Brian Hartline has got jokes. This is the man who recently gave Dolphins CEO Mike Dee some good-natured grief over wearing a pair of red slacks to a cocktail party.
So if you’re brave enough to take on the boss, no one’s immune — particularly a newbie such as Brent Grimes, an accomplished but diminutive cornerback who signed with Miami in the offseason.
“It’s a little different going against a guy who’s so short,” Mike Wallace said with a chuckle. “One time Hartline thought [Grimes] was falling down, but he was actually just backpedaling.
“It’s cool though. He’s probably one of the most athletic guys I’ve ever seen. He can jump, he can run, he can do it all. He plays a lot bigger than his height.”
And if Tuesday’s organized team activities — the first of the year open to the media — were any indication, he will be doing plenty of it this fall.
The 5-10 Grimes, less than a year clear of surgery for a torn Achilles tendon, showed no signs of rust or physical limitations during the 90-minute practice.
Playing alongside Richard Marshall with the first-string defense, Grimes was everywhere — covering Wallace on a deep route, and knocking away passes intended for Armon Binns and Rishard Matthews.
He is going to need much more of the same. Grimes, Marshall and a handful of others are just starting what should be the best positional battle of the summer.
“It’s wide open,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said.
Among the candidates for the starting jobs: Dimitri Patterson, Nolan Carroll and rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.
Taylor wasn’t at practice Tuesday. He was in Philadelphia, undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. The recovery time is three to six weeks, but he is expected to be ready by the start of training camp.
Back in Davie, Patterson and Carroll worked with the second string, and Davis started out on the third line of the depth chart.
Grimes and Marshall are coming off season-ending surgeries — Marshall had a back injury that cost him most of 2012 — but Philbin has been encouraged by their recovery.
“It looked like they’ve been moving well,” Philbin said. “They feel good physically.”
The Dolphins feel good in general about the roster they have put together, one that will feature far more competition than many expected.
For instance:• With Randy Starks sitting out practice to protest having been hit with the franchise tag, Jared Odrick took his snaps at defensive tackle.
• Lamar Miller worked predominantly with the first-string offense, but Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee and Marcus Thigpen also got carries.
• Michael Egnew, a nonfactor last season, began team drills with the starters, ahead even of free agent signee Dustin Keller. Philbin said Egnew earned the reps after a strong offseason.
• The starting offensive line was as expected, but Nate Garner — the backup right tackle last season — rotated in at left guard and center.
“It’s a time to experiment,” Philbin said. “It’s a time to look at players at different spots, with different groups.”
Added quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “I think it’s a work in progress. … [We’re] excited about what we did [Tuesday], but we’re also excited about making some corrections and getting better.”