Dennis Hickey has now been on the job for 12 months. The Dolphins’ general manager has learned plenty in the past year, particularly about running the NFL Draft, and has adjusted accordingly.
But here’s something that has not changed at all in the past year: Hickey still will not divulge one bit of proprietary information if he thinks doing so could hurt his team competitively.
So there was Hickey again Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, doing his best Floyd Mayweather impersonation — dodging a barrage of questions from members of the local and national media.
A few examples:
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Have you had any discussions with Ryan Tannehill’s agent, Pat Dye, about a contract extension?
“I’m not going to comment on any contact or communication with representation. We do have an open line of communication with all of our players and their representation.”
Do you feel like it’s important for Ryan and Mike Wallace to get in a room and hash out their issues (which boiled over late in the 2014 season)?
“The important thing is, we want to have a collaborative team and work together. We feel like we have a good group of professionals that work together.”
Do you think Cortland Finnegan is going to retire?
“We’re not going to go into individual assessments. We’ve had discussions with all of our players. As we go forward with decisions, you’ll find how it all works out.”
On and on it went, for roughly 15 minutes. Curious reporters would ask pointed questions, and Hickey would — politely, but consistently — refuse to shed any light on the topic.
Of course, it’s tough to blame him. Paranoia isn’t a Miami problem. It’s a league-wide epidemic.
There’s little motivation for NFL decision-makers to say much of anything, at least publicly, right now. Free agency is still weeks away, and the draft isn’t until late April.
What does Hickey gain by cluing in the Jets, Patriots and Bills? They’ll find out soon enough.
So those wondering whether Wallace has a future with the team will have to wait a bit longer.
Hickey did confirm that he recently met with Wallace to discuss the wide receiver’s frustrations — Wallace wasn’t happy with the way he was used last season — and said they “had a good conversation.”
“We have an open line of communication,” Hickey said. “We always feel like we have an open door for all of our players, whether it be the coaching staff, myself, always keeping that open line of communication.”
Hickey later added: “It’s a team, right? We have to work together. That’s what we’re about, is team. We win as a team, we lose as a team.”
As for the the perception that Joe Philbin has a “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to coaching — he has famously parted ways with a number of talented, but opinionated, players in his first three years — Hickey neither confirmed the phenomenon nor knocked it down.
“I think Joe is a principled leader,” Hickey said. “I know he cares for his players, puts them in a great plan and works together with them. Our goal is to get better. That’s what we’re going to do.”
It will take some doing.
For the first time in years, the Dolphins don’t have a blank check in free agency. They’re right up against the projected $140 million salary cap and are expected to cut several high-priced but under-performing veterans to free up needed space.
Finnegan, Dannell Ellerbe, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are among those believed to be in danger.
But their fates are still, for the time being, unknown. Hickey went to great lengths to ensure that on Wednesday.
“We’re going through our process, and in that process we’re going to be methodical about it. And that’s going to lead us to decisions that we’ll be making in the upcoming weeks,” Hickey said.
In other words: stay tuned.