Two laminated print-outs hang from Kenny Stills’ Dolphins locker.
On Page 1 is a list of wide receivers drafted in 2013, with Stills’ name and his draft spot — fifth round, 144th overall and the 21st wideout off the board — highlighted in yellow.
On Page 2 is a long list of nasty things pundits said about him beforehand.
“It’s a good reminder of what people think of me, what this league thinks of me,” Stills said. “Everyone tries to play an underdog role. Every once in a while, you need a reminder of how people see you, view you. That’s what teams thought of me coming up. I guess I’ve got something to prove.”
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There’s a reason coach Adam Gase absolutely loves Stills: He’s the nearly perfect combination of explosive talent and edge Gase wants in his players.
Because if Gase is going to escape here with his first NFL win Sunday, he’ll need his Dolphins to display both by the bucketful.
Gase, hired in January to change the fortunes of a once-great franchise, first had to change the franchise’s culture.
“I think for us it’s about coming out every day and working,” Gase said. “That has been our biggest point of emphasis: getting better every day. When guys do that, that’s going to give us our best chance to compete. We have to understand it’s a long season. You’re going to lose in this league at some point. There’s one undefeated team ever. How do you bounce back from games like those? How do you come back and get better that Wednesday? Our focus is on getting better every day.”
And if that means playing angry, so be it.
Sunday’s opponent, the Seahawks, certainly will.
Their long-established identity: Play physical. Play fast. And play loud.
Since Richard Sherman burst on the national stage with his “U Mad Bro?” taunting tweet directed at Tom Brady, the Seahawks have proudly been the NFL’s No. 1 trolls.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, took on the personality of former coach Joe Philbin the past four seasons: Reserved. Even-keeled. And ultimately, mediocre.
Gase is anything but. That’s one of the many traits that made him so appealing to Stephen Ross, who enters his eighth year as the Dolphins’ owner still searching for his first winning season.
Ross recently said that some “people thought” Gase might “have been brash” or “too young” to be a head coach, but Ross had a conviction based on Gase’s intelligence and passion to win.
Spend any time at a Dolphins practice and you’ll immediately see what Ross means. Gase might be the team’s biggest trash talker. If he’s not jawing with defenders Byron Maxwell or Mario Williams, he’s challenging tight end Jordan Cameron to up his game.
So after spending the past five months listening to Gase, three hours with Sherman and his highly talented defensive teammates shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
“At the end of the day, it’s friendly competition,” said receiver Jarvis Landry, another fiery Dolphin. “Even though we’re on opposite sides, he won’t shy away from me, and I won’t shy away from him. That’s what this game is about.”
Landry added: “As a corner, [Sherman] has got 10 other guys he can feed off. As a receiver, you have to make plays before you can start talking yourself.”
The Dolphins will need plenty of those from Landry and Stills to win at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks are a staggering 31-5 since the start of the 2012 season, including the playoffs.
DeVante Parker — who was supposed to be Ryan Tannehill’s top red-zone threat — almost certainly will not play because of a hamstring injury.
And the other three receivers on Miami’s roster — Justin Hunter, Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant — caught a combined 22 passes last season.
Miami is the NFL’s biggest underdog this week.
In other words: There’s no time like the present for Stills to shut up those critics from yesteryear once and for all.