggling and he very well may not pan out but he doesn't even know the offense yet. History shows he's an intelligent player and very hard worker and has significant physical gifts. Maybe the QB position will come to him, may be not. Time will tell. But you have to wait the time....

Andrew... Go to a Health Care Town Meeting like the rest of the nut cases!

Guys - am I the only one that thinks Andrew is either a dolphins player or coach...they do read these blogs you know...intriguing.

Anybody that listens to BHO and leaves convinced about what he's talking about, is a pathetic MORON.As one of your heros said in the past " We need the usefull dupes" ( That's you TIM )

Speaking for Andrews all over the world.
"Andrew Watson, you are the tool of the day"

Go Fish.
Andrew just go fishing


Its all about the diesel mando you jive turkey... Talk about the Collins factor.

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