Former first-round pick Stephone Anthony: ‘I have to become starter’ for Dolphins

Stephone Anthony is trying to get his career back on track. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — Stephone Anthony was a first-round pick just three years ago and he’s only 25, but there’s a sense that he’s already running out of time.

The NFL is turbulent, and things change quickly. Anthony was one of the most promising rookies in the league for the Saints, then found himself shipped to the Dolphins for a fifth-round pick last year and is fighting for a job this offseason. He’s battling a rookie, among others, for one of Miami’s starting linebacker spots and he knows it’s a critical point in his career.

“Before I can do anything else,” Anthony said, “I have to become a starter.”

That’s a key step toward righting his career, and he’s in a good position to do it.

While Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan can be marked down as certain starters, the rest of the Dolphins’ linebacker corps is wide open. Third-round pick Jerome Baker is likely to be in the mix, as well as undrafted scrappers Cayson Collins and Mike McCray and returning players Mike Hull and Chase Allen.

Anthony said he’s been taking snaps with the first- and second-team defense during Organized Team Activities.

He’s slightly leaner than last year, checking in at 6-foot-3 and somewhere between 235 and 240 pounds (as opposed to 245), but the most important thing is he’s far more familiar the Dolphins’ scheme than when he arrived.

Miami needed a linebacker when Lawrence Timmons deserted the team early last season and found an eager trading partner in the Saints, who had lost interest in Anthony when he wasn’t producing in their new defensive scheme. After opening with 112 tackles, two defensive scores and an all-rookie selection, he started three games in 2016 and was inactive last year while New Orleans looked to deal him.

Anthony played eight games off the bench for the Dolphins and totaled 15 tackles, plus some special teams work. He showed promise at times, but not nearly enough for the organization to exercise a 2019 option on him last month that would have paid him around $9 million.

General manager Chris Grier and vice president Mike Tannenbaum didn’t explain that decision to Anthony, but they didn’t need to.

“It was kind of what I expected,” he said. “I needed more snaps and there’s a lot that goes into it. But that’s not my job to worry about. My job is going to be to put my best foot forward.”

He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next spring, which heightens the importance of the upcoming season. A good year will put him in position for a long-term deal with Miami or somewhere else. Otherwise, he’ll probably be looking at single-year, prove-it contracts until he shows he’s worth more than that.

One factor working in his favor this season is stability. Having done his best to catch up on the Dolphins’ defense last year, he’s now had a full nine months with the team. He’s been around for all of OTAs and minicamp, plus he’ll work through training camp and the preseason. He had none of those benefits last year.

“The biggest difference is the amount of time I have and the time I’ve spent trying to learn the system and getting myself comfortable with it,” Anthony said.

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke sees that as the only barrier to Anthony being a significant contributor. He said last week, “It’s always difficult to come in the middle of the season, come from a different scheme and pick things up… But he works really hard. He works really, really hard.”

Everything’s more routine for Anthony now, including his living situation. He took up residence in a local hotel for almost a month after being traded to the Dolphins last season, but now he’s settled. That makes life easier.

It helps to have perspective, too. Going from first-round pick to castoff and now trying to climb his way back to the top hasn’t been fun, but he’s learned throughout that journey.

“I think it’s just growth, honestly,” Anthony said. “I think it’s just being in the league, going into my fourth year, understanding the game, how this game is played from the college game and just honing in and packing that information in.”

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Dolphins rookie LB Jerome Baker says you won’t think he’s small once he hits you

Jerome Baker will make a run at claiming a starting linebacker job. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Jerome Baker’s heard it his whole life. Even when he was dominating youth leagues and high school football, everyone kept telling him he was too small.

And at every turn, he’s quieted those concerns. Ohio State and Florida went to battle trying to recruit him, and his time with the Buckeyes was impressive enough that the Dolphins took him in the third round of the draft with the thought that he could be a long-term answer at linebacker.

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They felt good about what he can do at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds with a 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash, and Baker plans to show people once again that there’s nothing small about the way he plays.

