BY GEORGE RICHARDS
It's safe to say offensive lineman didn't hold offseason workouts like Mike Pouncey and his twin brother 20 years ago.
Perhaps not even five years ago.
Pouncey came into his second training camp in terrific shape thanks to an intense regiment that included hard days doing three workouts per day. The morning session would include cardio and heavy lifting followed by workouts in the sand at a local beach. At night, they would do more cardio as well as an hour of Pilates.
The result was Mike and Maurkice Pouncey slimmed down while adding lean muscle mass and vastly improving their cardiovascular system.
"It is a very advanced workout and I think it has taken my game to another level,'' said Pouncey, whose brother plays for the Steelers and was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie following the 2010 season.
"It was a lot of hard work and it was time consuming. But it is paying off. With this high-paced offense we're running, everyone has to be in top-notch shape. We've been doing this since April. It has helped the offensive line and this team.''
With the Dolphins going to a fast-paced offense that frequently includes no-huddle formations, Pouncey is glad he paid the price in the summer. It's apparent the work is paying off.
According to Pro Football Focus, Pouncey is currently the second-highest rated center in the league as he has given up no sacks nor quarterback hits. Opponents have just one quarterback pressure against him through the first five games. San Francisco's Jonathan Goodwin is ranked first; Maurkice Pouncey 19th.
"He plays hard every snap, has a great bounce,'' coach Joe Philbin said. "I think he just loves football. I know that sounds simplistic, but sometimes there are guys at this level or the major college level who just don't enjoy the grind or parts of football. But he seems to. He enjoys practice, is competitive. Likes to play in games. It shows. It's reflective in his game.''
Mike Pouncey was the Dolphins first round pick in 2011 and the All-SEC center from Florida definitely heard how fans weren't too thrilled Miami used the 15th overall pick on an offensive lineman.
Although many complained online and to the talk radio hosts that the Pouncey pick wasn't sexy enough as the Dolphins rebuilt themselves, general manager Jeff Ireland said on draft day that bolstering the offensive line would be critical to future success.
So far, Pouncey looks like a cornerstone to that offense for years to come.
"Mike is one hell of a player,'' said Jake Long, the Dolphins left tackle who was the first overall pick in 2008. "He had a great rookie year and it has even been better this year. With the athleticism he has and his intensity -- he finishes guys 15, 20 yards down field. He's very impressive.''
Said Pouncey: "That stuff didn't bother me. I know fans want playmakers and center isn't a pretty position. So I came in with a chip on my shoulder and decided I was going to be one of the top centers in the NFL. To date, I believe I have done that. And I'm going to keep proving that every day.''
Those fans who were supportive of Pouncey being selected pointed to the success Miami had when Don Shula picked Dwight Stephenson in the second round in 1980.
The All-American center from Alabama had a stellar career with the Dolphins as he was a perennial Pro Bowl pick before his career was ended prematurely after suffering a knee injury in his eighth season against the Jets in 1987.
Pouncey knows all about the Dolphins' legacy at center and says he was happy to read comments Stephenson made to Dolphins.com last week at the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club luncheon in Miramar.
Stephenson, now a successful businessman in South Florida, said Pouncey is “already good, it’s just a question of how good he’s going to get, but he does a lot more than probably than what we did when I played. He has all of the tools.''
Pouncey said he looks up to Stephenson as well as Jim Langer. Both Stephenson and Langer are part of the Dolphins' group at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. That's a club Pouncey would like to join someday as well.
"Dwight is a great player and a great guy,'' Pouncey said. "I told him when we met that I hope to just be half as good as he was. He was a dominate player who loved to finish blocks. I'm proud to have been able to come down here and just be mentioned with him.''
Pouncey said the workouts during the summer were legendary as he and his brother -- who was the 18th overall pick by the Steelers -- are extremely competitive.
Mike and Maurkice Pouncey speak frequently on the phone and talk about common opponents as well as players they will be facing in the future. Mike says neither he nor his brother are overly complimentary in those conversations. The goal of those football talks to is to make each other better.
The competitive nature the two brothers share is evident. The two both played for Florida prep power Lakeland High before moving on to play collegiately in Gainesville.
The duo shared the Gators' offensive line with Mike moving over from guard to center when Maurkice left early for the NFL draft after their junior years.
"He's my biggest fan and my biggest critic,'' Mike Pouncey said. "What makes us so good is when we watch our film, we always find something wrong, something to correct. It keeps us on top of our game. And it keeps us humble.''