Dolphins Cancer Challenge kicks off for 9th year
Odds and ends from the ninth annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge, which drew 5,000 participants and raised an estimated $5 million for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center:
▪ Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, who cycled the 14 miles from the team’s training facility to Hard Rock Stadium Saturday, acknowledged he had some doubts about his future with the organization after seeing the team’s roster upheaval this winter.
“Yeah, every offseason you kind of have those questions,” said Stills, who is due $8 million in base salary in 2019. “You can get moved at any point. Definitely it came across my mind, people asking me about it, but like I said, all I know is I can handle myself, making sure I’m healthy, making sure I’m ready to play. I haven’t played my best football yet.”
Stills caught just 37 passes for 553 but did have six touchdowns in 2018. His cap number is $9.8 million, of which the Dolphins could save all but $3.3 million by cutting him.
Assuming he does return for the 2019 season, Stills will catch pass from a new quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) called in by a new coach (Brian Flores) and offensive coordinator (Chad O’Shea).
“We still a lot of roster spots open,” Stills said. “I have faith in coach and Chris [Grier] to make sure we get the guys we need to win.”
▪ Both Stills and linebacker Raekwon McMillan objected to any talk about tanking this year.
“I don’t believe anyone in our organization likes using that word or that term or even talking about it,” Stills said. “We’re not preparing to lose games. [Flores] is going to continue to set the standard for us and I look forward to playing with him.”
Added McMillan: “I’ve never went on the football field and told myself we’re trying to lose this game. I don’t know where all that talk is coming from. As a team, we’re going out there and trying to win some ball games.”
▪ Curious about where McMillan will line up in the new Dolphins’ defense? The mystery will last at least a few weeks longer, as McMillan shed no light on the subject Saturday. He presumably will be assigned one of the inside linebacker spots in a 3-4, but the Dolphins plan to use multiple formations, and how they deploy McMillan — now entering his third season — is a fascination.
“All the coaches are going to put me in the best position possible to make plays,” McMillan said. “And they’re going to use all the players that we have to put in the best position possible to play defense. ... Whatever my coach asks me to do, I’m going to go out and do it.”
Logic suggests we will see the best version of McMillan yet this fall. For the first time in his career, he has a full offseason to prepare for the season. He was still rehabbing from major knee surgery this time last year.
▪ While McMillan has not lobbied his bosses to take his former Ohio State teammate Dwayne Haskins in this month’s draft, he made a compelling argument for the Dolphins to do so Saturday.
“I played with Dwayne,” McMillan said. “When I was in school, he was the third string quarterback, though. He was still one of the best quarterbacks on the team, and he should be in the Top 10 pick this year coming out.”
McMillan added: “He’s a savage out there on the field as a quarterback. He put up some of the best numbers, if not the best numbers ever in the Big Ten as a quarterback, breaking some of Drew Brees’ records. Hopefully, he can do the same thing in the NFL.”
▪ What has been Flores’ message to Dolphins players in the short time they have worked together?
“Just being the most conditioned team, use our element to our advantage,” McMillan said. “We’re down here and sometime on game days, it’s 100 degrees on the field. We can’t lose a game, and you’ve been practicing in it all year, and someone comes out of town. We have to use that to our advantage.”
▪ Gilberto Lopes, a cancer doctor and researcher at Sylvester, believes that — thanks in part to work done with the money raised by programs like the DCC — a cure for cancer will be found “five to 10 years from now.”
His reason for optimism?
“So we already have so many strides in the last five years. There are new treatments. And our cancer-fighting cells. We are seeing so many new developments over the last few years. I’m sure there are going to be many cancers we are going to be able to cure.