“If you ask anybody that plays against me, they don’t mention my size at all,” he said. “Guys say it, but once I actually play against you, you really don’t even notice how small or big I am. It’s all good.”

Baker’s most appealing attribute is his ability in coverage, which would help the Dolphins shore up a deficiency that hurt them last year. He had 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three pass breakups for Ohio State last season.

Miami goes into the season with Raekwon McMillan, another Buckeye, returning at middle linebacker and Kiko Alonso a certain starter on the outside. Baker is competing for role against a group that includes Mike Hull, Chase Allen, Stephone Anthony and seventh-rounder Quentin Poling.

All of the team’s linebackers are taller and bigger than Baker except for Hull (6-foot, 232 pounds) and Poling (6-foot, 235 pounds).

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Miami Dolphins decline 2019 option on LB Stephone Anthony

Stephone Anthony is now in a contract year. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The upcoming season will be a prove-it year for Dolphins linebacker Stephone Anthony.

The former second-round pick will play the final year of his contract and become a free agent after Miami turned down its 2019 option on him. Had the team exercised it, it would have put Anthony in line for a $9.2 million salary next season.

That would have been the highest 2019 cap number for any linebacker currently on the roster.

Anthony, a first-round pick by New Orleans in 2015, will have to fight to secure a starting job this offseason. The Dolphins already have Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso marked down as starters, and the third spot will be up for a competition. Chase Allen (four starts last year), Mike Hull (three) and newly minted third-rounder Jerome Baker all figure to be in the mix with Anthony.

The Dolphins acquired him in exchange for a fifth-round pick in September and played him off the bench in eight games.

“I think we got a good first look at him,” coach Adam Gase said in March. “I thought he did a great job in practice. The times that we got him into games, he did a lot of good things. We’re just going to kind of see how it plays out. I don’t want to promise anything to anybody. I think we’re just going to … Competition is going to be a good thing for us.”

Anthony, 25, was a PFWA all-rookie selection in 2015 before falling out of favor with the Saints. He had 15 tackles last year and goes into the upcoming season with a $1.5 million cap number.

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Five Miami Dolphins players on European tour to meet, greet U.S. troops

Dolphins players Mike Hull (left), Chase Allen, Eric Smith (rear), Ndamukong Suh and MarQueis Gray pose with a U.S. soldier (No. 17 Ryan Tannehill jersey) at Camp Bondsteel in Yugoslavia. (Photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)

Ndamukong Suh, who knows something about defense, got a lesson on the subject on a whole different level.

Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with a soldier at Camp Bondsteel in Yugoslavia. (Photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)

Suh is one of five Dolphins who just visited the troops at Camp Bondsteel, an installation located near Kosovo.

Suh and the team posted a short video on social media Monday showing Chase Allen, MarQueis Gray, Mike Hull, Eric Smith and Suh mingling with soldiers during another of the NFL’s tours in which players visit with personnel, sign autographs and learn about their duties.

“Can I get a picture?” one soldier asks Smith, who replies, “Yes, ma’am. You don’t even have to ask.”

The camp is a 955-acre facility built in 1999 and named after James Bondsteel, a decorated Army staff sergeant in the Vietnam War.

Dolphins linebacker Chase Allen greets a soldier in Camp Bondsteel in Yugoslavia. (Photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)

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What Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Wednesday

Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke has a big task in front of him this weekend against the No. 4 offense in the NFL. (AP)

DAVIE–The Patriots do everything better than the Dolphins, especially on offense.

The list of problems starts with Tom Brady, who’s still good, and continues with Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski. The Dolphins figure to have a really hard time with Gronkowski considering how much success opposing tight ends have had against them.

Here are defensive coordinator Matt Burke’s thoughts on that and other concerns heading into the New England game on Sunday:

–Linebacker Kiko Alonso could be one of the primary players charged with covering Gronkowski. “We ask Kiko to do a lot… and honestly I think he’s been pretty good,” Burke said. “Mentally, matchup-wise, we put a lot on Kiko Alonso. He does a lot for this defense. We always put him on the hardest matchup possible. We put him in spots that are tough for him at times, and he’s going to have his moments, but I’m happy with how he’s played so far.”

