Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero: Miami Dolphins fans still backing team despite bullygate

The NFL is intent on avoiding a repeat to the kind of harassment scandal that befell the Dolphins last year and that’s probably why one source estimated “50 percent of the focus” of this annual meeting’s first day dealt with the idea of fostering proper conduct, the right locker room culture, and showing respect for others.

No, the NFL has not put bullygate to rest yet.

Miami Dolphins fans?

Different story.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that John Jerry, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey will be evaluated by “medical professionals” and once that evaluation is complete a determination will be made whether they need treatment for their role in the harrasment of Jonathan Martin that is alleged in the Wells Report.

So Pouncey, the only remaining player on the Dolphins roster of the three named in the report, could miss some time because he’s getting treatment or he could miss time serving an NFL suspension — with the verdict on that still not reached.

“I’ve had numerous meetings with the Dolphins,” Goodell said. “I’ve had numerous meetings with other organizations that have had similar issues. This is a culture change and while modifying policy from time to time is important, this is more about people understanding the importance of professional workplaces where there is respect for everybody — whether that’s a teammate, opponent, or game officials. And we have to provide that.

“So we want to engage with our players, with our coaches, which we’re doing here this week, to make sure we make the right decisions.”

And pardon Miami fans if they receive this news while holding no grudge against their team.

Many local Dolphins fans are not upset with their team because of the harassment scandal. They are not disgusted. They are apparently fully invested in cheering on the 2014 team

Why is this known? Why isn’t this a debate?

Look at Dolphins ticket sales the past month.

Season tickets sales have made a dramatic jump this offseason compared with the same time last year with renewals up 12 percent from a year ago and new season ticket sales up 14 percent from a season ago, according Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel.

The best sales day of all the good ones the Dolphins have enjoyed since they began pitching 2014 season tickets was Feb. 15 — one day after the Wells Report was released.

The Dolphins had a ticket sales event at Sun Life Stadium that Saturday. It was a grand success.

“We had record new sales in one day,” Garfinkel said. “We sold over 1,500 new season tickets for a lot of dollars in one day because of the event we had.”

The event was obviously a testament to the new approach the Dolphins are using toward selling seats in their stadium. Garfinkel said the Dolphins are doing business a different way, doing their selling by inviting fans to come to Sun Life Stadium and experience the atmosphere of what a game day can be like rather than simply making a pitch on the phone.

The team has also tripled its service staff.

“We've changed the service model quite a bit,” Garfinkel said. “We're communicating with fans as much as we can. We’ve added dedicated service reps. We’ve added benefits. We’ve added a lot of things. So we’re on top of that part of it — touching our fans, talking to them, communicating with them, getting in front of them.

“That helps. There are a lot of things we changed and that helps. So far it’s pacing well. We still have a long way to go.”

Regardless of the distance the team still has to travel to get back to its ticket-selling heyday of 1972-74, the current sales figures are a curious sign that local fans are sticking by their team even in the face of last year’s adversity.

And what makes the new loyalty seem strange is that there was no such ticket buying loyalty last offseason when the future seemed brighter and the past didn’t include a scandal.

Last year, you may recall, the Dolphins went aggressively into the free agent market and bought Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler and Brent Grimes and others. Then they aggressively traded up to the No. 3 overall pick in the draft to take Dion Jordan.

And still the ticket numbers were soft.

This offseason, the Dolphins have addressed the left tackle spot with the early and expensive signing of Branden Albert. But the rest of free agency has been something of a yawn outside the re-signing of Grimes.

Even owner Stephen Ross was preaching a little patience this week when he said the team’s incomplete offensive line shouldn’t be fully formed yet and that it won’t be until the Dolphins fill the important right tackle spot in the draft.

General manager Dennis Hickey walked those comments back a bit Monday, saying he continues to search for talent, including right tackle, in free agency, but everyone fully expects the draft will be the thing that offers the next big chance for improvement.

So what does this all suggest?

It seems whatever happens to change the Miami locker room culture or whatever punishment is doled out in the aftermath of the Wells report, it will not affect how many Dolphins fans feel about their team.

Dolphins’ fans, it seems, are ready to move on.

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