Sometimes you need to get away – far away – to put things in perspective. Like going to Switzerland for a couple of weeks, which my wife and I did in early July, and sitting there near the top of the Alps, a frigid wind blowing in our faces, a clear blue sky lighting up the world, a football season seemingly light years away.
So as I looked out at this unforgettable picture, as I sipped on a cup of steaming hot chocolate, as I gazed up at the incredible site of the Matterhorn standing there above all the other mountains in its majestic splendor, I noticed a man in the crowd wearing a tattered Dolphins’ cap and suddenly I realized how small this world really is.
“How long have you been a fan,” I asked him, wondering at first if he understood a single word I was saying.
“Forever,” came the reply.
And those were the only words we spoke.
Sometimes you need to take a step back before going forward, a step back before embracing the challenges of a new season, a new coach and undoubtedly a new direction. Sometimes it takes the sight of an old Dolphins cap halfway around the globe to help you understand how much a team is beloved and how so many are counting on the right decisions being made to get this franchise back on track.
Guess you can leave football for a few weeks – or at least try to – but football never really leaves you. The man in the Dolphins cap at the top of the Alps certainly reminded me of that.
So with batteries recharged, with those picture postcard days in the Alps suddenly seeming like so long ago, and after an offseason of watching the Dolphins let go and move on, we turn the page to the start of another training camp, one whose importance on so many fronts simply can’t be overstated.
The last six weeks or so have given all of us a chance to reflect, a chance to further absorb everything that has transpired since the close of last season and a chance to come to terms with the expectations heading into this season.
Now that countdown begins in earnest. The next couple of months will be so crucial to the short-term success and long-term development of this team. Every training camp is important; every one has its own unique set of storylines. We hear that every summer. But it’s hard to paint this particular camp in this particular summer without a level or urgency that separates it from so many others.
There is so much uncertainty, so many decisions to be made, so many positions to be won and so many roster spots to be earned, you’ve got to wonder how first-year coach Brian Flores can possibly sort through it all in the time that he has. But if there is anything we learned during OTAs and rookie and mini camps, it is that there is a sense of confidence and commitment in Flores that belies his relatively young coaching age.
He gets it. He embraces it. He understands the enormity of it all. He is clearly ready for the greatest challenge of his coaching life.
Over the next few months, I’m going to be chronicling how it all unfolds, giving you a dose of insight and perspective into every storyline and position battle. We’ll follow everything from who’s going to start at quarterback – undoubtedly the No. 1 priority – to who’s going to make the team. We’ll introduce you to many first-year Dolphins because this roster will certainly have more than its normal share, but we’ll also revisit a solid young nucleus of talented players who in so many ways will determine how quickly the wins start coming. We’ll explore the X’s and O’s and dig deep into the how’s and why’s.
There is no denying that this team faces a formidable challenge with a new system, a new mindset, so many new pieces and even a new way of practicing. That only underlines the importance of making the most of every workout and every scrimmage. What we need to see is growth, individual growth and team wide growth and that’s something that will be measured on a day-to-day basis.
It starts Thursday morning on a sweltering practice field in Davie, a football team gathering together with a mountain to climb, not as imposing as what I witnessed in the Alps, but a formidable one nonetheless that will ultimately define who they are and what they might become.
With all of that in mind, fill up that water bottle and apply plenty of sunscreen, it’s time for this journey to begin.