Never tell me the odds.
Han Solo said it first.
But it’s essentially Adam Gase’s 2018 mantra.
As dawn broke on another training camp Thursday morning, the national perception of this year’s Dolphins roster was the same as it has been for months.
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They are expected to win six or so games, finishing far behind the Patriots in the AFC East. Good luck finding a sports book where the Dolphins’ odds to win the Super Bowl are any better than 100-to-1. Bettors are telling us that the only AFC team worse than Miami this year is the New York Jets.
But allow us to let you in on a little secret: The Dolphins still plan to play the 2018 season. They not only hope, but expect to prove every single doubter wrong.
“I feel like we don’t necessarily have a chip on a shoulder, but we’re not being talked about, and that’s what we love,” Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake said Thursday after a sweltering two-hour practice at team headquarters in Davie. “We don’t have any expectations of anything, so we’re just going to go out there and do what we need to do to win games, and make these fans happy.”
Drake continued: “I feel like everybody has the same goals and aspirations at the beginning of the season. Other people might be talked about more just because of what they did last year. If you look at our schedule this year, we have all 1 o’clock games. That shows you the league doesn’t see us as a prime-time match-up for anybody.”
And again, that’s just fine with the folks in Davie.
It is often easier to perform your best when the pressure is the least.
And the “no-one-believes-in-us” card is the most common one played because it often works.
Camp was hot Thursday and will remain that way for some time. It’s human nature to get tired and lose focus. But if Gase thinks he can use perceived disrespect as an extra motivator to get through the dog days, he will.
The Dolphins in 2016 found that sweet spot and rode it to the playoffs. And Gase believes he has the pieces to do the same in 2018.
Fans got their first look at that group Thursday, as hundreds packed the team’s metal bleachers for training-camp practice No. 1.
They saw a fully healthy roster, with all 90 fit enough to participate.
They saw new defensive end Robert Quinn flying around the end and blowing up plays.
They saw new receiver Danny Amendola find soft spots in Miami’s defense and exploit them.
They saw new guard Josh Sitton shore up the offensive line’s left side in a way that has been missing for years.
They saw new running back Frank Gore, 35, hit the hole with the speed of a man 10 years younger, prompting Gase to later call him “ageless.”
But the most encouraging face they saw Thursday was the most familiar.
They saw Ryan Tannehill, wearing a new knee brace, command the huddle and offense in a way that Jay Cutler never could last year.
But what they probably could not see because it’s difficult for outsiders to notice: the sense of camaraderie and work ethic that were missing in 2017, contributing to the team’s second 10-loss season in three years.
“Especially in our room, everybody is hungry,” Amendola said. “Everybody comes to work with a great attitude. We have a great energy in the room. Everybody wants to get better. Everybody wants to compete with each other and everybody’s got each other’s back, too.”
All of this gives Gase optimism — and even confidence — that his team will make noise in a year when most expect the Dolphins to be rendered mute.
“I think our guys understand that when you enter a season, it’s zero-and-zero,” Gase said. “It’s like saying, ‘Hey, you haven’t done this in 15 years.’ Nobody even cares. ... It’s a new start. That’s the beauty of this league. When you have guys moving out, you never know what personality they’re going to take, what their characteristics are going to be, how they’re going to handle adversity.
“That’s why you have those teams where nobody thinks they’re going to do anything and then all the sudden, you’re talking about them in January.”