The sting should last until the Super Bowl for the Miami Dolphins, then ‘you got to let it go’

Miami Dolphins Mike Pouncey and Jarvis Landry keep warm as the game slips away in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL Wild Card Playoffs on Sunday at Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)
Miami Dolphins Mike Pouncey and Jarvis Landry keep warm as the game slips away in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL Wild Card Playoffs on Sunday at Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

 

DAVIE – Branden Albert was stuffing everything he could into a clear plastic bag.

Clubhouse attendants were taping shut cardboard boxes with sticky notes that included the address where the box should be mailed.

Andre Branch was rushing so he could make the drive across Alligator Alley and up I-75 to Tampa to watch his alma mater, Clemson, play Alabama in Monday’s College Football Playoff championship.

The Miami Dolphins locker room on Monday had all the signs of the end of another season.

“It’s always tough ending the season because you’re going to be sitting at home on the weekend and watching other teams play for championships,” center Mike Pouncey said. “The camaraderie we built on this football team and the togetherness we have on this football team, it sucks seeing everybody having to separate and go their different ways.”

Moving day was bittersweet for the Dolphins. Most acknowledged going from 6-10 to 10-6 and ending the season with a winning record and in the postseason for the first time in eight years was a significant step.

But that also meant if a team is in the playoffs and unless it wins the Super Bowl, the season will end with a loss. For Miami being dominated by the Steelers 30-12 in the wild card round made it difficult to look at the big picture.

“We truly believed in this room we could make a run, a serious run,” receiver Kenny Stills said. “We truly believed that. We feel like we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.

“I’m sick about the game but I still understand where we’ve come. It’s something you can be proud of but it’s not something to hang your hat on.”

Significant steps were taken under first-year coach Adam Gase, especially considering playoff talk wasn’t even realistic after Miami lost four of its first five games.

But a 30-15 victory over the Steelers in Week 6 was the turning point as the Dolphins won nine of their next 10 games.

And even though that was Miami’s only victory over a team with a .500 record or better (the Dolphins were 1-6 in such games including the playoffs, 9-1 against teams under .500) that wasn’t about diminish what was accomplished during the regular season.

“It was successful,” safety Michael Thomas said about the season, “based upon how this team was performing in the most recent years. We’re resilient and we overcame a lot of adversity, especially when it came to injuries.

“Our goal was to make it to the playoffs, and we got out in the first round. Successful? Yes. But definitely not satisfying.”

Offensive lineman Jerman Bushrod believes the sting will last as long as football still is being played, which means another month as the division playoffs and conference championships lead to the two-week buildup to the Super Bowl.

But after a champion is crowned the 2016 season officially comes to an end.

“It’s going to be tough to deal with, but after the Super Bowl you got to let it go,” Bushrod said. “It’s a new year. It’s definitely tough anytime you get into that dance and you don’t do what you need to do.”

Then the pressure is on vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier to patch holes and deliver Gase a team he can work with to take the next step and enable the franchise to win a playoff game for the first time since 2000.

“I feel like it’s coming,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “We’re not all the way there, but we started something under Gase and the staff that he’s brought in that will allow us to do something special here in the future.”

 

Free agent WR Kenny Stills on returning to Dolphins: We’ll ‘do whatever we can to make that happen’

 

Dolphins' Kenny Stills catches a third quarter pass as Pittsburgh Steelers' Artie Burns defends during the Steelers Wild Card Playoffs victory on Sunday. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)
Dolphins’ Kenny Stills catches a third quarter pass as Steelers’ Artie Burns defends during Pittsburgh’s Wild Card playoff victory on Sunday. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

DAVIE – Kenny Stills started every game this season and led the Dolphins with nine touchdowns. He had the third-most catches (42) and receiving yards (726) behind Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker.

And now, with the Dolphins and their 24-year-old receiver entering their first negotiations together as Stills becomes an unrestricted free agent, Stills is saying all the right things.

“I don’t know how to say how much I want to want back here, I want to be back here, yeah,” Stills said. “I mean, I love this team. I love these guys. We did something really special after starting 1-4 we did something very special. We are going to do whatever we can to try to make that happen.”

Stills was acquired from New Orleans two years ago and has caught 69 passes for 1,166 yards and 12 touchdowns since. But 2016 clearly was the better of the two seasons, which was good timing for a player in a contract year.

