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Wed. evening practice update plus '01 Moment

The Dolphins did their vampire thing, coming out after dark tonight for the first time this training camp.

But aside from the timing of the night practice, it seemed pretty routine to this reporter's eyes. Chad Pennington and Will Allen were present and accounted for, despite reports earlier in the day they were nursing boo-boos. Both took all their repetitions.

The Dolphins showed their local fans the Wildcat package a few times, always with Ronnie Brown at the trigger.

There were a couple of blown coverages on defense.

And Pat White continued to struggle on offense.

Of greatest interest to me was the Dolphins' willingness to show off more than just glimpses of Wildcat. The first-team offense ran it four times, which is more than any practice I've attended this camp. On three of those Wildcat snaps, Brown ran the ball.

On the other, we saw the same play the Dolphins ran against the Houston Texans in which Brown passed to Pennington who passed to Patrick Cobbs for 53 yards and a score. Unlike the Houston game, this time Pennington had no one to pivot the ball to because no one was open downfield.

Pennington threw an incompletion along the sideline.

And this is where this reporter reminds you of two things: Wildcat is a gimmick offense in the NFL. And it is bordering on ineffective because most teams now the Dolphins have it and they are ready for it. So it is incumbent upon the Miami coaching staff to come up with something else for Wildcat to work.

Defenses will be ready for the stuff the Dolphins did in Wildcat last year. They cannot be ready for the new stuff. And I've been told there is new spread formation stuff coming. But it is unlikely you will see much, of any of it, in training camp or the preseason.

But I digress. Back to practice.

The loudest reaction from the 2,000 or so fans watching practice came when WR Chris Williams pancaked Will Billingsley in the receiver blocking drills. Put Billingsley on his keyster, Williams did.

There was also fan approval when Pennington completed a 15-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr. Rookie Sean Smith got his feet tangled in coverage and that resulted in the completion. There was a blown coverage in the middle of the field when Pennington found TD Anthony Fasano for what might have been a 50-yard pass and run (mostly run) up the seam of the defense. There was simply no one around to cover Fasano, who is a hard dude to lose.

And that brings me to White. He threw an interception when Nathan Jones stepped in front of a pass that should never have been thrown. The pass along the sideline went into a crowd where two receivers and two defenders had gathered.

White also tripped over an offensive lineman's feet on his dropback one pass play. Sack. And I cannot share with you one head-turning completion that I noted White making. Oh well, Thursday is another day.

OK, drumroll please.

I've been skirting around this Classic Training Camp Moment from 2001 for nearly a week now because I was desperately trying to nail down the facts and I was angry at myself for not remembering the incident.

But I have the facts now. And here they are:

During Miami's 2001 training camp, the Dolphins were a team in transition (what else is new) because some of Jimmy Johnson's players were starting to age and some of Dave Wannstedt's players needed to step up.

Well, one of Johnson's leftovers was mammoth defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, who was forever known as a man of many muscles and moods. You never knew where you stood with Daryl Mr. Gardener because he could be joking with you one minute and looking like he was going to crack you in two the next.

Gardener also had an issue with his health and his stamina in that his back was a problem for him and he always seemed to be trying to get in the right physical condition despite looking like he was cut from a marble boulder.

During one training camp practice, Gardener was feeling spent and so right there, during the middle of a two-minute drill against the first-team offense, he pulled himself out of the lineup. And that didn't sit too well with WR O.J. McDuffie.

McDuffie is the player Dan Marino once told me was the toughest player he ever played with. McDuffie was the player who went on the field with a foot injury so severe it would end his career, but he just shot it up with pain killer and played anyway.

McDuffie is also the guy who this day called out Gardener for asking out of the two-minute drill before it was over.

"This is the time to win or lose a game, this is the make-or-break time in a game, and you're heading to the sideline," McDuffie said loudly enough that everyone on the field, including Gardener, could hear.

That didn't sit too well with Gardener, who then started cursing McDuffie and, yes, said something about McDuffie's mother.

McDuffie, a very articulate man, went on to articulate his displeasure and disgust with Gardener in no uncertain terms using language that would have made his mother blush despite the fact he was using that language in her defense.

And so 6-6, 330-pound Daryl Gardener decided he couldn't compete on a verbal level with his McDuffie but could separate McDuffie from his spine if he wanted. So he tried. He grabbed McDuffie by the throat and choke-slammed the 5-10, 194-pound McDuffie to the ground.

Well, McDuffie went down hard, but got up and tried to fight back before the two were separated by teammates. Gardener obviously got the better of the physical exchange. And that didn't sit so well with McDuffie. So he left the practice field and headed for players' parking lot.

McDuffie was headed to his car but he wasn't going there to leave. Although it cannot be proven, it became widely accepted around the team that McDuffie kept his gun in his car. Thankfully, linebacker Derrick Rodgers intervened and convinced McDuffie to cool down and not do anything rash -- like, perhaps, shoot his unarmed teammate.

And how, you ask, could I have possibly forgotten this story? Well, I wasn't there. I didn't cover the Dolphins from July 2001 to July 2003.

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