–The Dolphins are hoping to mix up coverages from what New England has seen on film in order to make Brady hesitate at least “a half-second.”

–He expects all the linebackers to be available this weekend, and it looks likely the Dolphins will stick with undrafted rookie Chase Allen at middle.

–Neville Hewitt, who was cut because of an injury before the season started, was added to the active roster today. “I’m proud of Nev and the way he’s worked himself back,” Burke said. “When we released him in the preseason… the last thing I told him was to get his body right and there’d be another chance.”

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Miami Dolphins’ Terrence Fede: Crazy error on punt didn’t happen by accident

Dolphins defensive lineman Terrence Fede is about to slip past long snapper Josh Harris (47) as the ball rolls toward punter Matt Bosher.

DAVIE — It was the craziest play on a crazy day.

The Dolphins had to sense things were going their way with 12 minutes left in what would turn out to be a 20-17 victory over Atlanta.

With Matt Bosher in punt formation, long snapper Josh Harris unleashed a short snap Bosher’s way. So short, in fact, it rolled to Bosher, who was tackled by Michael Thomas after a 4-yard gain, turning the ball over to the Dolphins on their 48. Eight plays later, Cody Parkey hit a 49-yard field goal for a 17-17 tie.

The botched snap allowed Michael Thomas (left), who shed his blocker, to tackle Bosher after a 4-yard gain, setting up a field goal for a 17-all tie.

After the game, Thomas admitted he needed to look at the film to figure out what happened. The official stat sheet said the ball hit the upback, but replays failed to show anything of the sort.

By Wednesday, Thomas had his theory: “Pretty much, Terrence Fede scares any long snapper in this league.”

As soon as Fede in turn credited Chase Allen, the bigger picture was becoming clear. Remember the opener, won when the Chargers missed a last-second field-goal try? They credited pressure off the edge by Bobby McCain. See the pattern?

“It’s a point of emphasis on this team,” Fede said.

Fede explained that the fortunate break was set up on Atlanta’s previous punt, when Allen applied heat on Harris.

Terrence Fede believes Bosher’s previous punt, in which Chase Allen (59) brings pressure on Harris, set up the botched snap.

“Chase, the previous play before that, had run the long snapper over, so I think he was pretty rattled about that,” Fede said. “And the next punt, I was lined up in the opposite ‘A’ gap and I guess he was feeling that pressure and was just thinking about blocking before he got the ball back and he happened to dribble the ball back. Mike set the edge, tackled the punter and then that was it.”

So it didn’t hit the upback?

“It didn’t hit anybody,” Fede said. “He just didn’t get the ball back there. I guess he was just nervous about blocking. But I mean, hey, we bring pressure all the time and we love it. We embrace it.”

Pressure is one thing. Blocked punts happen now and then. But long snaps that never leave the ground?

“You don’t see that too often,” Fede said. “I was surprised myself.”

Not often? Have Fede ever seen it?

“Nah, actually,” he said. “That was pretty crazy.”

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Miami Dolphins linebackers undersized, undermanned, but getting it done

Kiko Alonso and the Dolphins’ linebackers are resolute despite their disadvantages. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

NEW YORK—For nearly the entire four months linebacker Chase Allen has been in the NFL, he’s been getting “dog-cussed” by his boss at every turn.

The Dolphins took a flier on Allen after he went undrafted out of Southern Illinois, and defensive coordinator Matt Burke has made it his mission to nail him for every mistake with the intention of grooming him into a pro. Perhaps that’s part of why Allen survived the final roster cut ahead.

Neither Burke nor Allen envisioned him as an opening day starter, however, and that suddenly became necessary when 11-year veteran Lawrence Timmons disappeared shortly before last weekend’s game against the Chargers. Undismayed by the unexpected snag, Burke was exuberant about Allen’s opportunity and ran up to him screaming while he did his pre-game stretching.

