The biggest bit of news to emerge from the Dolphins’ first practice of year?
Ndamukong Suh actually has a sense of humor.
Suh turned 30 two days before Miami’s playoff loss to the Steelers. He was in no mood to reflect on the milestone then, let alone joke about it.
But Tuesday, when he met with reporters after Day 1 of organized team activities? He actually cracked wise.
The Dolphins’ rookie defensive tackles, Vincent Taylor and Davon Godchaux, both view Suh and his game as aspirational. What does that mean to the five-time Pro Bowler?
“I think, honestly, it's flattering,” Sug responded, “and it says that I'm old.”
In football terms, he’s right. He’s younger than just eight of his teammates.
So perhaps Father Time has fostered a sense of urgency — and personal growth.
Suh has a history of prickly interactions, both with reporters and opposing players. But on Tuesday, he was candid, reflective — and even downright jovial.
Suh has played seven seasons now, but has yet to advance to the playoffs’ divisional round, let alone the Super Bowl.
“I'm definitely sick and tired of making it to the playoffs and not going further,” Suh said. “I think everybody feels that way. ... It feels like guys weren't satisfied with where we were at. It's exciting, from my vantage point, to see hunger still. That was not OK the way we finished, especially the last two games of our season."
Those last two games were brutal for the Dolphins’ defense. Miami allowed 65 points, 763 yards, 41 first downs and 4.7 yards per rushing attempt in losses to the Patriots and Steelers.
The no-show by the Dolphins’ run defense was typical in 2016; Miami ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed (140.4 per game) and tied for last in defensive yards-per-carry (4.8).
“I put a lot of it on myself,” Suh said of the poor run defense. “I’m supposed to be the anchor. I plan to be the anchor and continue to be that way. So I think it starts with us front, without question. With the way the defense is set up.”
So what went wrong? Injuries, for one. But also Miami’s players had a tough time adjusting to the new Wide-9 scheme. The latter won’t be an acceptable excuse in 2017, as the Dolphins are keeping the same system despite changing coordinators. Matt Burke replaces Vance Joseph, who got the top job in Denver.
Suh hasn’t always seen eye to eye with his coordinators, but expect a productive partnership with Burke. This is the sixth season they’ve spent together, stretching back to Suh’s time in Detroit.
“I think there is going to be consistency there,” Suh said. “So I think it will be easier for guys to understand where they need to be. And where they need to fit. The techniques need to become obviously a lot more sound. And then execution.”
Even after last year’s Dolphins collapse on defense, Suh is still one of the league’s stars; his peers voted him the NFL’s 55th-best player in 2016. And yet, Suh still strives to fine-tune his game. New Dolphins assistant coach Andre Carter challenged him recently to pass-rush with not just power, but finesse, and Suh was happy to have the input.
For players over 30, adaptation is a must. At some point, Suh’s power and speed will start to fade — but he’s not thinking about that yet.
So what exactly does turning 30 mean to him?
"Many more years to come, hopefully.”