Whoever said the line about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure was an NFL coach. Had to be. Probably in the AFC East.
This is scavenger-hunt weekend in the NFL, cutdown weekend, when more than a thousand players are dumped into the scrap heap. In South Florida, there are two things that make us sweat this time of year (in addition to the humidity making us sweat all year): the eye of a hurricane bearing down on us, and the eyes of Bill Belichick zeroing in on us.
Determining the more destructive force of the two is in your eyes to behold.
You know the drill. Player X gets cut by the Dolphins, fans reflexively jump on social media: Great. Now watch the Patriots pick him up.
Will it be linebacker Junior Sylvestre coming back to haunt? Defensive lineman Julius Warmsley twisting Jay Cutler into a pretzel? How about Matt Darr — a punter, no less — coming back to stick his big foot up Miami’s Darr-iere?
This isn’t paranoia. It’s paranormal. The ghosts of Wes Welker and Larry Izzo and Rob Ninkovich and all their polterheist pals. Whether by waiver wire or in Welker’s case, a great trade robbery, the man who put the fox in Foxborough routinely recycles Dolphins trash into Patriots treasures.
Look at what happened after the 2001 Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl. Four — yeah, four — Dolphins castoffs got together and posed with their Super Bowl rings for a picture gleefully sent to Zach Thomas.
The rings were on their middle fingers.
When he was down in Davie making plays, receiver Chris Hogan was nicknamed “7-Eleven” because he was always open. Didn’t matter. The Dolphins shut the door on him. He eventually wandered into (where else?) the Boston Market and came out $12 million richer.
Ninkovich? His Dolphins career spanned two years and one tackle. Please come to Boston, Belichick says, and in eight seasons, Ninkovich nets 279 solo tackles, 190 assists, 46 sacks and two rings for his middle finger. Oh, and what about the Monday nighter in Miami when Ninkovich intercepted two Chad Henne passes on two consecutive series of a 41-14 blowout?
“I was here as a practice-squad guy,” Ninkovich said after that one. “Now I’m here playing against them. It feels good.”
Izzo made the Pro Bowl as a special teams force in Miami in 2000. Belichick swooped via free agency, and Izzo went on to play six seasons in New England, making two more Pro Bowls and winning more rings (three) than he has middle fingers (presumably two).
Then there’s fullback Heath Evans. Attended King’s Academy. Had a shot of espresso with the Dolphins in 2005. Was cut by Nick Saban on Oct. 25. Eighteen days later, he rushed for 84 yards and a two-point conversion to beat, well, you know darn well whom the Patriots beat.
Belichick had taken a guy who didn’t have 84 yards in any of his four seasons and beat the Dolphins. It’s pure coincidence that Belichick is always picking up castoffs from the upcoming opponent.
“I remember the first day at practice when we thought, ‘Why did somebody release him?’ ” Tom Brady said. “We thank the Dolphins very much for letting him go.”
At least the traffic between the Patriots and Dolphins hasn’t been totally one-sided. In 1969, the Dolphins swung a trade to acquire Patriots linebacker Nick Buoniconti, who was so delighted he considered retiring on the spot. Of course, he didn’t. Buoniconti had a Hall of Fame career and won two Super Bowls.
Meaning he has a total of three rings. Suitable for whichever fingers he chooses.
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Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamper on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.