The summer doldrums, at least on the sports calendar, usually don’t come until mid-June.
But these are no ordinary times. This is as boring a spring as we’ve had in a long time.
So you can be forgiven, Miami fans, if you’ve been asleep since Easter.
The Heat and Panthers have been done for a month.
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The Marlins are terrible.
There’s no World Cup. No Summer Olympics.
The NBA playoffs are a snooze.
Even hopes for a Triple Crown winner vanished last weekend.
But if you squint really hard, cock your head to the side, and use your imagination, you can see football on the horizon.
Why? The Dolphins are finally back at practice Tuesday, taking the field for 11-on-11 drills for the first time since the first Friday of January.
That means quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be dropping back (and throwing) on his recovered-but-not-fully-healed knee.
It means reporters (but not fans, unfortunately; the practices are closed to the public) will finally get a look at the Dolphins’ new-look defense.
It means off-season pickups Lawrence Timmons, Julius Thomas, William Hayes and Nate Allen will begin to introduce themselves to Dolphins fans.
It means rookies Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan, Cordrea Tankersley and others will get their first feel for NFL speed.
It means Reshad Jones will at last test out his surgically repaired shoulder in team drills.
It means the top position battles -- interior offensive line, wide receiver, defensive back -- will begin to take shape.
And yes, since there’s almost literally nothing else going on in the world of South Florida sports, it means it’s time to get excited about football.
Now, anyone who draws major conclusions from these glorified walk-throughs needs to relax. It’s basically a passing camp; the players won’t be in pads, and hitting is prohibited. Jay Ajayi, this is not your moment.
Rather, the No. 1 objective over the next four weeks might be simply to survive and advance, to make it healthy to training camp, when the real evaluation will begin.
Adam Gase made that plain last week, when asked what he wants to get out of this voluntary week of practice:
“I think starting off to see how good of shape we’re in,” Gase said. “I feel like we’re in a good spot. ... I feel like guys are in good shape but now the anxiety level is going to go up a little it because now you’re going against the offense and defense, they practice against each other, and special teams. We’ll see kind of how our bodies respond and how fast we can play and how much we’ve actually learned from last year to this year.”
Here’s something the Dolphins learned last year: They aren’t very good on defense when they lose half their starters. Teams with good quarterbacks ripped them apart late in the season. Team speed was a big issue.
The Dolphins are a deeper team now then they were then, but if stars get hurt, there’s going to be a drop-off, no matter how capable the backup.
Which is why Mike Pouncey will be kept on “bubble wrap,” as Gase put it, for much of the next four months.
Which is why the Dolphins went without a true rookie minicamp for the second time in Gase’s two years in Miami.
And which is why the roughly 90 players set to take the field Tuesday will be given explicit instructions: Take care of yourself, and each other.
“We just stay within the rules the NFLPA and NFL give us and try to do the best we can to make sure that we’re scripting offenses and defense to where we can avoid keeping guys [off] the ground,” Gase said. “There’s kind of a little bit of science to that. And I feel like last year worked out pretty good for us and everybody’s on the same page and guys are able to practice fast and still protect each other.”