Now the questions is how much money the Dolphins’ fastest receiver is going to command on the open market and will Miami be willing to pay that?

Stills made $1.671 million in 2016, the final year of a four-year, $2,354,452 contract he signed with the Saints.

Stills, who had five catches for 82 yards in Sunday’s loss at Pittsburgh that eliminated the Dolphins from the playoffs, likes the team’s direction. He said on Monday the Dolphins have a lot to learn about what it takes to succeed in the playoffs. Stills played in two playoff games with New Orleans in 2013.

“A lot of people say we’re young and we need to mature,” Stills said. “It’s knowing when you get in the playoffs you can’t start slow, you can’t turn the ball over, you can’t have penalties.

“The way we played (Sunday) wasn’t good enough. Sometimes things like this have to happen for you to learn that lesson that needs to be learned. I definitely think the guys understand the way this feels and they don’t want it to happen again.”

Defensive end Andre Branch, also an unrestricted free agent, was more definitive in his desire to return. Branch signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Dolphins last year and finished second in sacks with 5.5. Cameron Wake led the team with 11.5 sacks.

“I love this place,” said Branch, who spent his first four seasons in Jacksonville. “They believed in me when not too many people did. I appreciate them for that. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t know what the future holds but I had an amazing time this year.”

No one enjoyed Dolphins’ playoff loss more than Miko Grimes

Dolphins record-breaking WR Jarvis Landry says he’s not thinking about contract right now

Jelani Jenkins unsure of his future with the Dolphins 

 

 

Dolphins record-breaking WR Jarvis Landry says he’s not thinking about contract right now

 

Jarvis Landry of the Dolphins is tackled by the Steelers' Ross Cockrell after catching a pass during Pittsburgh's AFC Wild Card victory Sunday at Heinz Field.(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Jarvis Landry of the Dolphins is tackled by the Steelers’ Ross Cockrell after catching a pass during Pittsburgh’s AFC Wild Card victory Sunday at Heinz Field.(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

DAVIE – Nobody has been more productive in NFL history through his first three seasons than the Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry, who is tied with the Giants’ Odell Beckham for the most receptions with 288.

All of which means Miami is not about to let their No. 1 receiver, whose contract expires after the 2017 season, get away.

Landry made about $736,000 this season, is due $894,000 in 2017, and the Dolphins are expected to offer Landry an extension this offseason.

Landry, though, was not in the mood to talk about his contract today, less than 24 hours after the Dolphins were eliminated from the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-12, in the wild card round.

“I’m not even thinking about contracts right now,” Landry said.

Landry, 24, had a game high 11 catches for a team-high 102 yards Sunday. He had 94 catches during the regular season, fourth-most in team history, for 1,136 yards, which was eighth most by a Dolphins receiver in a season.

Though disappointed the way the season ended, Landry believes the Dolphins have set a new standard by making the playoffs.

“We see it that way and we’re going to approach the offseason that way and guys are going to get better,” he said. “Try to start this run over again.”

And what gives him the confidence this is a start and not a one-year blip?

“Just the people that we have top to bottom in this organization,” he said. “The guys that they’ve brought in and the things that we’re trying to do here makes me as confident as anybody in this organization in this team. That’s the best way moving forward.”

2017 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins will select No. 22

 

Dolphins WR Kenny Stills says drop will make him stronger

 

 

Kenny Stills was wide open when he dropped this pass from Ryan Tannehill on Sunday.
Kenny Stills was wide open when he dropped this pass from Ryan Tannehill on Sunday.

DAVIE – Wide receiver Kenny Stills was anxious to get on the field today, even on a day when players did not practice, instead arriving at the Dolphins facility to attend team meetings and receive treatment.

“I’ve got a football in my hand right now,” he said while talking to the media. “I want to go outside and catch some more balls.”

It was the ball that Stills did not catch during the Dolphins’ 12-10 loss in Seattle on Sunday that is the topic of much of the conversation.

Stills was wide open – about as wide open as you will see a receiver on a long pass in the NFL – when he dropped the potential 71-yard TD pass from Ryan Tannehill in the second quarter.

The ball hit him in the hands and bounced away.

“I felt like when I saw the ball come out (of Tannehill’s hand) potentially it could be a jump ball,” Stills said. “I thought somebody was there with me. I didn’t realize until I dropped the ball that no one was around.”

