Joe Philbin’s fourth — and final — training camp was about working smarter.
Adam Gase’s first training camp will be smart, too.
But it most certainly won’t be soft.
When the Dolphins’ 51st camp opens on Friday, their new coach will still use the team’s sports science resources to monitor how hard his players work.
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But unlike Philbin last year, the data won’t stop him from going full-throttle to whip his very young team into playing shape.
With some three-dozen players under the age of 25, Gase insists Dolphins training camp “won’t be a cupcake.”
He wants them hot. He wants them tired. And he’ll push them until they are.
Here’s one example: Philbin began training camp practice at 8 a.m. to get them off the field as early in the day as possible. Gase is starting a half-hour later — meaning it will be a half-hour hotter when they finish.
Here’s another: Under Philbin, the Dolphins would begin practice in the climate-controlled bubble. Gase won’t. It’ll be all under the sun.
“I’m a little disappointed [in the heat], to be honest with you,” said Gase, who coached at sweltering LSU from 2000-2002.
“Baton Rouge is way hotter than it is down here. So if I hear anybody complain about weather, I’m going to be severely disappointed.”
Gase added: “If you’re training in the heat, I mean, it’s an advantage for us.”
So while the 38-year-old Gase is the youngest coach in pro football, he most certainly is old school.
Back in spring practice, Dolphins quarterbacks would use empty trashcans for target practice. Beginning Friday, they might double as puke buckets.
“We’re ready to get back into it,” veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said. “Everybody’s been training hard. There’s an excitement level that everybody’s ready to get back.”
Added backup lineman Sam Young: “It’s about time — let me put it that way. I think with Coach Gase, the first thing I noticed was the energy, the vibe, whether in the building or on the practice field.”
There’s a method to the madness here. Gase isn’t going to run his team just the for sake of running them.
But the team also knows Philbin’s easy-does-it approach didn’t work. The Dolphins were six games under .500 the past four years and wilted late, winning just 9 of 20 games in December.
Gase’s No. 1 goal during this camp?
“Probably just to see where our mental toughness is. What are we going to do when it gets tough? Because it’s going to be tough in camp. There’s not going to be any special treatment,” Gase said.
“We’re going to work, and we’re going to make it hard and we’re going to see — when it really gets tough — who’s going to rise to the top and who’s going to fall off.”
Of course, Gase is going to listen to his medical staff. The Dolphins have several key players coming off season-ending injuries — Cameron Wake, Ja’Wuan James, Jermon Bushrod and Arian Foster, to name a few — and they’ll receive special consideration.
The team will “be smart with” Wake, who tore his Achilles tendon last October. The end goal is to make sure Wake plays “16-plus games this year,” Gase added.
Any more than 16 games for Wake would mean the Dolphins are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. If so, Gase would have a strong claim to being the league’s coach of the year.
He’d deserve it. The Dolphins have one of the three youngest rosters in the league.
“It’s pretty young. I’d say maybe Denver in 2011 might have been as close to as young,” Gase said.
“That was like the [Tim] Tebow, Von Miller, all those guys were really young. That was probably the youngest team that I was around.”
He added: “For the most part, this is probably one of the younger ones that I’ve been a part of. The good thing is we’re not going to have a lot of guys sitting out of practice because of age. That’s the good part.”
Dolphins training camp 2016
Where: Baptist Health South Florida Training Facility.
Practices open to the public: Friday, 9 a.m.; Saturday, 8:35 a.m.; Sunday, 8:35 a.m.; Monday, 8:35 a.m.; Aug. 4, 9 a.m.; Aug. 5, 8:35 a.m.; Aug. 8, 9 a.m.; Aug. 9, 8:35 a.m.; Aug. 10, 8:35 a.m.; Aug. 15, 8:35 a.m.; Aug. 16, 8:35 a.m.; Aug. 17, 8:35 a.m.
Tickets: Free; available at Dolphins.com