SUNDAY SPORTS BUZZ:
Proud Dolphins alums keep waiting and waiting, hoping the franchise can rise above the mediocrity that has infested it for much of the past decade.
“It’s not hard to be a Dolphins fan -- it’s heartbreaking,” Manny Fernandez said. “You always wonder if we will get back” to being a consistently good team. “I wonder if it will be in my lifetime.”
On the eve of the season, former Dolphins standouts have a lot to say about the state of the franchise.
“They’re going to finish third in the AFC East at best,” Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti said, adding he’s unsure if they’re headed in the right direction. “Come on, the Patriots really bolstered their team. The problem is you can’t find one area on this Dolphins team that you can call excellent. Brandon Marshall can be excellent but he wasn’t last year. They have a very good defense, but defense can only hold up so long, and I don’t see offensive firepower.
“Steve Ross is too smart a guy for them not to get there eventually. Maybe he’s been a little too patient. I don’t understand what they did in free agency. Other teams were stockpiling people. Ahmad Bradshaw would have given them a real tough running back…. If they don’t go to the playoffs, there will be a housecleaning. I don’t mean the coach – I mean everybody. I hope to hell they prove everybody wrong.”
If these alums ran the franchise, a lot of things would be done differently.
“They want Reggie Bush to be the main back, but I can’t see it,” former Dolphins running back Jim Kiick said. “He’s not durable enough. He’s more of a specialty back. Everybody is optimistic about Chad Henne, but you can’t jump to conclusions. It’s preseason! And it’s like they told Tony Sparano, ‘Well, we don’t have anyone else, so we’ll see what you can do this year.’”
Then there’s Fernandez, who bemoaned, “I don’t see the team progressing more. I’m not a big fan of Jeff Ireland. I haven’t thought much of his drafts or offseason moves. I thought they would hire Bill Cowher. If you want a winning coach, you’ve got to give him personnel control. Steve Ross has treated the alumni well and he has done his best. [But] he’s more in-tuned with the entertainment world. He should have bought IMG. He would have been more at home.”
And don’t get Fernandez started on the Dolphins’ plans for a 2008 Gators championship reunion at halftime of the Oct. 23 Denver game. “What does that have to do with Miami and the Dolphins? That doesn’t make any sense,” Fernandez said. “I don’t remember us celebrating Vinny Testaverde when he won the Heisman Trophy at Miami.”
Said Kiick: “It’s ridiculous. You’re playing in the Miami Hurricanes’ stadium and yet you’re bringing in Gators fans who are despised by Hurricanes fans. If I was Tim Tebow, I would be totally embarrassed by them doing it.”
Mark Duper loves how Miami’s offense has come out of the dark ages. Hall of Famer Larry Little said, “I’m trying to be optimistic. But I’m worried about the running game. They haven’t knocked people off the ball like I thought” though “Jake Long hasn’t been there. I don’t know if Vernon Carey can play guard.”
Dick Anderson asserts the franchise “is on the right track” and said sticking with Henne over trading for Kyle Orton was wise because Orton “is out for himself, not a team leader.” But “I don’t know an offense that will work without a really good offensive line. The right side is the weakest part.”
The last word to Buoniconti: “My big concern is when you have a guy that has won more games than anyone in the history of football and don’t pick up the phone and ask him what is wrong with the team, then there’s a problem. They haven’t asked for Don Shula’s advice. He may be up in years but his brain isn’t.”
### One Dolphins veteran said players were surprised A.J. Edds was cut, noting he played well in camp and insisting he is a better linebacker than Austin Spitler, who was kept. But the player said Spitler is better on special teams… There’s excitement internally about safety Reshad Jones’ potentially expanded role – one player reiterated the belief he will offer more big-play ability than Chris Clemons. “Wherever the ball is, you’ll see me,” Jones assured us. “I pattern myself after Ed Reed.”
### Several players have complained over the years about Sparano’s hollering. But Sparano said Saturday, “They know if I’m going to say something to them it’s going to be the truth. Sometimes you say things you shouldn’t say.” Of his demonstrative reactions caught on camera, he said, “I’m not really for everybody. But I think I’m for this team.”… Among the free agents the Dolphins summoned for visits in recent days: former Vikings tight end/fullback Jeff Dugan (27 career catches) and ex-Broncos safety Darcel McBath (the 48th pick of the 2009 draft).
### While the Dolphins ruled Charles Clay out for Monday’s game and Daniel Thomas questionable (both with hamstring injuries), the Patriots listed 12 players as questionable, including Albert Haynesworth but most importantly, very good starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who has back issues and whose possible absence would help Miami.
### MGM Resorts and 11 other Nevada casinos dropped the Dolphins’ over/under for wins from 8 to 7 ½ because so many people were betting they would win fewer than eight. Those casinos also changed the Dolphins’ odds of winning the Super Bowl from 40 to 1 to 65 to 1 – only eight have longer odds.
### The Marlins decided the first event at their new stadium in March will be a high school or college game (with capacity limited to 5000); they want to then play UM, FIU and the Yankees at their new digs before the Cardinals game April 4, which will be MLB’s regular-season prime-time opener and carried on ESPN. The Marlins then will go away for a week before returning for their first home series April 13-15 against Houston.
### The Marlins haven’t ruled out trading a player (certainly not a key one) for top managerial choice Ozzie Guillen, but prefer not to, and will wait until his availability is known before moving on to anyone else…. Hanley Ramirez would apparently be willing to play third base if the Marlins signed his good buddy, Mets All-Star free agent shortstop Jose Reyes: “It would be nice to play next to him. He's an energy guy.”
### UM is now hopeful tackle Seantrel Henderson can return from back surgery by early to mid October, perhaps for the Oct. 1 Bethune Cookman game… Aldarius Johnson’s family said he plans to make a final appeal to Al Golden for reinstatement, but Johnson’s rules violation (sending a tweet asking for strip club suggestions) was his latest of several missteps, and UM would need to have a dramatic change of heart to bring him back. UM also says the NCAA is still investigating Johnson. Johnson is off UM’s official roster and likely wouldn’t play much even if he hadn’t been suspended.
### A prominent athletic director who has dealt with the NCAA extensively said the four-year statute of limitations won’t help or apply to UM’s case because “it’s the same pattern of behavior” with Nevin Shapiro. “They will go past the four years.”
But a UM official said the school believes none of the former Canes who are no longer in college will talk to the NCAA, and Shapiro’s allegations against them will be very difficult to prove. Donna Shalala recently told her coaches it’s too early to tell how severely UM will be punished.