Stills, who finished with one reception for 16 yard, continues to look for the silver lining in a play that may have cost the Dolphins a huge upset.

“It’s one of those things that, we mess up, and I see it as an opportunity to make me stronger,” Stills said. “I’m going to go out there and continue to do what I’ve been doing, work hard and the next time I get an opportunity I’m going to make the play.”

“It’s not something that happens to me all the time. It’s going to make me stronger. I’ll go out there and make plays for this team.”

 

Dolphins, DeVante Parker hopeful he can be ready for Patriots game

Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (11) has missed time the season while dealing with a hamstring injury. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (11) has missed time the season while dealing with a hamstring injury. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE – Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he “was close” to activating wide receiver DeVante Parker for Miami’s opener in Seattle. Yet, Gase could not assure that Parker will be ready for Sunday’s game in New England.

“We just want to make sure we get him as close as possible where feel we’re not going to have another setback,” Gase said. “Is it going to be this week? I would love it. We need him to practice, we need him to push himself. I know he’s trying to do that. I see how he’s rehabbing, I see how he’s working out, he’s running. It’s just how everybody feels right before that game.”

Parker, a second year player from Louisville, has been in and out of practice for most of training came while dealing with a hamstring issue. He was on the field for the first time all week on Friday in Seattle but was limited.

Parker said today he feels like he’s “close” to 100 percent.

“It’s feeling a lot better,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this week and see how it goes and hopefully come back.

“I’ll run a little bit tomorrow and see how it feels and go from there.”

The Dolphins are starting to question Parker’s durability. Parker, too, is frustrated.

“It is frustrating seeing everybody out there having fun and I’m on the sideline just watching them and now being out there,” he said. “You don’t want to go out there and rush something and then hurt it again.”

Jarvis Landry lead all receivers in Sunday’s 12-10 loss with seven receptions for 59 yards. Aside from Landry, Dolphins wide receivers combined for three catches for 30 yards.

“At the end of the day for me I was like if he goes out there and something happens and we lose him for four more weeks or something, then, for one game?,” Gase said.

[Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Jay Ajayi being left behind for opener: ‘we’ve cleaned that up’]

[Dolphins injury report: DE Mario Williams in concussion protocol, no timetable for return]

 

 

 

Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Jay Ajayi being left behind for opener: ‘we’ve cleaned that up’

 

Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi on exercise bike during training camp. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi on exercise bike during training camp. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE – Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi is back with the Dolphins.

Ajayi did not travel to Seattle for the Dolphins season opener for undisclosed reasons. The team did say it was not injury related.

“He’s back in meetings, he’s back in the building,” coach Adam Gase said today. “We left him back, that was my decision. We’ve cleaned that up, we’ll move past that.”

Ajayi did not talk about the team’s decision to keep him back or Gase’s comments. When approached in the locker room he said, “I’m about to go shower,” before adding with a wide grin, “and I may not come back.”

Later he was seen leaving the locker room wearing a towel and carry a fully packed backpack.

Ajayi, the second year player from Boise State, was beaten out for the starting running back spot by veteran Arian Foster. Foster had mixed success in the Miami’s 12-10 loss to the Seahawks.

Foster was second on the team in receiving, with three catches for 62 yards, including a 50 yarder.

But Foster managed just 38 yards on 13 carries, a 2.9 average.

[Dolphins injury report: DE Mario Williams in concussion protocol, no timetable for return]

 

 

Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell on defending Seattle QB Russell Wilson: ‘Be disciplined’

 

 

Byron Maxwell when he was a member of Seattle's 'Legion of Boom' defense.
Byron Maxwell when he was a member of Seattle’s ‘Legion of Boom’ defense.

MIAMI GARDENS – Byron Maxwell spent three years getting to know teammate Russell Wilson while facing the Seahawks quarterback each day in practice.

Still, Maxwell, acquired by the Dolphins this season after one year in Philadelphia, isn’t sure he can adequately prepare his fellow Miami Dolphins defenders for what they will face in Sunday’s season opener in Seattle.

“Practice is totally different than in the game,” Maxwell said. “Russ, sometimes I don’t want to say he’s a gamer, but the things he can do don’t necessarily show up in practice. He can escape. That’s a big part of his game.

“Really, practice can’t tell you what he can do.”

