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NOTEBOOK: Home Opener Has Team Energized; Other Notes

Posted Sep 12, 2012

Home field advantage will be put to the test this Sunday.

Depending upon who you ask, this Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff at Sun Life Stadium between the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders tilts all of the intangibles in Miami’s favor or will have no bearing whatsoever.

Some of the facts that cannot be ignored include the Raiders having to deal with the burden of traveling 3,000 miles across the country on a short week after a tough Monday night loss to San Diego, and having to wear their black jerseys, which attract the sun. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are used to the weather conditions.

“I definitely think it’s an advantage,” said Dolphins Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long, who is now in his fifth season. “We practice in this heat in hotter conditions than we’re probably going to play in Sunday every single day. So we’re used to it, we’re used to sweating a bunch and getting tired in it, so I definitely think it will be an advantage. It’s like when we go to cold games, we’re not used to cold games, but when people come in here, this heat, it hits you if you’re not ready for it.”

Long is more adamant about the weather being a factor than the short week and the travel because he believes Oakland’s first-year head coach, Dennis Allen, will have his team ready to play. That’s the theme that pervaded inside the locker room after today’s practice.

Head Coach Joe Philbin actually recalls beating those elements back in 2006 when he was the offensive line coach for the Green Bay Packers. After falling behind early, the Packers came back to win, 34-24, on October 22nd, so as much as he is looking for every extra edge on Sunday from a loud home crowd to the heat, he is more of a realist when it comes to what truly will decide the outcome.

“I think it really depends on how well our guys block and tackle and pursue and what kind of decision making they play with and what kind of play speed we have and what kind of preparation week we have,” Philbin said. “I think it’s great (the weather) if we’re playing well, but we don’t have control over the NFL schedule or where our opponent plays or what their weather pattern is over there. Really, we’re not concerned about that. This week we’re concerned about tightening up our own ship and finding a way to improve and getting better.”

INJURY UPDATE

Running back Daniel Thomas (concussion) and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (knee) did not practice for the Dolphins. … Wide receiver Anthony Armstrong (hamstring), linebacker Jonathan Freeny (thumb) and defensive end Randy Starks (groin) al were limited. … The Raiders had a much busier injury report coming off of that tough and physical Monday night loss to the San Diego Chargers. Cornerback Ron Bartell (shoulder), long snapper Jon Condo (concussion), wide receiver Jacoby Ford (foot), running back Taiwan Jones (ribs) and linebacker Rolando McClain (ankle) all did not practice. … Wide receivers Juron Criner (ankle) and Denarius Moore (hamstring), center Alex Parsons (shoulder) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour) were limited. … Tight ends David Ausberry (shoulder) and Brandon Myers (shoulder) and safety Michael Mitchell (ribs) practiced in full.

COACH SPEAK

“He’s an explosive player, there’s no question about it, so I think you kind of have to have your radar up so to speak and you want to minimize the impact he can have on the game. He’s an excellent football player, he can obviously take it to the house at any time and we’re going to have to do a great job of tackling and on pursuit, kind of gang tackle him and that’s going to be a challenge for our defense.” – Philbin on trying to defend versatile Raiders running back Darren McFadden

“I don’t think it’s all on the fans, I don’t think it’s all on the players but I think it’s on all of us to create that kind of spirit, that momentum and that positive direction that we’re going to take this franchise and build this thing back up.” – Philbin on the role the crowd should play in the home field advantage

“I think he’s doing a good job. I like the way he practices. I think he hustles, I think he gives good effort and I think it’s important to him.” – Philbin the maturity and development of left guard Richie Incognito

“I thought they were okay but obviously you can’t step on your quarterback and have a sack (referring to right guard John Jerry against Houston). You can’t do that but that’s an unforced error I guess if you will, using a tennis term, but I thought they were competitive. I thought Jonathan Martin competed well and represented himself well and the game wasn’t to big for him.” – Philbin on the right side of the offensive line, specifically right tackle Jonathan Martin

LOCKER ROOM TALK

“They’re a big, physical unit up front. They’re really good at stopping the run and their linebackers run very well, but they’re really physical up front and fast.” – left guard Richie Incognito on the strengths of the Raiders defense

“I enjoy it a lot. I enjoy running behind Pouncey, Incognito and all of the guys up front. They really do a great job at opening up holes for me and I think making it easy for me to go out there and be a playmaker. It’s been great running behind them and I look forward to running behind again this next game.” – running back Reggie Bush on running behind this offensive line

“I think we have a great approach to be able to frankly correct our mistakes and the communication between coaches and players. So I think all of those corrections were addressed and we’ve been working the last couple of days to correct them and we’ll continue to have good preparation.” – tight end Anthony Fasano on his confidence in the offense being able to correct the mistakes from the Houston game

“It was more like just getting back to just playing football and not over thinking it or dwelling on the past. Yes I got sick and yes I got injured, but being able to respond as quickly as I did, I cannot be happier for myself. When the bullets started to shoot my body was ready and it was a blessing, so I’m kind of at a loss for words when it comes to that.” – wide receiver Brian Hartline on his second-half performance last week coming off injury

DOLPHINS TIDBITS

##Two familiar faces returned to the locker room today in defensive linemen Ryan Baker and Chas Alecxih, with Baker being added to the 53-man roster and Alecxih to the practice squad. This is Baker’s fourth time going through the process of being released and then re-signed by the Dolphins, while Alecxih’s fate played out on Hard Knocks. He was thrilled to be back and was actually up in Pittsburgh getting ready to work out with the Steelers when he got the call from General Manager Jeff Ireland. “It was kind of overwhelming, especially getting to see it on HBO. There was a lot of Twitter activity after that,” Alecxih said. “I got the call from Mr. Ireland late Monday, flew out here yesterday morning and here I am. Everyone kind of did a double take when they saw me but it feels great.”

## There was a good musical mix this time around before practice while the team warmed up and stretched, beginning with “Welcome To Jamrock,” by Damian Marley. That fell into the reggae and rap category and was followed by a country music song. The popular rap song “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Jay-Z finished things off.

## Safety Troy Nolan showed some excellent foot control and hand-eye coordination on a nifty interception in the back left corner of the end zone during one-on-one drills.