“This is why I’ve been (getting on you) all year,” Burke yelled as he grabbed him by the jersey. “This is why you’re here.”

There were some other words that aren’t suitable for this platform, but suffice it to say Burke launched into a raucous pep talk for about two minutes.

At the end of the rant, Allen looked up to see if Burke was done.

“OK, Coach,” Allen replied calmly, then continued on with his stretches.

That’s fairly indicative of the collective personality in the Dolphins’ linebacker corps: unfazed by commotion, undaunted by disadvantageous situations.

Almost anyone outside their building would quickly size this group up as undermanned. They dressed four linebackers last week, asking Kiko Alonso and Mike Hull to play every snap, and won’t be in much better position for Sunday’s game at the Jets.

Alonso and Hull are in line to start again, with Allen likely next in Miami needs three on the field. After that, Justin March-Lillard and recent trade acquisition Stephone Anthony are available. March-Lillard played only on special teams last week, and Anthony might not know the playbook well enough to contribute.

Meanwhile, Timmons remains suspended and Rey Maualuga has yet to play. Miami also lost second-round pick Raekwon McMillan to a torn ACL in the preseason opener.

“We’re doing well so far and we’re taking everything in stride,” said Hull, who had a team-high 10 tackles against the Chargers. “You’ve just gotta find a way to get it done with the guys you have. That’s how it’s gonna be. It’s not ideal, but you find a way.”

They got through last week holding the Chargers to 44 rushing yards but struggling a bit in pass coverage. Despite the Jets being one of the worst teams in the league, they present a challenge with two-time Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte and others. They put up 126 rushing yards in their loss to the Raiders a week ago.

Through all the tumult, Alonso has risen as a somewhat surprising leader. This is a guy who played on three teams in his first four years, then something clicked with the Dolphins last season and he became their unquestioned “alpha dog,” as Burke put it and signed a four-year $28.9 million extension last offseason.

“Kiko’s really grown into his role, obviously, knowing he’s going to be here long term and that he’s part of what we’re doing,” Burke said. “He takes those guys, and Kiko’s level of communication and direction has been awesome, so he’s really helped… They feed off of his energy, and he does a good job of getting everybody lined up. That’s a confident group.”

The belief is so strong in that part of the locker room that they enjoy hearing criticisms that they’re too small, not good enough and there aren’t enough of them—all of which might be valid.

Hull, Allen, March-Lillard had a combined six career starts before this season. Pittsburgh had younger players it liked better than Timmons, and New Orleans seemed eager to unload Anthony. Neither Alonso nor Hull, the top two at the position for now, are much bigger than Dolphins safety Reshad Jones.

But their best trait is that none of it bothers them.

“People can think that stuff, but we know what we can do,” Allen said. “We just go out there on Sundays and prove people wrong.”

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Miami Dolphins LB Justin March-Lillard more than an afterthought

Justin March-Lillard can still be a factor for the Dolphins at linebacker–a position where they badly need help. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—It’s been a bizarre start to the season for the Miami Dolphins, but it’s likely no one on the team has experienced more of a whirlwind few weeks than linebacker Justin March-Lillard.

He was cruising through the offseason with the Chiefs thinking he was playing some of his best football with a strong candidacy for a starting job before they waived him at the roster cut deadline. Within 24 hours, the Dolphins claimed him and launched him into a scramble.

March-Lillard immediately got down to Miami, while his wife and their infant son drove home to Ohio to be with her parents. That happens quite a bit in football—T.J. Yates went through something similar when Miami signed him late last season, and Jay Cutler was plucked from his family in Nashville more recently—but that doesn’t make it easy.

“That’s the rough part of the business, but I feel like there’s a lot of guys that have to go through that,” said March-Lillard, 24. “It’s just one of those things you have to do. We’ve always known that was something we might have to do, so mentally we’re prepared regardless of what happens.

