Armando Salguero

Let’s be honest: Miami Dolphins are fighting a competitive disadvantage this week

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase speaks with reporters before practice in Oxnard, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The Dolphins are spending the week practicing on the California coast after leaving Miami several days early to avoid Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins open their NFL football season Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase speaks with reporters before practice in Oxnard, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The Dolphins are spending the week practicing on the California coast after leaving Miami several days early to avoid Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins open their NFL football season Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. AP

Can we be real here? This situation the Miami Dolphins find themselves in — practicing 2,700 miles from home, living out of a a suitcase, getting ready to play their season opener after their opponent has already cleaned up mistakes made in their first outing — is not good news.

This is the opposite of good. This is distraction. This is an upsetting of the routine. This is burdensome.

The Dolphins, like it or not, enter their season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers at a competitive disadvantage.

No one on the Dolphins team will admit this. In fact, the team’s personnel has invested a lot of time and energy to make it seem like them being away from home while home is A) damaged or B) without power or C) needing major cleanup is not a problem at all.

Multiple players said privately and publicly on Wednesday that being away from South Florida actually offered a respite from hurricane fatigue and that the Dallas Cowboys facility they’re using in Oxnard, California, is excellent.

“It’s a great setup for us right now,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “Living right here, the weight room, meetings, great practice facility, it is what it is. It’s a little bit of a transition for guys, but I thought they battled today. We had a good practice. We’ll continue to build on that.”

Coach Adam Gase joined the chorus of those praising his team’s current setup. “It’s pretty smooth for us,” he said, “because we only have to walk 50 yards and we’re on the practice field.”

Yeah?

So the Dolphins might want to stay in Oxnard longer? Because it’s so perfect?

“The fact that we can go back to our facility, our houses, that’s nice,” Gase later admitted.

With Hurricane Irma approaching Florida, the NFL decided to move the Dolphins-Buccaneers game to Week 11, meaning the teams will have to play 16 games in a row.

Of course being home is better. Of course the Dolphins are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Let’s admit that. Don’t feed me a slice of cheddar that got moldy sitting in your dark, hot refrigerator the past few days and tell me it’s premium blue cheese.

And now we’ve reached the second-guess portion of this column: Why aren’t the Dolphins at home now?

Everyone understands they wisely left town Sept. 6 when the NFL postponed their scheduled Sept. 10 season-opener because of Irma. No one blamed them for getting out of the way of a freight train storm that plowed the entire state.

But that storm was over in South Florida by Monday. The team’s facility and indoor practice field were up and running on Tuesday, per tweets from club President and CEO Tom Garfinkel. Airports were open Tuesday. So why were the Dolphins in California Wednesday when their facility here was ready for a practice week?

Anyway, none of this will matter if the Dolphins can still manage a victory over the Chargers. That team, which Miami beat last season, has a new coach in Anthony Lynn but showed in their 24-21 season-opening loss to Denver they still have the same problem they had under former coach Mike McCoy: They cannot finish games.

That’s one football advantage the Dolphins can enjoy. That’s a football truth the Dolphins used in last year’s victory that might factor in this game.

More football truths?

The Dolphins still have an unsettled starting situation at cornerback. Gase declined to say whether Byron Maxwell or Alterraun Verner would start, obviously because there’s no need to announce that to the Chargers, and keeping Maxwell interested in winning the job is a good thing.

The Dolphins still have an unsettled situation at defensive tackle. Gase declined to say whether Davon Godchaux or veteran Jordan Phillips would start. It’s a non-issue. Both will play a lot.

And there is a concern that middle linebacker Rey Maualuga missed practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.

Those issues need to be settled. But that’s easy stuff.

The hard stuff is winning despite being displaced. Despite the change of routine. I asked Gase to name three things he thinks are good about the situation his team is in.

“I feel good about our leadership,” he said, naming one. “Our veteran players have been outstanding during this process. I also feel really good about the resiliency we have as a group … The resiliency this group has, these guys are fighters, and when adversity hits, these guys put their heads down and keep working.”

That’s two things.

“I was hoping,” Gase said, “you wouldn’t notice.”

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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