Dolphins

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross calls scandal 'a wake-up call,' backs Mike Pouncey

 

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross plans to cooperate with the NFL on any future punishment center Mike Pouncey receives.

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

Stephen Ross acknowledged Tuesday that the team’s ugly bullying scandal was embarrassing for a once-gold standard organization.

But Ross added that such an incident was bound to come to light somewhere in the NFL, given the widespread lack of civility in today’s culture.

And he unequivocally backed alleged bully Mike Pouncey, the only one of the three players implicated in Ted Wells’ report still on the team.

Furthermore, Pouncey remains in a position of leadership; he was one of two players the Dolphins asked to take visiting free agents to dinner earlier this month — a role that Ross said he’s comfortable with.

“I think everybody can look back and reflect,” said Ross, speaking to reporters after the second day of the NFL’s annual meeting. “We all can get caught up in certain things, and you go with it.

“But I think he’s an outstanding young man,” Ross continued. “Certainly, an excellent football player. I think he will turn out to be one of the real leaders on our team.”

While Pouncey’s place on the team is secure, his availability for the season opener remains in doubt.

The league has decided that he, Richie Incognito and John Jerry must get a thumbs-up from a mental health professional before being allowed to play again. And even then, they could be subject to suspension.

The Dolphins are OK with the decision and plan to cooperate fully.

“It was a moment that was probably going to take place somewhere,” Ross said. “They’re always going to refer to [this as] the situation with the Miami Dolphins. But everyone knows this wasn’t unique to the Miami Dolphins.”

Ross added: “This was a wake-up call.”

Like the owners’ meetings in general, Ross’ 16-minute briefing was heavy on locker room code of conduct.

But he also touched on a range of other issues, from the passing of Bills owner Ralph Wilson — he gave his condolences — to the team’s $350 million plan to renovate its aging stadium, which Ross will pay for himself.

“It’s a lot of money,” he said, chuckling.

In return for footing the bill, Ross is asking for some $4 million in annual tax relief, which has been met with resistance by the city of Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“We’re talking to them,” Ross said. “We’ve had some good meetings. I understand the needs of Miami Gardens. I’m optimistic that we’ll get there.”

Despite deciding to foot the entire bill himself, Ross said he still expects to be eligible for the league’s G-4 funding, a stadium grant given to teams that make capital improvements via a public-private partnership.

“I was asked, ‘why did you buy the Miami Dolphins?’ Because I can afford it,” Ross said. “Why am I going to [pay for the renovations]? Because I can afford it and I want to do it right. I want to make this a winning team. I want to make it the best it is, both on and off the field. That’s part of it.”

As for the football end of his franchise, coach Joe Philbin and first-year general manager Dennis Hickey are “joined at the hip,” he said. When asked if there is more harmony now than under previous GM Jeff Ireland, Ross responded: “No question about it.”

And despite a strong desire to return to the playoffs after missing it the previous five years, Ross wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break year for Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

“Right now, we’re worrying about the season,” Ross added. “We’re putting it together. I think it will take care of itself. I’m not worried about the following year. I’m worried about this year.”

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