“My agent said it was a great organization and it’d be a good fit. Nick Williams, who was here, reached out to me and said it was a good organization. He’s always had high praise for this organization. When he found out I was coming here he said, ‘You’ll love it.’ It’s been a great transition so far.”

He initially thought his family might stay in Ohio, but now he plans to move them down to South Florida early next month.

His first practice with the Dolphins was two days before the NFL postponed their season opener in advance of Hurricane Irma, prompting the team to release its players to evacuate. Then they reconvened in Oxnard, Calif., to begin a three-week run that has them playing in Los Angeles, New York and London.

Through all the choppiness of the schedule, March-Lillard’s been trying to grasp a completely new defense and set of terminology under coordinator Matt Burke. The sooner he masters that the better, considering Miami had just four linebackers dressed for the Chargers game last weekend.

Kiko Alonso and Mike Hull were on the field every play of that game, a 19-17 win. Chase Allen got 24 percent of the snaps, and March-Lillard was exclusively on special teams.

The Dolphins won’t have much more depth Sunday when they face the Jets. Rey Maualuga remains unfit to play, and Lawrence Timmons is on indefinite suspension. The only change is that they traded for Stephone Anthony, but it’s a big ask for him to be ready to contribute five days later.

March-Lillard, meanwhile, believes he has a fairly good handle on the defense at this point and could get an opportunity to prove it.

He’s been resilient throughout his three-year career, starting with making the Chiefs’ roster as an undrafted rookie out of Akron in 2015. Whatever ground he gained that summer was forfeited when he tore his meniscus in a preseason game.

Nonetheless, he reemerged as a starter for Kansas City in 2016. That looked like his breakthrough until he broke his hand in the fifth game. He had 22 tackles and two pass break-ups in those starts.

March-Lillard was undeterred by the injury, though, and powered through an offseason training regimen that helped him drop from 245 to 228 pounds (he’s 6 feet tall) and set him up to play what he considered his best football when he arrived for Organized Team Activities, minicamp and training camp.

Now that he’s with the Dolphins, he sees his momentum continuing—and they badly need that to be true

“I still feel like I’m the best athlete that I’ve been in a long, long time,” he said.

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Six Miami Dolphins rookies describe game ‘I’m going to remember the rest of my life’

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws under pressure by defensive end Charles Harris of the Dolphins. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

DAVIE — For six members of the Dolphins, last weekend wasn’t just a dramatic opening start to the season, but a start to their NFL careers.

Six rookies shook off jitters and helped the Dolphins defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 19-17. Maybe a year or 10 from now, it’ll be forgotten by many fans. But not these six men.

“It’s a game I’m going to remember the rest of my life,” punter Matt Haack said. “So to be able to look back and say I won my first NFL game with a great group of guys like this, it’s something special.”

How special? Here are their stories.

LB Chase Allen: Starting was ‘kind of a shock’

As if your first NFL game weren’t enough of a nerve-racking experience for a rookie, imagine getting word at the last minute that you’re starting.

“Finding out the night before is always kind of a shock,” Allen said. “But I felt ready.”

Chase Allen

Turns out coach-speak isn’t always just a cliche.

“They told me all week that if anything happens, I’m going in, so to be ready, so I felt prepared,” Allen said.

Chances are “if anything happens” usually doesn’t mean “in case the guy in front of you goes AWOL,” but that’s exactly what happened with Lawrence Timmons.

Not only did Allen start, but he was in on three tackles, including the first play of the game. Talk about a welcome to the NFL moment …

“We brought some pressure and I was untouched and got a TFL (tackle for loss) in the backfield with Kiko (Alonso),” Allen said. “That was like, ‘All right, I knew I could play at this level.’ ”

P Matt Haack: Keeping mouth shut a veteran move 

Who says rookies aren’t smart?

Haack had an underappreciated role in the win. Keeping his mouth shut was half the job.

