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Dolphins must use bad weather to an advantage

It rains in South Florida. A lot.

Anyone who has lived here for any length of time knows that rainy season rolls in around the same time training camp opens up for the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes. The rains really don't depart until late September or early October. Sometimes it stays longer.

That's why I remember standing in the rain and feeling (and smelling) like a wet dog during the days Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson were the Dolphins coaches -- because both coaches forced their teams to practice in the elements. And the media had to stand there and watch.

Shula would contend practicing in the rain would prepare his teams for dealing with the rain when it came down during the regular season. Johnson believed the practices in the rain toughened up his team.

It wasn't until Nick Saban arrived in town that the idea of practicing in the rain became unwelcome.

Saban petitioned then-owner Wayne Huizenga to build him a practice bubble to serve multiple purposes: It got the team out of the elements whenever it rained and there was lightning in the area. It gave the players a break from the oppressive heat and kept them fresher because the bubble is air conditioned. It also served as a field turf surface the team could work on during weeks it was preparing for games at stadiums with field turf surfaces.

But even Saban sometimes allowed his team to soak in the rain when thunder wasn't a worry.

This training camp is the first I can recall the Dolphins have not had one practice in a heavy downpour. Oh, it has rained in Davie during times the Dolphins were either scheduled to be on the field or at Sun Life Stadium. In fact, the night the team was to open Sun Life to a practice/scrimmage, it rained quite hard.

But the Dolphins have not used those instances to work in that heavy rain. The team has used such occassions to go in the bubble. The practice at Sun Life was canceled because of the elements.

So on Saturday night when it poured again at Sun Life at the start of the preseason game against Tampa Bay, it marked the first time this preseason the team worked outside in a heavy rain. And it showed. There were dropped passes. The team seemed out of sorts.

Tampa Bay, which played in the exact same elements, seemed more at home in the mud and goop and soggy conditions. The Bucs took a lead on the Dolphins while it was raining. The Dolphins, behind the performance of their backups, played better when the rain stopped and eventually won, 10-7.

The hope here is that next time it rains during training camp while the Dolphins are practicing or scheduled to practice, that the coaching staff use the elements as a teaching tool. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. Yes, it could get sloppy.

But it's better for the team to go through its wet-ball drills and get used to working in the unpleasant conditions now -- during training camp and the preseason -- than have to make that adjustment during a game.

Because there is no guarantee every Sunday at Sun Life will be sunny and mild in September and October.

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