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Sparano by the substitute

If Armando equates to Johnny Carson in the Dolphins blogosphere, that makes me, David J. Neal, today's David Brenner. I'm standing in while the star takes a day of rest. To those feeling grand, crushing disappointment on this Friday, I hope your day gets better.

From Dolphins coach Tony Sparano's State of the Day address:

On Saturday's scrimmage: "We're not going to play a game out there. I'll be a series of 10 plays and coaches will be off the field. We will use all of the proper equipment from caoch to quarterback and defensive equipment to keep this thing going and get personnel in and out." It'll be 90 to 110 plays.

On Phillip Merling: "He's started out...OK and has gotten a little better in the last few days. " He clearly wants to see more consistency from Merling. The Sparano standard on that is nose guard Jason Ferguson.

He also said, as far as the defensive line positions aside from Ferguson, he wants to see a better run defense to create more third and longs and one of the defensive ends to have six to eight sacks. 

We just had the annual presentation by NFL officials on rules changes and changes in emphasis. Some of the bigger changes from the video the players will see this evening:

The Tom Brady Rule: Pass rushers won't be allowed to lunge low at quarterbacks and make contact below the knee with the shoulder. The hit that ended Tom Brady's season (and, though nobody knew it at the time, started the Dolphins on the road to the playoffs) was shown as an example of what'll be penalized this season. Jared Allen blatantly missiling his shoulder into Matt Schaub's knee was shown also. And if Schaub was a handsome young buck with three Super Bowl rings, a model/actress baby mama and a model wife that gets the NFL exposure in an even wider range of media outlets, it might be The Matt Schaub Rule. But he isn't and it ain't.

The howling you'll hear later tonight is every Dolphin pass rusher when they see the video. Joey Porter should roar mightily while Jason Taylor will show annoyance, but regally. At least offensive holding will be a point of emphasis, which'll pacify some of the soon-to-be savage defensive beasts.

The Ed Hochuli Rule: Muscles the Zebra had one of those years in 2008 where he couldn't hit the ground with his flag. It all started in Week 2 when he ruled an obvious fumble by Denver's Jay Cutler that was recovered by San Diego to be an incomplete pass. By rule, the ball was dead and Denver got the ball back with another chance at a game-winning touchdown instead of San Diego getting the ball and being a few kneel downs from the win. This year, that call can be reviewed by instant replay and, if there's a clear recovery, the ball changes hands. It's similar to the change made two years ago with the down-by-contact call on a fumble.

By the way, it was a lousy call, but no rule said the Chargers had to allow not only the ensuing touchdown but the two-point conversion.

The Hines Ward Rule: No more peeling back toward your end zone and blindside blasting a defender. "It is an illegal "blindside" block if the initial force of the contact by a blocker's helmet, forearm or shoulder is to the head or neck area of an opponent when: a) the blocker is moving toward his own endline; and b) he approaches the opponent from behind or from the side." It'll be a 15-yard penalty.

The Wedge Rule: On a kickoff or free kick, no more than two players can form a wedge. A "wedge" will be defined as three or more players lined up shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other.

The No More Do Over Rule: No automatic re-kick after an illegal onside kick.

If Twitter resumes behaving, I'll be tweeting practice at DavidJNeal, then blogging about it after we talk with players.

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