Dolphins punter Matt Haack. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Haack was the holder when Cody Parkey nailed that 54-yard field goal that beat the Chargers. What was the communication like before and after the kick?

“I try to stay away,” Haack said. “I would assume that he trusts me that I’m going to get it down and everything. I mainly talked with (holder) John (Denney). We warmed up on the sideline together. In a situation like that you kind of let the kicker be.”

Haack’s job is to get the ball down as quickly as possible for Parkey to get a good, long look at the placement.

“You kind of have to go out and treat it like every other kick, but you’re always going to have that in the back of your mind, ‘This is the game-winner,’ ” Haack said.

Haack averaged 43.3 yards on three punts, starting his career with a 53-yarder but following with a 19-yarder.

“It was very uncharacteristic of an NFL guy,” he said. “No one was more frustrated or upset than I was at it.”

Haack said while trying to drive the ball farther, he caught it with the side of his foot and swung across it, “But coach Gase told me not to worry about it, stay aggressive.”

S Maurice Smith: ‘I’m a real NFL player’

Smith hopes many more memories are still to come, but last Sunday seemed about as good as it gets.

Smith is the type of rookie who takes pleasures in the simplest of things. Such as?

Maurice Smith

“The fact that I got to represent everything I worked for,” he said. “I think the fact that we came out of the tunnel and I was just looking up and seeing all those fans out there and actually being able to say I’m a real NFL player. It’s a blessing. That was the best feeling.”

Well, maybe not The Best. Because in the closing seconds, the Chargers missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt, making Smith a winner.

“I knew once I looked at it,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s a miss. It’s wide.’ Once it didn’t go in, it felt like we won the Super Bowl. But it’s just the first game.”

 

DE Charles Harris: Welcome to the … damn!

This isn’t in college anymore.

Harris, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, was reminded of that after his pass-rush attempt.

Charles Harris. (AP)

“I was kind of like, ‘Damn,’ ” he said.

OK, so maybe that puts Harris in the same category as 100 percent of the other rookies. Next, he had to figure out what just happened.

“I went to the sideline and looked at the little pictures of the play,” said Harris, who played 27 snaps and made a tackle. “It was, ‘OK, this is why they have these resources. This is why they have these coaches on the sideline, to help us out, to teach us. This isn’t like college where you can go in and you have a game plan. You have to mix it up mid-game.’

“I think that’s probably the biggest ‘welcome to the NFL,’ that you were switching up what you had been studying all week because you’ve seen something different. Being able to adjust on the fly.”

DT Davon Godchaux: View from trenches quite intense

Godchaux knew playing in the NFL was intense, but his indoctrination was under the most intense conditions you can get.

Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

“When we did goal line, it was pretty rough down there, you know,” Godchaux said. “Welcome to the NFL, rookie. Coach T (DL coach Terrell Williams) always talks about you never want to end up in the back of the end zone. You always want to be across the line.

“But it got real down in that moment.”

The Chargers scored, which reinforced what coaches had been saying.

“You’re usually not seeing guys come off that low (in normal situations),” said Godchaux, who played a rookie-high 32 snaps and made two tackles. “So as a defensive lineman you have to come off first, get them in their charge so they can’t knock you back.”

Godchaux already knows what he’ll tell his kids years from now about last Sunday.

“Your dad played in the NFL and it was pretty good. My first game, we won.”

DT Vincent Taylor: ‘Kind of shed a little tear’ during anthem

At last, a rookie who’ll admit it.

“At the national anthem, I kind of shed a little tear,” Taylor said.

Dolphins defensive tackle Vincent Taylor.

In that moment, Taylor was reflecting on the road traveled to reach the point football players dream of.

“Just knowing everything I’d been through, my journey, going through Katrina and me playing in an NFL game — that was emotional,” he said.

He endured three days without power after Katrina and now was making his NFL debut on the heels of Hurricane Irma. Taylor said fellow defensive tackle Jordan Phillips saw how worked up he was and “told me to make the best of it, take advantage of it.”

