For all the new at Day 1 of Dolphins training camp Friday – new offensive line, new analytics department, updated facilities – one thing that hasn’t changed: the ownership.
And it’s not going to any time soon.
Stephen Ross, entering his sixth season as the Dolphins’ majority owner, turned 74 this offseason. But instead of contemplating retirement, he went back to school.
He learned all he could about science-based ways to coax the most out of his players – from nutrition to buying a massive cold tub to help prevent injuries. He also opened up the team vault for free agents for a second straight year.
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If it sounds like an owner in it for the duration, it should. Ross will probably own the team for as long as he lives – which he intends to be a very long time.
“I’d like to own it for 50 years and be alive for 50 more years,” Ross said, before adding, “that’s not reality.”
Ross told the Miami Herald that as long as he’s passionate about the organization and in good health, there will be no change at the top.
When asked if that meant being in place for the next 10, 15 years, Ross added: “I would hope so.”
He just hopes it doesn’t take that long for his first winning season.
“I don’t think I start any season without wanting to make the playoffs,” Ross told reporters in his annual training camp briefing Friday. “I think, if you don’t have those expectations, you shouldn’t be in the game. ... You own a team because you want to create a winner. Not just the fact of owning the team. That’s why I own the Dolphins and wanted to own the Dolphins – to bring back to Miami a consistently winning team.”
Does that mean it’s playoffs or bust for Joe Philbin, who is 15-17 in his first two years as Dolphins coach? Ross wouldn’t say, because he knows the headlines such an ultimatum would create.
But in everything Ross has done and said in recent months, it’s clear that he’s tired of losing.
When asked if this collection of Dolphins is the most talented he has had as an owner, he responded: “I hope it will be. Let’s put it that way.”
Other topics covered in the 15-minute Q&A:
• Most of the construction to Sun Life Stadium will occur in the 2015 and 2016 offseasons. Game-goers this fall will notice no real changes, but a year from now, the entire bowl will be replaced, with the old seats gone. Then in the spring and summer of 2016, the canopy will come on and new scoreboards will come in.
“When we get done, it’s going to be tantamount to a new stadium,” Ross said.
• The Dolphins continue to insist that attendance will improve in 2014. Ross: “You’ll see, this year, a lot more people in the stands.”
• Ross was “disappointed” to hear that defensive end Dion Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, will miss the first four games due to a failed PED test. Jordan has apologized to the owner for his mistake.
As for Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins’ lightning-rod center who Ross earlier this year said was “an outstanding young man?” That opinion hasn’t changed, even with a couple more months of negative attention.
Late Thursday, Pouncey was formally named in a lawsuit that alleges he and his brother roughed up at least three people at the twins’ annual South Beach birthday party. Pouncey’s attorney has already called the allegations “lies,” and Ross didn’t give any indication Friday that he believed differently.
“I like Mike Pouncey,” Ross reiterated. “I have a lot of confidence in Mike Pouncey. But what’s happened, I can’t really comment on that. ... He’s a great ballplayer, we all know that. I think he’s growing and maturing.”
Pouncey wasn’t on the practice field for the start of camp, but it had nothing to do with anything off the field. He tore his hip during spring practice and is out indefinitely after undergoing significant surgery last month.
“I feel great,” Pouncey said. “I feel like I’m ahead of schedule in my recovery. Just can’t wait to get back healthy all the way.”
When asked if he might miss half the season, as some said is possible, Pouncey demurred.
“I’m very confident,” he said. “I’m already ahead of schedule. My goal is not to miss anything. But I just have to be smart about it, so I don’t have any relapses when I come back.”
Pouncey wouldn’t discuss the events of his birthday party, instead deferring to his attorney. He did say, however, that he envisions a Dolphins season worth celebrating this fall.
When asked if reaching the playoffs was the expectation, Pouncey replied: “Oh, no question. That’s our only expectation, to make it to the playoffs. We were so close last year, and I know that’s in the back of a lot of these guys’ heads, to make the playoffs.”