Armando Salguero

The Dolphins know 2017 is about matching up against the Patriots — but don’t expect anyone to admit it

New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins have had disagreements in the past and will likely continue to view the battle for the AFC East differently in 2017.
New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins have had disagreements in the past and will likely continue to view the battle for the AFC East differently in 2017.

Sometime during the spring, at a time all NFL teams were working on their offseason training regimen, a Dolphins player decided he had something important to share with Adam Gase. The player paid an unannounced visit to the coach’s second-floor office at the team’s training facility, only to find out Gase was working out somewhere else in the building.

So the unnamed player left his boss a note.

“We don’t have time for your ‘workouts,’ ” the note read. “You think BB works out?”

BB is New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The note was meant to jokingly jab Gase, but one of its underlying thoughts is obvious: The Dolphins, second in the AFC East behind the Patriots a season ago, are chasing New England and have their rivals on their minds.

That’s obvious now because you’ll recall Jarvis Landry, on an offseason overseas promotional tour that included Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, predicted the Dolphins would sweep the Patriots. Later, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh called the Patriots “definitely beatable” and added the Dolphins aren’t afraid of the Patriots.

“I think we respect all opponents we have; we obviously start the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and look forward to that,” Suh said on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” when asked how much he focuses on the Patriots. “We have many games prior to [the Patriots] that are going to be big focuses.

“But we understand that New England is at the top of the East right now. We understand that we need to have certain particular game plans for them, as they do for us. Taking that into account, I think one of the great things about Miami and this team, we’ve never been scared of the New England Patriots. We never will be. So, with that being said, when we play them late in the season, we’ll be prepared.”

Consider all that you’ve just read the truth about how the Dolphins feel about one of their primary challenges in 2017. This team must line up, match up and win against the Patriots for the season to be a success.

Gase has to be as good as Belichick. The Miami offense, with Ryan Tannehill in his second season under Gase, has to score points with a New England offense that has been led by Tom Brady for the past 16 seasons. And Suh and his defensive teammates have to find a way to be better than the New England defense that allowed the league’s fewest points a year ago.

If the Dolphins can do any combination of those, they’re likely to be a pretty good team. They’re likely going to have a pretty good season. Simple as that.

But this is also true: Starting Thursday you’ll be hard-pressed to hear anyone within the Dolphins organization utter those thoughts for public consumption.

When the Dolphins begin preparing for their season in earnest with their first training camp practice Thursday morning everyone will be in lock-down mode. So no talk of sweeping the Patriots by a team that got swept last year. No bravado. Nothing juicy — unless someone goes off script.

The message you’ll hear from Miami coaches and players — even as they might be thinking about the Patriots — will be about what they have to do, how they have to improve, why this practice on this day is most important.

“Guys can do whatever they want. They can say what they want,” Gase said. “Some guys, they want to talk about the season. I try to emphasize what we’re doing right now because you can’t get there without doing the first part of it.

“That’s why our main focus always is: ‘Hey, let’s do it right today.’ Because Week One, Week 10, if you get lucky enough to get into the playoffs, its all that other stuff you did before that is going to matter. Because when you get in those single-elimination games, you make the same mistakes you did in the regular season, it’ll be a short trip to the playoffs.”

Gase is going to try to get his team to focus on the process of being a good team rather than focus on a team not on the schedule until late November. And that’s the intelligent approach. It’s really the only way to maximize this young team’s chances.

But who are we all kidding?

This Dolphins season is about measuring how close this organization is coming to the best organization in football.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Training camp schedule

The Dolphins will hold 13 training camp practices that are open to the public for free. To reserve a ticket, you must go to www.miamidolphins.com/trainingcamp.

If bad weather forces the team into the practice bubble, those dates will not be open to the public. Dates and times are subject to change. You can find updates at miamiherald.com, dolphins.com/trainingcamp or call 954-452-7004.

Training camp practices will be held at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

▪ Training camp schedule: Thursday: 8:45 a.m.; Friday: 8:20 a.m.; Saturday: 8:20 a.m.; Sunday, July 30: 8:20 a.m.; Monday, July 31: 8:20 a.m.; Wednesday, Aug. 2: 8:45 a.m.; Thursday, Aug. 3: 8:20 a.m.; Friday, Aug. 4: 8:20 a.m.; Monday, Aug. 7: 8:45 a.m.; Tuesday, Aug. 8: 8:20 a.m.; Sunday, Aug. 13: 8:20 a.m.; Monday, Aug. 14: 8:20 a.m.; Tuesday, Aug. 15: 8:20 a.m.

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