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Dolphins trying to get DeVante Parker to be a professional

The Miami Dolphins were only a couple of days into their 2016 training camp when receiver DeVante Parker felt a twinge in his hamstring. And then what was a minor nuisance turned into a hamstring strain a couple of minutes later. And as Parker missed practice time the team was figuring out what happened, and why it seemingly happened so often because this wasn't Parker's first injury issue. That's when this revelations came to light:

The Dolphins coaching staff learned that their prized first-round pick of a year ago hadn't really been getting a good breakfast every morning. Some days he'd skip breakfast altogether.

And he wasn't drinking enough water. Indeed, sometimes he wasn't drinking much of anything throughout the day to stay properly hydrated.

And the collective reaction from some in this organization that hired a team nutritionist in the last year and is placing a big emphasis on sports science for their players was, "Whaaaaat?"

DeVante Parker, grown man and physically gifted as he is, didn't know how to be a professional. The NFL is not Louisville, Parker's alma mater where he dominated by using mostly his raw athletic gifts.

The NFL requires more. The NFL requires everything.

And so the Dolphins explained to Parker if he is going to thrive in the NFL, he has to stay healthy. And to stay healthy, the team decided, Parker had to grow up off and on the field.

"A lot of the job of making him a good player has been getting him in a routine of learning to do things in life," receiver coach Shawn Jefferson told me. "He's got to get up every morning and get a good breakfast. Hydrate. You know what I'm saying? So we put a system in place now that I think is going to pay big dividends down the road."

This was almost a month ago. But on Monday, Parker felt a tweak in his leg again. And he stepped out of practice. Again.

And while the Dolphins are still hoping and indeed expecting big things from Parker this season, coach Adam Gase is making it clear the young man has to mature in several respects beyond just taking care of his body.

DeVante Parker has to take care of business on the practice field as well. 

"Parker's going to be day to day right now so we’re just going to keep working with him and strengthening him up," Gase said. "When you’re a second-year receiver, I feel like I’ve been through this a couple of times. I just go back to Demaryius (Thomas), when we were in Denver. It just felt like he was always hurt. It was just one of those things, it was just like one thing after the other.

"The thing is, these guys, the longer they start doing this, the more they realize how much they have to take care of their body, how important it is to practice fast every day ...''

There it is.

"...and make sure they really push themselves because now, all of a sudden, when you go to turn it on, especially on game day and your body’s not ready for it, this is when you can possibly have these kind of issues.

"So that’s been our point of emphasis with him is all the little tiny things that you have to do off the field, in the building, and then when you get out to practice you have to treat every day like a game. Sometimes it takes some guys a little longer to learn than others. Eventually it gets to the point where you get tired of being the guy standing on the sideline.

"I do think he’s a little frustrated as far as he’s been the odd man out all the time. Kenny (Stills) and Jarvis (Landry) have been out there working together now and he’s kind of had to watch. We’ll keep working and he’ll eventually figure it out to where he knows his routine; he knows how to stay healthy, he knows how to push through certain kind of pains where it’s not going to really deter him from where he’s going to miss some games.

"It’s a fine line there, especially at that position. You really have to be locked into your body."

It is a fine line between calling a player out and simply being honest. Gase is being portrayed in some places as having called Parker out. The fact is he doesn't have to do that in the media because this coach does it directly to a player's face. And he's had this career chat with Parker already.

So Gase isn't trying to embarrass Parker. He's doing what a good head coach does. He's trying to help Parker get better.

Parker, for his part, is going to have to learn to fight through pain. And when he feels no pain, he's going to have to practice harder as in at game speed at times.

Remember that last year, coaches didn't want to put Parker on the field because both head coach Joe Philbin and then interim Dan Campbell said they needed to "see it" from Parker in practice. And they didn't see it. Well, that's because Parker wasn't showing it in practice. He wasn't the same guy in practice he was in games (when he finally got the opportunity).

Unfortunately, whatever lesson the last coaching staff showed Parker about working hard during the week to make game day easier didn't seem to stick. Parker, it must be repeated because it seems he forgets, has to practice harder.

DeVante Parker is a kind, laid back, soft-spoken individual. He doesn't play that way. But he practices that way.

He has to stop practicing that way. He has to practice up to his potential if he ever wants to play to his potential. And what is that potential?

"A special talent," Jefferson said. "Trust me, he's a special talent. He's blessed athletically. Trust me. He can do it all."

The Dolphins are in the process of remaking DeVante Parker. They monitor what he eats to make sure he's energized. They monitor what he drinks to make sure he's hydrated. They are nursing his legs. They are trying to help him grow up.

Part of the growth is learning to be a professional. And part of being a professional is going to work every day the team is practicing as well as on game day.