It was the beginning of a new era, in a sense, with the new regime opening its first training camp. Those who attended the first practice, which is free to the public, were able to see the Joe Philbin-led Dolphins in action for the first time.
Heading into the season, with so much unknown relative to seasons past, there’s plenty of fan excitement building for the next few months.
“Oh my God, so excited, so stoked,” said Lee Colavecchio, a Dolphins season ticket holder. “I love my section up in 430. We’ve got a great group of people, regulars. Everybody knows each other. It’s such a good environment up there. Even though we’re up in the nosebleeds, it’s just great. I wouldn’t change it even if I could.”
Among the sea of aqua and orange that lined the west sideline, there were plenty of families and young children hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite players.
Long-time Dolphins fans Jeff Creller brought his two sons, each proclaiming that he was the bigger Dolphins fan.
“We don’t miss it,” Creller. “These guys play football for the city of Tamarac, and we’ve got a bunch of other guys coming out from the city today to watch.”
Since fans last saw the Dolphins on the field—a season-ending victory against the New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium—much has changed, both on and off of it.
Throughout the course of the off-season, fans have been able to keep tabs on things from a distance, of course, relying on the local media, Twitter, word of mouth, anything to stay informed during a typically slow part of the NFL calendar.
This, though, was an opportunity to reaffirm what they’ve heard to this point.
Philbin’s arrival and his offensive philosophy notwithstanding, perhaps the biggest storyline—from a fan’s perspective, at least—heading into camp is the state of the impending quarterback competition.
While the competition itself has certainly piqued fan interest, it is what the quarterbacks do in the context of Philbin and Mike Sherman’s new West Coast offense that brought a great deal of people to camp.
“I’m looking forward to, honestly, the offense.” Colavecchio said. “I just want to see how fast they really want to get that offense going. Is it really going to be like a two-minute offense on steroids, basically?”
To those who eat, breathe and sleep football, this first practice means that games are right around the corner—it’s almost like an appetizer before the main course, something to whet the appetite in anticipation of the season to come. Every NFL team starts 0-0, no matter what transpired the season before. Because of the fresh slate, many Dolphins fans arrived at the training camp cautiously optimistic.
The consensus among the fans assembled was that a potential playoff spot is in a play, signifying an understated confidence that the new regime can develop players to make a leap forward.
“It’s hard to say with a new coach and everything. You don’t how the players are going to react to him and what he’s done. He’s never been a head coach before,” Creller said. “The anticipation is there and I hope the defense is still strong, so hopefully a 10- or 11-win season.”
Beyond the typical roster turnover, fans that have attended Dolphins training camp in the past may have noticed a few aesthetic changes, too.
For one, the offense, who typically wore white during practice, has switched to aqua tops, and the defense, vice versa.
Aside from the typical media throng, you, too, may notice some extra cameras patrolling the sidelines during practice. HBO’s Hard Knocks is documenting the behind-the-scenes action at training camp, giving fans that attend practices a look behind the lens, as well.
Also, in an effort to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and the worst of the South Florida heat, practices were moved to 8 a.m. But despite the earlier start time—something that Philbin brought with him from Green Bay—it was still pretty difficult to beat the heat.
For many Dolphins fans attending, though, it was well worth it.
“Yeah, always,” Colavecchio said. “Football’s our sport down here. It’s all we know.”