Maxwell spent his first four seasons with the Seahawks, a stint that included two Super Bowl appearances, including the 2013 championship. After signing with the Eagles last year he was traded to the Dolphins in March in a deal that including swapping first round picks.

Maxwell’s Dolphins debut also will be his first game against his former team.

“We did some special things,” Maxwell said about his time in Seattle. “We accomplished a goal not to many people do. They’re my brothers. I kind of want to shut that down until after the game.”

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said a player going against his former teammates can be advantage but it also can hurt if he start to “overanalyze” the opponent.

“You start overanalyzing everything and. … it goes overboard,” Gase said. “Sometimes players being able to study guys on their own, coming to their own conclusion, that’s sometimes a better way to go about it.”

Maxwell and the defense will spend most of the week on Wilson, the three-time Pro Bowler who has thrown for 13,974 yards and 106 touchdowns. Gase was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator when Wilson was coming out of Wisconsin. His biggest takeaway from that year was Wilson’s ability to push the ball down the field.

“And it hasn’t changed since he came out of college,” Gase said. “The way he came out, really a staggering completion percentage (72.8 percent his senior season) and his ability to keep plays alive.

“You can really have a massive breakdown and he’ll make something happen. He’s been that way since he’s been in the league from probably the first day and it just seems like he’s been growing ever since.”

And the best way to defend him:

“You definitely have to be disciplined with your eyes,” Maxwell said. “Your eyes can’t be in the backfield because he can escape. You’ve got to know that plays are going to be extended. Be disciplined. (And) he has a big arm. He can make all the throws.”

For Maxwell, being a part of the “Legion of Doom” defense that allowed the fewest points in the league three consecutive seasons and winning the 2013 Super Bowl by shutting down Peyton Manning (and offensive coordinator Adam Gase) and the Denver Broncos, 43-8, was the pinnacle.

Now, he believes the Dolphins can forge their own defensive identity.

“It takes great players, good coaches,” he said. “To me, it takes depth too. The first guy’s got to be good, but the second guy has to be just as good.

“But we’ve got that here. It just takes experience at the same time, going out there and doing it. Putting the work in. We’ve got to do that now. We’ve got to do a couple of things that are on that list. But we’re definitely capable of being that.”

 

 

Dolphins DT Earl Mitchell planning to be ready for regular season opener

 

 

Dolphins DT Earl Mitchell is starting to ease himself back into practice after long layoff because of a calf injury.
Dolphins DT Earl Mitchell is starting to ease himself back into practice after a long layoff because of a calf injury.

DAVIE – Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell has missed nearly a month of preseason camp with an injured calf but he expects to be on the field when the Dolphins open the season Sept. 11 at Seattle.

Mitchell was asked on today if he’d be “shocked” if he weren’t ready for the regular season.

“Yeah,” he said.

Mitchell, 28, has not played in the preseason and it is unknown if he could take a few snaps in Thursday’s preseason finale against Tennessee.

“I’m feeling good,” Mitchell said. “I just started pretty much getting an opportunity to go out there and practice and be back out there with the guys. I’m excited about that.”

When asked why he has not been able to get back on the field, Mitchell said, “It’s just complications. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint. It’s one of those things.”

One of those things that has frustrated him for nearly a month.

“It’s been really tough for me,” he said. “I’m not really used to missing time like this and it’s not my style to sit out and watch my teammates practice. But I’m just trying to get better and just be ready for the season.”

Mitchell missed four games last season because of calf and back injuries.

Mitchell is listed as the first team defensive tackle along with Ndamukong Suh. Jordan Phillips is expected to start if Mitchell is unable to play.

[Dolphins Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Laremy Tunsil return to practice]

[Miami Dolphins OG Laremy Tunsil admits ‘I still need some work’]

[Miami Dolphins’ Michael Thomas wishes ex-teammate Colin Kaepernick ‘had more support’]

 

 

Miami Dolphins OG Laremy Tunsil admits ‘I still need some work’

 

Dolphins OG Laremy Tunsil is expected to start his third straight game Thursday.  (Getty Images)
Dolphins OG Laremy Tunsil is expected to start his third straight game Thursday. (Getty Images)

DAVIE – Rookie offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil expects to receive plenty of work in the Dolphins’ preseason finale Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium against the Titans, work that Tunsil says he still needs.

