An early look at the Dolphins story that will be on the Dolphins page later:
Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne stepped on the podium inside the Sun Life Stadium club level on Tuesday and displayed the same poise and self-assuredness that he has exhibited in the pocket during a most encouraging preseason.
Addressing more than 100 fans at a Dolphins Touchdown Club luncheon, a confident Henne spoke about his growth, his relationship with Brandon Marshall and the team’s more aggressive offensive approach.
“There are a lot of things I can do with this offense,” he said. “There is no turning back.”
Henne, who had a splendid 93.4 quarterback rating in preseason, has been buoyed not only by the bolder offensive philosophy, but the trust that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has placed in him to change plays when needed.
“Brian Daboll puts a lot on my shoulders – puts everything on me,” he told emcees Joe Rose and Kim Bokamper. “He says, ‘If you see something, get us into the right play and make it go. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll come back the next play and make it work.’
“We’re going to spread you out. We’re going to bring you inside. We’re going to hammer the football like we’ve done in the past. There are a lot more options. We’re out there to make a lot of big plays and score a lot of points. It’s definitely an attack offense. Every day before practice, he says, ‘Let it go. Go to your playmakers and see what they can do with it.’ It’s a great philosophy.”
Henne said good-naturedly that Daboll “is borderline nuts some times. But we love it, because he brings a lot of passion.”
Henne traced his evolution to the lockout, when – according to Davone Bess, the perception of Henne changed among some teammates because of how he took charge of offseason workouts.
“For me as a quarterback trying to prove my ability and my leadership, it really helped getting guys together,” he said. “I’m going to be that guy that is going to be enthusiastic for our guys when they need it, keep the guys up-tempo. And if they need a chewing out, I’ve got to be that guy. But I’m there to encourage.”
Henne said, smiling, “You’ve got to keep them on their toes at all times. You don’t want the linemen to give you that puppy dog face. I’m like, ‘You’re better than that.’’
On Marshall, he said, “Brandon has come a long way. He’s been a great teammate this year. He’s realized his problem. He’s fixed it. It takes a man to come out in public, state what he has [Borderline Personality Disorder].
“Last year, it was just more frustration from the team not doing well, not [being] on the same page. It was a frustrating year for a lot of us, and that’s what turned our relationship off. This year, we have new ideas. No matter what people say, he’s really a great teammate.”
Henne was asked by Bokamper if the offense’s problems have been fixed. “Our organization has done a great job,” he said. “Tony Sparano got Marc Colombo, moved Vernon Carey to right guard. We’ve got a No. 1 pick, Mike Pouncey, at center. Very smart guy, talented. We’ve got Reggie Bush behind, who can spread us out and open up some running lanes.”
Henne spoke about dealing with the criticism that accompanied his uneven play last season. “As a quarterback, you’re always going to be criticized no matter what. You and the head coach. I’ve grown from it. I’ve become a better person as a leader and a player…. I’m one of those guys that keep it in, don’t let my emotions show a lot.”
But the criticism can sting those closest to him. “I’ve walked off crying,” his wife, Brittany, told the audience after the conversation turned to how players’ spouses must tolerate the occasional abusive fan sitting near them in the stands.
Rose told the story about how the wife of deceased former Dolphins quarterback David Woodley once punched a fan who was heckling Woodley. The team told Woodley he had to pick up his wife from the Orange Bowl tunnel, where she was being kept under the watch of a police officer.
“Damn, I told that girl not to be listening to stuff,” Rose recalled Woodley saying that day.
Brittany Henne would never go that far. But “it’s really hard,” she said. “He’s conditioned to do this. I’m not conditioned. They don’t pay me to do this.”
Henne closed the luncheon by speaking of the team’s determination to play better at home after last year’s 1-7 disaster, and how he’s “really excited” to face a New England defense that added Albert Haynesworth and a few others. “If they’re going to double our guys, move on to the next guy and see who can win” that matchup, he said.
The Touchdown Club luncheon – which is held Tuesdays at noon during the season - was the first since the passing of former Dolphins player and announcer Jim Mandich, who hosted the event for its first 10 years.
Mandich, who died April 26 from bile duct cancer, had a strong relationship with Henne, dating back to Henne’s days at their alma mater, Michigan. The club has raised over $300,000 over the years for the Dolphins Foundation, including former players in financial need.