Miami Dolphins

Ndamukong Suh grows more vocal, but will it make a difference for Miami Dolphins?

Miami Dolphins’ Ndamukong Suh stands on the 50 yard line and meditates before the Dolphins play the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Field Financial in Philadelphia, Penn., November 15, 2015.
Miami Dolphins’ Ndamukong Suh stands on the 50 yard line and meditates before the Dolphins play the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Field Financial in Philadelphia, Penn., November 15, 2015. For The Herald

For the longest time, some in the Dolphins organization wondered whether Ndamukong Suh would act like the leader the franchise paid him to be.

No question, Suh’s production in recent weeks has justified his massive salary; the Dolphins made Suh the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history in March (six years, $114 million).

But his ability has never been up for debate. After a slow start to his time in Miami, he is now playing as well as he ever has.

Yet with Suh, there’s always more to the story. He skipped much of the voluntary spring conditioning program, choosing instead to work out on his own. That left an impression with many in the locker room.

Fast-forward seven months, and Suh seems to have finally found his voice.

Suh, with direct, unflinching language, challenged his teammates on Monday, after Miami’s season-crippling loss to the Cowboys. Some found him compelling. Others thought he overstepped his bounds.

But the message was clear to those in attendance: This is now his defense.

Will it make a difference? We will find out Sunday, when the Dolphins (4-6) face the rival Jets (5-5) in what is essentially a playoff elimination game.

“First of all, I think that stuff is best kept where it was,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said when asked about Suh’s remarks. “It was said in between those four walls in there and it’s for those guys. But the message was clear for everybody, from everybody, that we’re all pulling in the same direction and we all want to win, and that’s the good news. So it was very positive and kind of happy the way everything went.”

Suh wasn’t the only one to speak up in recent days as the Dolphins try to salvage their season. Kelvin Sheppard got the most attention locally when he publicly guaranteed the Dolphins would run the table and finish 10-6.

Sheppard tried to slightly walk back on the pledge this week — “I never said it’s a prediction; that’s how I feel personally,” he said — but his teammates showed support nonetheless.

“I have complete confidence in that,” Suh said when asked about Sheppard’s bold words. “We have the ability; we’ve obviously made it tough on ourselves, but without question I have no problem. I like a guy like Sheppard who has the necessary mind-set and the will to be able to go against that task. I may not say it, but that’s what I believe.”

Few would have imagined 12 months ago that the Dolphins’ most vocal leaders late in the 2015 season would be Suh and Sheppard. Suh was then a member of the Detroit Lions; Sheppard was a role player for the Dolphins.

But that’s where the Dolphins are now, with Cameron Wake out for the season and a stagnant offense in no position to make demands of anyone.

It’s interim coach Dan Campbell’s job to make all of those personalities mesh. It might be his No. 1 job.

Managing his players accounts for “90 percent, 85 percent” of being the coach.

Suh, with direct, unflinching language, challenged his teammates on Monday, after Miami’s season-crippling loss to the Cowboys. Some found him compelling. Others thought he overstepped his bounds.

“It can go anywhere from a way a guy feels, like going to practice or getting ready for a game, lifting, how somebody views lifting, ‘I don’t feel like I should lift’ or ‘I don’t feel good,’ getting that player and managing that player, trying to talk him into that in a certain way,” Campbell said. “Everybody is different and there’s a time to drop the hammer. You’ve got to know who you’re dealing with, and there’s a time to put your arm around them, and you’ve got to find the best approach to get what you want.”

Campbell is a throwback, but he also knows that “the days of the iron fist, nonstop, are over.”

Players just don’t respond the way they used to.

“You’ve got to be able to crack a whip, but you’ve also got to know who you’re dealing with,” Campbell said. “Everybody is different, and the best way to approach them is one-on-one.”

With 53 active players and 10 more on the practice squad, it’s simply not possible to get to everyone individually, every week.

“But I feel like I try to spread myself out enough to where they get to know who I am and what I expect and what I think about them,” Campbell said. “I try to be honest with them. Good or bad, I tell them exactly where I think they are and how I feel.”

Suh, at least on Monday, felt like his voice needed to be heard. We will find out Sunday if the message was received.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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