The Miami Dolphins have come up with a new way to get their rookies better prepared for their first year in the NFL thanks to new head coach Adam Gase. And surprisingly enough, it doesn’t include more time in pads on the field going through contract drills and practices.
To prevent them from hitting the “Rookie Wall” in late November/early December, Case is planning on the newbies spending more time in the classroom. In fact, in a Business Insider Sports piece written yesterday by Emmett Knowlton, Case plans to keep them off the field for their entire time in rookie camp.
Time spent in the classroom will include learning what it means to be a professional athlete in general and a Miami Dolphin in particular. Knowlton writes that Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero has said that in addition to learning the plays being used, their assignments and all the mental work that goes in to playing football, “… they’re also going to get a little polished up as people. They’re going to get life labs to help them with nutrition, financial planning, sports science, and dealing with the media — the last of which is a big part of their job believe it or not.”
It’s not fair to say that these changes are new because of the NFL draft night fiasco faced by newly-selected Dolphin Laremy Tunsil whose high draft prospects dropped to No. 13 due to the strategic release of a video and messages and then the subsequent comments he made to the media. Speculation still exists as to who released the private information.
But it is fair to say that the number of media nightmares teams and the league have and continue to face due to players’ actions and comments have prompted the Dolphins’ to change how they introduce their rookie players to the team and work to make them more media savvy. This change was planned before the Tunsil incident – it’s just that it has highlighted the problem of lack of media savvy in a real-time way so close to the rookies coming on board.
Keeping rookies from hitting the wall late in their first season, however, is still the main reason for the change. And the main reason given for the Rookie Wall is that the new guys on the teams aren’t used to the longer pro season and the amount of travel required.
But another huge factor is that by the time they get to rookie camp they’re already tired. In a list that makes me tired just reading it, from their schools showcasing draft-eligible players, the NFL combine, private workouts, interviews with a number of potential teams, the NFL draft, minicamp and four preseason games, rookies can be worn out both mentally and physically by the start of Week 1. And for those who fit that category, by Weeks 11 and/or 12, they can hit the dreaded Rookie Wall.
Finally, for coaches looking at the season-long health of their teams, they want to start the season with everyone healthy. An important step is to eliminate as many injuries as possible prior to the season’s start. And let’s face it; full-contact practices increase the probability of injuries.
Knowlton writes that this year the Ivy League totally banned from practices all player-to-player contact. While he doesn’t think NFL teams will likely follow suit to that extreme, it seems clear that the Dolphins’ rookies should have a better start to their inaugural season. And by extension, the whole team should have a better start. While my football heart bleeds black and gold, nevertheless, I’ll be watching the Dolphins this year to see if this change makes a difference for them and if other teams decide to follow the Dolphins’
By Connie Wardman
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