Miami Dolphins coaches report back to work Monday morning after getting vacation time the past few weeks.
(They ain't the only ones, if you know what I mean).
With this return to business and the beginning of training camp on Friday, I must announce that the preparation for the Dolphins' 51st season is upon us. And that's a good thing because, here comes my first prediction of 2016, this is going to be a much better season than 2015.
The 2015 season was supposed to be a grand celebration. It was supposed to be about a golden anniversary, a return to relevance and perhaps even a return to the playoffs. You'll remember there was talk of going for a championship at this time last year.
Didn't quite turn out that way.
The Dolphins stumbled out of the gate, played with no urgency, got their head coach fired, got their defensive coordinator fired, eventually got their offensive coordinator fired, and at the end of a lost year got a bunch of players fired.
So what about the new coaches, new players, and new team?
I like the possibilities.
I think Adam Gase, who comes with a reputation as an offense wiz, is going to prove to be a royal pain in the butt ... for the defensive minded coaches of the AFC East -- Buffalo's Rex Ryan, New York's Todd Bowles, and New England's Bill Belichick.
I've been told Gase is going to be aggressive. "Queasy" is not in his vocabulary. I've been told he wants to prove a point that the Dolphins are done being the division floor mats they were in '15. I've been told this supremely confident young coach is going to deliver a message to his players verbally and by his actions during training camp that everyone must sell out or they won't be part of this team.
That's good. That also sounds kind of like crazy stuff is about to ensue.
Of course, the Dolphins could use crazy stuff because fans have had their fill of the sometimes lifeless, urgency lacking Dolphins we've seen the past three or so years.
There are some pre-camp issues that face these Dolphins prior to Friday's camp opening. Among those:
Will Dion Jordan get his suspension lifted by the NFL in time for training camp?
The team hopes to hear something this week but has no concrete indication which direction that will go. This much is certain: Even if Jordan is activated and returns to the team for the start of camp, it will be hard for him to stick around. He must prove he is worthy of a spot on the team and must do so almost instantly because the Dolphins must pay him a $1,690,209 bonus if he is on the roster the fifth day of training camp.
Giving Jordan that bonus is not a slam dunk. And the only way the Dolphins avoid paying that bonus is by cutting or trading Jordan before the fifth day of camp. So those are distinct possibilities.
There is disagreement within the organization whether Jordan deserves that bonus after serving a one-year (so far) suspension for violating the NFL's substances of abuse policy.
There are those within the organization that see Jordan for his potential and athletic abilities if all goes well. But there are those who have taken a much more dim view of Jordan, seeing him as someone who has as many sacks (3) as drug suspensions (3) since he was drafted with the third overall selection in 2013.
And while the former group believes there's nothing to lose in paying Jordan, because he could almost certainly be a good special teams contributor, the latter group simply has not been convinced by anything Jordan put on tape during his time active that would merit giving him any money, much less a guaranteed bonus.
So a hard decision by the team is coming even if Jordan is activated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
(Note: The Dolphins did try to trade Jordan before, most notably to Chip Kelly in Philadelphia early in 2015. Kelly coached Jordan at Oregon and is now the San Francisco 49ers coach. Jordan worked out in San Francisco much of the past few months as he prepared for his NFL return. And 49ers CEO Jed York happened to work out at the same facility as Jordan. Not saying any dubious communications happened during Jordan's suspension but if a team were to be interested in Jordan, the 49ers could be atop the list.)
PUP players at the start of camp...
The Dolphins have several players whose health status merits scrutiny prior to the start of training camp.
Will running back Arian Foster and defensive end Cameron Wake be full go at the start of camp?
Wake worked in the offseason camps, mandatory camp and the conditioning program. But training camp practices once the pads come on are a different issue. So while he might not be on preseason PUP, the team will definitely be cautious with the defensive end.
Foster only recently was cleared to run and cut but doing that and being 100 percent ready for work in pads is another matter. He's a PUP possibility.
Defensive lineman Jason Jones and wide receiver DeVante Parker also missed significant portions of the offseason nursing assorted injuries so their status early on will be interesting to monitor.
Is everybody happy?
The Dolphins cleared the contract issue cloud with Wake and Reshad Jones this offseason in different ways.
The team wanted to give Wake something of a contract haircut and did just that after trying several times to do so. Jones wanted a raise from the Dolphins and failed to get it after declining to be part of the voluntary offseason program and the first day of mandatory minicamp.
So Wake is good.
He wanted more money. Will that linger?
There is also the idea that receiver Jarvis Landry, fresh off his first Pro Bowl, also will want a new contract before the start of the 2017 season -- the final year of his rookie deal. Will those talks begin in earnest this year or will both parties defer that until after 2016.
My guess is some work will begin on that sooner rather than later this season.
This is an interesting team, folks.
There are a lot of interesting personalities on it.
Arian Foster is ... interesting.
Ndamukong Suh is ... interesting.
Mario Williams is ... interesting.
Ryan Tannehill is ... interesting.
There is nothing wrong with interesting. But interesting can lead to uncomfortable situations when not properly managed.
Training camp is a time for individuals who are loners, who are eccentric, who are sensitive, who are more concerned with themselves, to be brought into the greater whole. Training camp is a time when new guys -- and the Dolphins have 46 of them -- must bond with the coaches and their new teammates.
It is not an easy assignment.
It all begins Friday.