Visit California, the state’s tourism outfit, has a catchy slogan: Dream Big.
There was no need Friday. Reality was prettier than any fantasy.
The sun in this San Diego suburb was warm in a cloudless sky, but not in that sticky way that stays with you all day in South Florida.
The Pacific Ocean churned a long Jay Ajayi run down the street, and Carlsbad’s downtown had an affluent charm.
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Yes, the Dolphins practiced in heaven Friday ahead of their game against the Chargers.
Kenyan Drake was able to enjoy it. He no longer felt like hell.
You might remember that Drake threw up before talking to reporters following his 96-yard, game-winning kickoff return for a touchdown Sunday against the New York Jets.
At the time, he thought he was simply overwhelmed by the moment and perhaps a little dehydrated.
He was wrong. The rookie running back spent the next few days fighting a stomach bug.
“It was some type of nausea, diarrhea, things like that,” Drake said. “After a while, I kind of got better. It was probably something I ate. ... I feel like there’s a little bug going around.
“I’m glad I got better for the trip. I don’t know if I would have really felt good flying, being sick.”
The transcontinental flight went off without a hitch. And Drake didn’t even lose weight; the Dolphins medical staff pumped him full of fluids and medicines to keep him fit.
And it’s a good thing, too. Drake and fellow rookie Jakeem Grant are better when they’re on the field together.
Both have sped to burn. Both have return touchdowns this year.
And both give opposing coaches headaches.
’”I think everybody knew that we had two guys back there to begin with,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He’s no stranger to explosive plays in the return game. Teams know what he can do on offense as well. I think, for the most part, a lot of teams probably had plans in place to begin with. Just that one time, the ball went to him.”
But moving forward, the ball simply might go through the back of the end zone.
With the new rule that brings touchbacks out to the 25, more and more teams are attempting what’s known as mortar — or pooch — kicks. They kick it high and short of the goal line, playing the odds than their coverage team can get down and tackle short of the 25.
The problem with that strategy when facing the Dolphins: They average 27.4 yards per kickoff return, second-best in football. (Miami’s punt return team ranks 10th at 11.1.)
Here’s Drake’s philosophy on when to stay and when to go:
“If I catch it going back in the end zone, I’ll never take it out,” he said. “But if I’m coming forward in any regard, I would. I’m trying to put the offense in the best situation, so if I’m in the end zone and I’m trying to take it out, if I don’t feel like I can get to the 25, I’ll keep it in.”
Drake’s phone has gotten more exercise than normal this week. Too many people to count called or messaged after his game-winning play.
And although he didn’t hear from his college coach — Alabama’s Nick Saban, who coached the Dolphins for two seasons — he expects to in the not-so-distant future.
“I’m busy with the season, so I can’t expect him to talk to me every week,” Drake said. “He’s told me I’ve done a great job so far this season.”