“Looking at the film I feel like I played pretty good,” Tunsil said today about Thursday game against Atlanta. “I still need some improvement. I still need some work.”

Tunsil, the Dolphins first round draft pick, moved into the starting left guard spot for the second preseason game against Dallas, replacing Dallas Thomas. Tunsil has started the last two games and is expected to retain the position when the season opens Sept. 11 at Seattle.

“I’m going to continue to get better every day,” Tunsil said. “Keep listening to the coaches, keep listening to the vets.”

The offensive line showed progress last week against Atlanta. The Dolphins did not allow a sack after giving up seven the first two weeks.

When Tunsil was reminded he has not allowed a sack the entire preseason he said, “I still got one more game to play.”

Coaches have been cautious when assessing Tunsil’s performance, pointing out still has much to learn.

Tunsil, the 13th overall pick in the draft, is making the switch from left tackle, the position he played at the University of Mississippi.

“It’s a new position, everything happens quicker,” he said.

Tunsil returned to practice today after leaving Monday’s workout early when his foot got caught in the turf.

“He’s all right,” coach Adam Gase said. “I think he just got scared more than anything.”

[Dolphins’ Michael Thomas wishes ex-teammate Colin Kaepernick ‘had more support’]

[Dolphins RB Arian Foster says NASCAR’s Tony Stewart is ‘fueling hatred’ over Colin Kaepernick controversy]

 

 

Miami Dolphins RB Arian Foster says NASCAR’s Tony Stewart is ‘fueling hatred’ over Colin Kaepernick controversy

Dolphins running back Arian Foster says NASCAR's Tony Stewart is fueling hatred. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Dolphins running back Arian Foster lashed back at NASCAR’s Tony Stewart over Colin Kaepernick controversy. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE – Dolphins running back Arian Foster took exception to NASCAR legend Tony Stewart’s criticism of Colin Kaepernick on Twitter.

Foster shot back at Stewart on social media after Stewart tweeted that Kaepernick needs to learn the facts before “running his dumbass mouth!”

Stewart ended his tweet with the hashtag: idiot.

Foster, who has never met Stewart, responded by tweeting, “how about attempting to educate him via your views instead of fueling hatred. you can get ahold of him if you want.”

Foster told the Post on Tuesday that, “calling somebody a dumbass and an idiot is not only petty but it’s just not helpful.”

Added Foster: “You’re just fueling the hatred. Anytime of racial tension or political tension in this country is going to be one side vs. the other and you’re going to have people who aren’t necessarily educated to all the facts but they cling to what they feel their views are and what they relate to and people who represent those views.

“If you want to be part of the (solution) and you don’t want to fuel hatred, go get in touch with Colin Kaepernick. You’re in NASCAR. You can get in touch with anybody in the NFL if you wanted to, if you’re really interested in an open dialogue. It’s obvious that he’s not.”

Foster said Stewart is just pandering to his fan base.

“Obviously, he’s kind of a right wing, conservative, NASCAR. … that demographic. You’re fueling that demographic that isn’t necessarily educated about everything that’s going on in this country which is, in my views, destructive.

“It’s all about how you approach it. If you approach it by dismissing a man and his views without trying to have an open dialogue and understand where he’s coming from then you’re just part of the problem. If you want to be part of the solution then have open dialogue, which is where I’m at in my life. When I was younger I probably would have shout back at him.”

Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, refused to stand for the national anthem last week as a protest against some of the country’s social and racial problems. He said he will continue the practice until change occurs.

Kaepernick has received criticism from those who believe he is causing a distraction. Foster, though, does not believe in distractions. He said the word is “a made up term for athletes to stay in line and for athletes to not do anything controversial.”

Foster avoids “distractions” by removing himself from the situation.

“Don’t watch the news, stay off social media,” he said. “Don’t talk to him because he’s very passionate about it.

“It’s their choice if they want to be distracted.”

Foster, 30, considers himself a socially conscious person who speaks his mind. He has sought out people who have suffered injustices to learn more about their plight, including his father who grew up in a time in Carson, Calif., when he had to be in his house when the street lights came on.

“At this juncture in my life I’m really about solutions,” Foster said. “The big problem now is nobody really knows what to do. The protests you see with the Black Lives Matter movement and with Colin Kaepernick, we want to do something but we don’t know what to do.

“We’re looking for answers. I don’t have the answers.”