The field was pristine. The weather held off.
And other than the unavoidable issues that come with any game night, Hard Rock Stadium’s soft launch was a success.
“The feedback’s been incredible,” Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said before Thursday night’s preseason game against the Titans. “It’s really fun seeing the players and the coaches get here because a lot of them haven’t seen it yet. And having played here or coached here in the past, they’re just kind of blown away, like, ‘This feels like a totally different building.’”
One with a roof -- although a bit of work remains.
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Workers still need to install heat-resistant translucent panels on the west and north ends of the shade canopy, the remaining construction will be finished by the Sept. 25 regular-season opener, Garfinkel said.
But the structural work on the 17-acre canopy, which began seven months ago, wrapped up last week. Garfinkel said some 600 construction workers were on-site, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It's really incredible when you think about the amount of steel that was lifted and the number of pieces, the number of bolts, there were 600,000 bolts that had to be bolted in and all of these pieces of steel lifted,” Garfinkel said. “Again, it's because of Steve Ross' commitment, not only financially, but to be personally invested everyday, the phone calls, to driving it to conclusion.”
While there was some concern that South Florida would get drenched by Hermine’s outer bands Thursday night, the skies were overcast, but calm, at kickoff.
Garfinkel said the stadium’s intricate drainage system handled this week’s rain well.
As for the newly installed Platinum TE Paspalum turf, Garfinkel said it’s “in amazing shape. ... I think it’ll last longer aesthetically. The Bermuda’s a fine grass but this is more durable, aesthetically better, a little softer. So the field’s incredible.”
TAKING A STAND
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s choice to protest the national anthem was the story of the week in the NFL.
The Dolphins on Thursday made sure they won’t be the story of next week. Miami’s bench was empty when the Star-Spangled Banner was sung before the Titans game. .
So while some Dolphins players, including Arian Foster, agree with Kaepernick’s criticism of some police officers’ misconduct toward African-Americans, no one sat as Kaepernick has and will continue to do
If Thursday was Daniel Thomas’ last game with the Dolphins, as most expect, he made it memorable. Thomas scored on a one-yard run and then forced a fumble on a punt return that John Denney recovered later in the second quarter.
Thomas is in his third go-round with the team that drafted him in the second round in 2011. Thomas never lived up to the billing, and was cut before the 2014 season, only to be brought back after Knowshon Moreno was lost for the year.
In four seasons with Miami, Thomas carried the ball 409 times for 1,480 yards and 10 touchdowns. He spent 2015 out of football after the Chicago Bears cut him late in camp.
This was a typical fourth preseason game in two ways: It was sloppy. And it was bereft of star power.
Neither team played its starting quarterback. Ryan Tannehill got the night off. So did Marcus Mariota.
But at least nine Dolphins who have a chance to start Week 1 suited up: corners Xavien Howard, safeties Isa Abdul-Quddus and Michael Thomas, linebacker Spencer Paysinger, running back Jay Ajayi, and offensive guards Jermon Bushrod, Dallas Thomas, and Billy Turner.
▪ Linebacker Mike Hull left the game in the first half with a hip injury.