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Coach Sparano: "I'm Thankful For This Football Team"

Posted Nov 23, 2011

In his exclusive column for Dolphins.com, Coach Sparano discusses the challenges of playing three games in 11 days, the emotions of returning to battle the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and what he is most thankful for this holiday.


How do you deal with the physical challenges of playing three games in 11 days?

TS: You got to do a good job of playing and I think making sure that we take care of rest first. But the rest period needed to happen on the victory Mondays and those types of things. In other words you have to practice during the week. We’ll scale back reps. We’ll look at how we practice and what pace we practice. All that being said you got to get yourself ready to play. It’s just a tough stretch for the players and the coaches. But it’s our job to make it as convenient as possible for the players.

How does this schedule determine which days you practice in pads?

Well we’ve been out of pads the past couple of weeks just to keep the players fresher knowing we were going into this stretch of games and that’s worked out really well for us. It hasn’t really been a factor as of now. We got enough contact during training camp and the first several weeks with our one-a-days. And then we used two in one week, which we were allowed to do. That’s really been it.

Your offensive line has played together for a while now. Has this group grown together over the course of the season?

They’re getting there, yeah, they really are. I think that (Mike) Pouncey is starting to feel a lot more comfortable in there. Vernon (Carey) is more comfortable as a guard. I think the mesh of Vernon and (Marc) Colombo and Richie (Incognito) and Jake (Long) together on the right and left side has been really good. I think they’re all starting to communicate, talk the same language. That’s a close group of guys. They hang out, do things together. I mean really a close group of guys.

How similar players are Cameron Wake and DeMarcus Ware?

Similar players. Obviously DeMarcus he’s been doing a little bit longer at that position certainly than Cam. They’re similar players in that you need to know where they are at all times on the field. They cause problems from a matchup standpoint and they’re moved around. In other words you can see DeMarcus inside sometimes or you can see Cam rush inside at times for us. They try to do a lot of different things with players like that. Offensively you have to pay attention to where they are all the time.

With the short week, when did you and the coaches start game planning for Dallas?

We really started about a week and a half ago just slowly starting to process so it didn’t consume a lot of your time during the work week of the opponent that you’re getting ready to play. But it’s all been done probably about two weeks, a week and a half, two weeks in advance.

How emotional will it be to play the Cowboys after all the years you were there?

It’ll be emotional. I try to keep emotions out of anything that I do. But I spent a lot of time in Dallas and there’s a lot of good people there, good friends that me and my family have there, good people within the organization, players on that team that I coached. So it will be a little bit emotional but when the ball drops it’s all about the Miami Dolphins trying to get a win here and they’re our opponent.

Having been the home team for Thanksgiving games, what did you feel was the biggest challenge for the visiting team?

I always thought it was first of all Thanksgiving game for the Cowboys is hyped up like a Super Bowl almost. I thought everything around the game could be a distraction from the half time shows to the pre game shows to all those things. I think that all that stuff if you don’t keep your eyes wide open to it can get on you in a short work week.

Do you have any specific family memories of Thanksgiving?

Yeah I think probably for me personally Thanksgiving was always a big holiday in my family. I know exactly where my family and my wife’s family will be on Thanksgiving beside watching our game. They’ll all be together someplace at somebody’s house and that was always important. And then growing up as a kid high school football in Connecticut was always played on Thanksgiving Day. You played your rival team so that was always a big day for us as well.

How did you celebrate Thanksgiving when you were annually playing on the holiday?

We did it on Friday. We were fortunate in Dallas that obviously all the games were home. You could of did it Thursday but it would be late. What we chose to do was to do it on Friday as a family and dedicate Thursday and all that goes into Thursday to football and that’s what we’re going to do here with the Dolphins as well.

What Tony Sparano is most thankful for?

First of all my family. I’m just thankful for my family, my entire family, both sides. I’m thankful for this football team, this organization, the people here, all good people.

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