Day 4 Notebook: Players Looking Forward To First Day Off; Other Notes

Posted Jul 30, 2012

Four days of running around in the hot July sun – the last two in full pads – has the 90 players in Dolphins training camp more than ready for their first day off.

One of the key changes made to the Collective Bargaining Agreement last year that helped end the NFL lockout was the implementation of the four-day rule. Teams cannot practice more than four consecutive days, which means tomorrow the players can recover.

“It’s nice. Yeah, just relax and get the body back under you,” said left tackle Jake Long, who plans to sit in the ice tub and rest all day. “But I think this is a good starting point for us. We get a break and then I think we’re going to come back stronger and better.”

South Florida is known for its beaches, which under normal circumstances would be a predictable destination on an off day. But the chance to spend the entire day in air conditioning and out of the heat will be too appealing for most of the Dolphins to pass up.

In addition to the physical benefits this free time means, the ability to rest their brains and spend quality time with their families also is important. Those players with kids particularly will take advantage.

“I’m looking forward to this off day a lot and I probably will be outside a little bit,” offensive guard Artis Hicks said. “I haven’t seen my kids and my wife in four days. My kids went to the beach Saturday and they sent me a bunch of pictures, so I felt a little bit left out. I’ll probably go hang out with them and do some fun stuff with them for a couple of hours tomorrow, just catch up and be dad.”

Coaches approach that off day a little differently, using that time away from the practice field and meeting rooms to break down practice film and fine-tune the plans for Wednesday’s practice. Head Coach Joe Philbin appreciates the need for his players’ bodies to bounce back.

At the same time, Philbin reminded the team of what it takes to excel at this level and to be a true professional at your trade. So he gave the players a little friendly advice on how to use their free time wisely.

“I’m not suggesting that when they walk out of the building here at 5 o’clock that they can’t do something enjoyable and fun, whatever they determine. That’s up to them to determine and not for me to determine,” Philbin said. “But you would really hope that they’d take advantage of the little bit of extra time to get off their feet and maybe get a little extra rest. We’ve got a lot of work out of them in four days so maybe some extra cold tub or hot tub time, maybe a little more time on their iPad or come in and watch a little extra tape.

“I told them in the team meeting, I don’t think you have to do it 24/7 to be great, but I think you have to have a commitment and you have to be serious about what you’re doing. So I would hope that they would be wise, use some common sense, get some extra rest and maybe peek at their trade a little bit.”

Rest assured come Wednesday morning, Philbin will make sure everyone’s up to speed on the playbook and those that didn’t take his advice will be easy for him to spot.

BAKER STILL AUTOGRAPH KING: Defensive end Ryan Baker ranks at the top of the list of fan-friendly players when it comes to participating in community events. During training camp for the last three years he has no competition when it comes to signing autographs.

Day in and day out the 6-foot-5, 302-pound gentle giant is always the last player off the field and makes sure that no fan leaves empty handed. Philbin’s new routine of having the offensive players head straight to the weight room one day and the defensive players the next has cut into Baker’s streak, but it doesn’t appear that he will dethroned.

“He’s going to win it every year,” Hicks said. “Anytime you get to go out and sign autographs, that’s a great thing, especially for these kids because we were all there at one point. All of us grew up loving football and so when you get to meet one of these guys you’re meeting your heroes. No matter if I’m out eating dinner, I’ll never get offended when people come up to me and ask me for an autograph. I’m thankful for that so yeah; I’m one of those guys like Baker. I’ll sign until the last person leaves, too.”

This is Hicks’ first year with the team, but wide receivers Davone Bess and Roberto Wallace have been around the team and Baker long enough to know that what Baker does isn’t an act. Wallace respects the fact that when some of the other players are rushing to get out of the heat and into the cold tub, Baker is still out there signing.

For Bess, he tries to emulate Baker a little because he is a people person, but he also puts a priority on getting extra work done on the JUGS machine and in the weight room. Sometimes that means he has to leave the field a little earlier, which is why he appreciates Baker.

“I commend him for that because the fans are a big reason why we are what we are and we are who we are,” Bess said. “They come out here and sit in this hot sun and sweat by just watching us, so it’s a good thing.”

DOLPHINS TIDBITS: The team practiced on the far field for the first time, allowing for the field closer to the bleachers to recover from the trampling it took over the first three days. Although the fans had to strain their eyes a little bit they were educated enough to know when to cheer and when not to cheer. … Rookie wide receiver Jeff Fuller, an undrafted free agent who played with first-round pick Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M, continued to stand out in both 7-on-7, one-on-one and team drills. Early on in practice he made a nice one-handed catch of a deep ball thrown by Pat Devlin with cornerback Nolan Carroll draped all over him. He finished out the practice with a couple of quality receptions in the two-minute drill. … In keeping with the scheduled rotation, David Garrard took the snaps with the first team while Matt Moore worked with the second and third teams. Tannehill took 98 percent of the snaps on the other side of the field, with Devlin filling in sporadically. … After the defense dominated Sunday’s first full-pads practice, the offense huddled as an entire unit at midfield before the start of team drills intent on reversing that trend. By the end of the morning it looked a little closer, but Philbin still gave a slight edge to the defense. … Former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon, who is now an analyst for CBS, was on hand at practice. He was there to give a presentation to the players on the role of the media and how to properly deal with them.
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