Miami Dolphins

‘Eat your greens!’ How a Miami Dolphins leader helped shape DeVante Parker’s offseason

Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker catches a pass during a drill on the first day of training camp at  Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, July 26, 2018.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker catches a pass during a drill on the first day of training camp at Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, July 26, 2018. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

For DeVante Parker, perhaps a joke truly is truth wrapped in a smile.

Let’s explain:

Before the start of camp, Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills posted an Instagram story in which he playfully nagged Parker about his diet.

Sadly, the video is gone now, but Stills said something to the effect to Parker: “Are you eating your veggies?”

And Stills later tempted Parker with a box of donuts, seeing if the one-time junk-food fan would slip up and eat one.

“He does whatever he needs to do to get his body right,” Parker said of Stills. “He’s a leader of the group — him and Danny [Amendola]. He looks out for me to make sure I keep my body right, telling me to eat my greens and stuff.”

By all accounts, Parker got the message. Past criticisms from coaches about his professionalism are just that — in the past.

And while he has yet to flash in the first two days of training camp. Parker is probably in the best physical and mental place of his career.

Will that translate into the huge numbers that the Dolphins expected but did not get in 2017? We’ll see.

“My mindset for the start of training camp is to come out and dominate everything I do, get better every day, and work getting better with my teammates,” Parker said.

What does dominating over the course of the season mean? Parker insists he does not have statistical goals, although he did say in the spring that he wants to top 1,000 receiving yards.

The closest he has come to that benchmark was in 2016, when he had 744 and a career-best four touchdowns.

And with Jarvis Landry gone to Cleveland, Parker might get enough targets to make that happen.

The Dolphins have no clear No. 1 receiver at this point, and Parker suggested they might not need one.

“Whoever is feeling hot that game [will get the ball] — whoever, anybody,” Parker said. “It doesn’t have to be a No. 1, just whoever is feeling hot that game just getting open, throw them the ball.

“It’s good for all of us,” he continued. “Multiple weapons across the field. If you bring in anybody, they come out and play and they do whatever they need to do to get the job done.”

If that more-the-merrier philosophy is shared throughout the receiving room, then the Dolphins’ biggest problem at receiver on paper — how to keep all of them happy — should not fester.

And while it’s early, the signs are encouraging.

Stills organized a group trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Dolphins receivers worked out with ex-Cornhuskers receivers coach Keith Williams.

“Guys wanted to spend some time together and work out,” Stills said. “... [Williams] is probably the best in the business as far as getting in and out of your breaks and being a fundamentally sound receiver. We went up there to spend some time. It was a good getaway spot for us, too.”

Added Parker: “I felt like we’re brothers. Everybody bonding together, it went well. We all got along. It was a good time.”

It wasn’t all work this summer, however. Parker did make some time for leisure, going to the Dominican Republican for a weekend and visiting his family in Kentucky.

But he never strayed too far away from South Florida, his home base since the end of the 2017 season.

And as he enters the most important season of his career — the Dolphins picked up the fifth-year option to his rookie contract, but it is guaranteed only in the case of injury — Parker has plenty of support, both inside the organization and out.

His girlfriend and a group of friends have attended the first two practices.

“It’s good having someone here supporting you,” Parker said. “While my family is back in Kentucky, it’s good to have other people here to visit and see you and watch you practice.”

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