Taylor was inserted in a goal-line situation and made a tackle on one of his first pro plays.

“It’s only the beginning,” he said. “I’ve got a long way to go.”

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Gase gives no details on Lawrence Timmons, chooses to talk about those who played

DAVIE – It’s still a mystery what happened with Lawrence Timmons, the Miami Dolphins linebacker who without warning left the team before Sunday’s game in Los Angeles, and for the moment coach Adam Gase is comfortable to leave it that way.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida on June 8, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Asked during a Monday afternoon media session if he has any update on Timmons’ status, Gase said, “No, not currently…I haven’t gotten through Step One yet. I got in a little late last night so I’m kind of dealing with the guys that played.”

Not much to draw from there, except that Gase is annoyed to be dealing with this right now, and unprepared to answer questions about whether Timmons will be with the Dolphins when they head to New Jersey for Sunday’s game with the New York Jets.

As basic as it gets was the question of whether Timmons was in the building Monday at the Dolphins training facility. “No idea,” Gase said, clearly ready to move on to other topics.

It was all a variation on Gase’s theme from Sunday night, when postgame questions on Timmons following Miami’s 19-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers prompted the coach to say “I need to figure some things out before I talk about this.”

There are clues from other sources. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Timmons was scheduled to meet with doctors Monday to figure out what is wrong and that the 10-year veteran wants to return to playing immediately. TMZ reported that the Dolphins filed a missing report when Timmons wasn’t present for bedcheck at the team hotel in Southern California on Saturday night, and that police found him on Sunday morning at Los Angeles International Airport in the boarding area for a flight to Pennsylvania.

“A private matter” is how Timmons’ agent Drew Rosenhaus termed it on a Sunday night television appearance in Miami. It seems everything else will have to wait, unless Gase decides that explanations are unnecessary.

The Dolphins’ second-year coach does not hesitate to send messages to his team about living up to expectations. Last October, for instance, Gase cut two offensive linemen, Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas, who had started the previous week’s game.

Gase said Monday that his rules are simple – “Be on time and play hard.”

And when those rules are violated, what is his tolerance level?

“What do you think?” Gase said. “We’ve got two rules. It’s not hard.”

Of course, few situations of this nature are as simple as they seem. If Timmons’ issue turns out to be medical or psychological in some nature, the Dolphins may be prohibited from commenting.

Either way, the Dolphins players who were interviewed Monday prior to Gase’s media session expressed a desire to have Timmons back as soon as possible. Not just because Miami is dangerously thin at linebacker now, but because the former Florida State star made a lot of friends in the locker room since signing a two-year, $12 million contract in March.

“We don’t turn our back on anybody, regardless of the situation,” Dolphins center Mike Pouncey said. “Obviously we don’t know the full extent of everything but he’s one of us. He’s one of our brothers. We love him and we hope that he gets through whatever he is going through and get back to playing football with this football team.’

Because Timmons’ absence popped up so late in the week, the Dolphins had just four linebackers dressed for the Chargers game. Chase Allen, an undrafted rookie, started the game alongside Kiko Alonso and Mike Hull. Justin March-Lillard also was listed at linebacker but he played mostly special teams against the Chargers.

Alonso and Hull played every snap on defense, 58 each. Allen played less because Miami was in nickel defense so much against Philip Rivers’ passing attack, but the rookie from Southern Illinois helped make the tackle on the first play of the game, a rush for no gain by Melvin Gordon.

Rey Maualuga was out for the Chargers game with a hamstring injury and second-round draft pick Raekwon McMillan, another linebacker counted on to play a lot this season, is out for the year with a knee injury.

“Those guys did a pretty good job,” Gase said of the linebackers who played Sunday. “They did what they were asked to do and they made a lot of tackles between the three of them. We’ll kind of figure that out over the next three days, what we’re going to do and kind of how we want to play. If we have to make some adjustments as to what we want to do personnel-wise, we will.

“That’s what this game is all about. You kind of figure out who you’ve got on your roster and make adjustments.”