I have the highest respect for Ronnie Brown. He works hard. Practices hard. Plays hard. He's always smiling and rarely, if ever, complains.
So when Brown's sixth NFL training camp opened Friday, it was not surprising to see him at pretty much full health, running with the first-team and triggering the Wildcat Package. Yes, the Dolphins showed the folks in the stands a couple of Wildcat plays with Brown taking the snap and one of them was, mark this down NFL, a pass.
Brown, who missed the end of last season with a foot fracture, seems fine.
"I didn't think about the foot at all," he said after practice. "I was thinking more about the sun."
Despite all Brown's desirable traits, the Dolphins are not exactly rushing to make sure their running back is on the team long-term. Understandably so.
Brown, you see, has been injured four of his previous five seasons. That is bad news for any running back. So the Dolphins have been reluctant to give him a new big-money contract because they are simply protecting their interests.
So Brown will play the 2010 season under a one-year restricted tender offer he has signed.
Some players elsewhere are angry about such treatment. Shawne Merriman comes to mind in San Diego. Brown?
“I think all that stuff will take care of itself," Brown said after practice, that perpetual smile on his face.
Is it a distraction to you, Brown is asked?
"Not at all," he responded quickly.
The beauty of Brown is he understands business and differentiates between the Dolphins making a correct business decision and making this a personal matter. Moreover, even if Brown were somehow upset by the fact he's basically being rented this season, he probably wouldn't share that displeasure because it doesn't serve the team.
I told you there's reasons I respect this guy.
The Brown situation bears watching because the Dolphins are taking a calculated risk. If Brown has a mega-season -- say 1,400 yards -- the team is either going to have to pay Brown through the nose for a new deal or watch somebody else do it.
If Brown somehow gets injured again or doesn't blow up with a great season, the team's calculations will have proven correct.
Ironic, isn't it? The Dolphins would lose financially if Brown stays healthy and plays great while they would look like excellent stewards of the payroll if he doesn't.
There is much to report on. Go here for my words off of practice and interviews. I cover a little Brian Hartline, Cameron Wake, Tony Sparano, rookies Koa Misi, Jared Odrick and John Jerry. Follow me so that you get the updates in real time, even to your phone if you select that option.
Meanwhile, as you know I double-dip as a columnist as well as blogger for the Miami Herald. It doubles my salary to match what captains of industry would make if they were, say, flipping fries at Burger King. In today's Herald my column reminds everyone that when the Dolphins open camp "it's football season", regardless of how many stars the Heat sign. The column also shows you exactly how confident Cameron Wake is that he can make you forget about Jason Taylor.
The science lab:
Let me now tell you a little something about the offensive line: Coach Tony Sparano is like a mad scientist with those guys and the practice field is his chemistry lab. He likes to mix and match. He experiments. He prods the mental and emotional state of the players. There is only one player I have not seen Sparano do this with on the offensive line.
Everyone else is fair game. So unlike other media types, I didn't get my briefs in a bunch when I saw Nate Garner playing right tackle. I am not ready to pronounce Richie Incognito a failure because he's not starting at right guard. I'm not ready to anoint John Jerry the starter because he was working with the first-team at right guard. And Cory Procter may be a great find in free agency, but I'll believe he's the starting left guard when I see it in the first regular-season game.
Fact is, I would not be surprised if guys get reshuffled as early as today's two practices but no later than sometime next week.
Even Garner, who last week talked to me about vying for a starting guard job, wasn't ready to call himself a fulltime tackle Friday.
“It’s not really a curve ball," he told me. "I kind of expected it because that’s where I played all of last [training camp] and it progressed to where I went to play guard. So it might end up doing the same thing this year. You never know. It’s all up to them."
It is up to them. Don't let it take you by surprise because you've been warned the offensive line is a big experiment right now.
Anthony Fasano update:
Tight end Anthony Fasano on Friday talked to the media for the first time since last season. He declined to speak during the offseason because he was not under contract, although he was practicing after signing a waiver.
Fasano was not thrilled about having his path to unrestricted free agency detoured by the change in rules following the owners' vote to make 2010 an uncapped year. So he decided talking was not a great idea.
"I hope you guys didn't take that personally," Fasano said sheepishly after practice.
Me? I don't give a rat's ... But it is always better when players share their thoughts. It only helps them because it makes me, you, fans everywhere, understand where they're coming from and identify with them better.
Personally, I'm hoping Fasano identifies more with being a better tight end in 2010. The Dolphins can seriously use a better threat down the middle of the field than they've had recently. And the big Notre Dame guy can also stand to improve some of his blocking skills.
The good news is he gets it.
"I need to improve – in the run game, in the pass blocking game and in the pass receiving game," Fasano said. "I think I’ll have some different opportunities this year and I have to make the most of them, no matter what my role turns out to be in the offense this year. I have to come through."
Of course, coming through will help Fasano on the contract front.
Second team defense:
These were the guys working second-team defense uring the team period, which is the period in which the full-team period and not the situational package period. (Some guys get confused and report different units):
CB: Will Allen
CB: Jason Allen
WOLB: Charlie Anderson
SOLB: Ikaika Alama-Francis
DE: Tony McDaniel
NT: Paul Soliai
DE: Marques Douglas
FS: Reshad Jones
SS: Tyrone Culver
The Dolphins will practice at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday. I will be at both because, dangit, I work for a living. So check the live updates on my twitter. Are you getting the drift it will get you some good information faster?