In the course of one pulsating possession, Michael Thomas went from an anonymous backup to a South Florida folk hero.
Against Tom Brady and the Patriots last December, Thomas — signed just that week off the 49ers’ practice squad — made two game-saving plays in the end zone late in regulation. First he deflected a potential touchdown pass, and then sealed the game with an interception.
Thomas was on the field only because of a string of injuries, and it would probably take the same for him to play defense when the Patriots return to Sun Life Stadium on Sunday. He made this team for his special-teams ability.
“I’m reminded about it every day by the fans,” Thomas said of his remarkable game. “It was a great memory, but I want to build on it now. It’s not a Cinderella story anymore. I’ve had time to actually work with the team, prepare, so anytime I go out there with my team, I’m expecting to make a play. We’re expecting to make a play.”
The loss left an impression with Brady, who on Wednesday called the Dolphins “one of the best defenses that we faced all year. That’s kind of what we expect this year. We had a lot of problems with them down there last year and obviously lost the game. It’s a big challenge for us.”
The Dolphins have expanded their leadership council to more than a dozen players after last year’s bullying scandal. Mike Pouncey, named in Ted Wells’ report on misconduct in the Dolphins locker room, is again one of those veteran representatives. But this time, the players were picked by seniority, not their teammates.
“I’m not going to get into any of the specifics, but we’ve been trying to get on the same page and working hard at it really since April 21, since the day they got back into the building, and we are going to continue to work on it as we move forward,” Philbin said.
Pouncey’s inclusion should come as no surprise. He was part of the team’s welcoming committee when wooing free agents in the spring.
Since Sunday, the Patriots have signed two Dolphins castoffs — one on offense, and another on defense. It wasn’t a coincidence.
The usually tight-lipped Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked at length Wednesday about the challenges of a season opener, simply because of the unknowns.
What is the best way to get information on an opponent? Spies. New England now has two: safety Don Jones, claimed by the Patriots, and receiver Marcus Thigpen, added to the practice squad. Both were cut by the Dolphins over the weekend.
“You don’t want to over-prepare for it because there’s no way your opponent could do everything that you’ve seen them do over all the time that you’ve studied them or all the things they have the potential to do,” Belichick told Miami media. “But at the same time, you don’t want to under-prepare and get in there and find out that they’ve done something that you haven’t worked on and you don’t have your team in a good position to work on it.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Eight players were limited in their participation: S Walt Aikens (hand), TE Charles Clay (knee), LBs Koa Misi (shoulder) and Philip Wheeler (thumb), DE Derrick Shelby (illness), K Caleb Sturgis (groin), CB Jamar Taylor (foot) and G Billy Turner (foot).
Running back Knowshon Moreno (knee) practiced fully.• The Patriots are favored by five points by most sports books, making the Dolphins the biggest home underdogs of the week.