Their season opener postponed by Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins will face the unenviable challenge of playing 16 consecutive weeks.
But the way coach Anthony Lynn sees it, the Dolphins will have a couple of Irma-related advantages when they play his Los Angeles Chargers in Southern California on Sunday.
During a conference call with South Florida reporters on Wednesday, Lynn called the Dolphins “the freshest team in the league” because they didn’t play in Week 1.
He said an aura of mystery, created by not playing last week, also gives Miami something of an advantage.
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“You would like to see them play the first week, see what they’re doing,” Lynn said while sending well wishes to South Florida in the aftermath of Irma. “Preseason, you don’t show a lot. I was in that division [as a Jets and Bills assistant], with that team, and I understand that personnel. We played them last year. We have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking at. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to see.”
Some Dolphins players and coaches have been in Southern California since Friday, when the team chartered a flight west before Hurricane Irma hit South Florida.
But most Dolphins players already had left South Florida on their own before that charter flight and joined their teammates in California before Tuesday’s team meeting and Wednesday’s first practice in Oxnard, about 60 miles outside of Los Angeles.
Coach Adam Gase said every player attended Wednesday’s practice.
“The last guys arrived pretty late [Tuesday] night,” he said. “Cam [Wake] might’ve been the last one to get here. He stayed back. We just had to find a flight for him and get him out here. Everybody was scattered all over the country. So, it was just about getting us regrouped here by Tuesday morning.”
Gase said he doesn’t believe any of this should affect his team’s play.
“I think our guys are handling it well,” he said. “When we got here, our guys seemed focused, ready to go. The only thing I said to them was ‘Control what you can control. We’re going to play a game Sunday.’ We’ve got to get ready.”
After watching many of these players overcome a 1-4 start last season to make the playoffs, Gase believes his team is well equipped to handle this latest adversity.
“I’m not really worried about this group,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot over the last year and a half with some of the challenges we met last year and going into this year. Everything hasn’t always been smooth, but these guys, they battle and they fight and they handle adversity as good as anybody I’ve been around.”
And Gase doesn’t believe Irma is distracting his players.
“I think a lot of our guys, once we started [Wednesday], they’ve wired in on what we’re doing,” he said.
Smart planning, and help from the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams, have made this week’s transition easier.
The Cowboys are allowing the Dolphins to use their training camp practice site.
The Rams, meanwhile, “helped us out with a lot of stuff,” Gase said. “I don’t know how many IT guys they had sent over here to help our guys. They sent over a whole bunch of stuff as far as equipment that we needed, and made it easy for our guys to get things rolling before our stuff got here. Everybody’s been great and making sure we’re taken care of.”
And this helps, too: The team is staying within walking distance of the practice facility.
“It’s pretty smooth for us because we only have to walk 50 yards and we’re on the practice field,” Gase said. “It’s really convenient for us that this was available for us.”
Ndamukong Suh said practicing in California, and resuming football activities after not practicing for eight days, gives players “an opportunity to take my mind off a little bit of what’s going on back home in Florida and focus on what’s important out here. And then, obviously, we’re not worried about football and taking care of that [hurricane] stuff. Obviously the real world hits hard, but it is part of life.”
Gase, who left South Florida last Wednesday, said watching the hurricane on television was a “strange perspective, just kind of recognizing a lot of the things, watching it and getting text messages from people back there. You’re so far away. It doesn’t really seem real when you’re watching on TV.”
▪ Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced Wednesday that he is pledging $1 million to “immediate and long-term rebuilding efforts” following Hurricane Irma.
The Dolphins also have partnered with AARP Foundation on a dollar-for-dollar matching campaign, with 100 percent of the money raised going directly into the community.