Dolphins Roundup 8/9/04
By The Source
Aug 9, 2004

-Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas was activated off the team's physically unable to perform list Monday, but said he won't risk playing in Saturday's exhibition opener against Jacksonville.

"It's good to be back as part of the team," Thomas said after his first practice Monday morning. "I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't felt good. I'm a little rusty and out of shape. I'm not going to go too fast. I'm looking more toward being ready for the Tennessee game."

Thomas, 30, underwent surgery on July 9 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He sustained the injury performing a cone drill during an individual workout at the team's facility.

Thomas said his goal is to be at full strength for the season opener against the Titans on Sept. 12.

"I worked it hard over the weekend and there's no swelling or anything," said Thomas, a five-time Pro Bowler who has been the team's starting middle linebacker since his rookie season of 1996. "I just said, 'I have to start getting back sometime.' I started today. I'm only doing one-a-days this week, and then I'll start two-a-days, and I'll be smooth next week. I'm just glad to be back. It's going to take some time, which is why I wanted to get back."

-Receiver David Boston will undergo surgery on his left knee today to repair an injury to his patellar tendon, according to a source close to the player.

The surgery, performed at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables, was originally scheduled for Monday morning but was pushed back to this afternoon to accommodate the player who was traveling from the Dolphins training facility in Davie.

Boston suffered the injury during a practice session against the Houston Texans Aug. 6 and is expected to be out for the season.

At practice Monday morning, the Dolphins moved receiver Derrius Thompson to the first team to fill the void left by Boston. Kendall Newson took over the team's third-receiver position previously manned by Thompson.

''I'm not going to do anything different than what I've been doing, I see no pressure on me,'' Newson said. ``I'm here to be a good role player for this team and let everything else take care of itself.''

-After a dreadful weekend in which the team lost a top offensive player in David Boston and top special-teams player Chris Akins in back-to-back days, there could be some good news today.

Regarding Adewale Ogunleye, agent Drew Rosenhaus said Sunday he is willing to work with the contract structure the Dolphins prefer ''as long as it makes sense'' for his client. On television late Sunday, he said the sides were ''far apart.''

Rosenhaus said he talked with Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman on Friday afternoon and hopes to pick up talks today. More progress might have been made except that as they were talking, Boston got hurt.

''We were watching the play right as he went down,'' Rosenhaus said. ''Obviously, that interrupted what we were discussing.''

Ogunleye, who was a restricted free agent this offseason but didn't get an offer from another team, missed the first week of training camp and all of the offseason program. He has kept in shape by working out locally. Over the weekend, Ogunleye said there was a ''50-50 chance'' he would miss part of the season.

Rosenhaus, however, gave the most promising news from either side in weeks when he said the Dolphins' structure of splitting large bonus money over the first two years of the contract is workable.

''I've never been married to any one way of doing a contract, just as long as it works for both sides,'' Rosenhaus said. ''We wouldn't mind doing the split structure. . . . We're willing to be flexible.''

The Dolphins have used a split bonus structure on many of their big-ticket contracts, such as for Thomas, defensive end Jason Taylor, former defensive tackle Daryl Gardener and, most recently, wide receiver Chris Chambers.

As part of a five-year, $30 million contract extension, Chambers received a $5.5 million signing bonus this year and will get $6 million in a roster bonus next year. Just in case Chambers is hurt, he was paid $75,000 to cover the cost of an insurance policy for the $6 million roster bonus.

The Dolphins like the bonus structure because it allows them to have a lower salary-cap number in the first year of the deal and spread out the numbers over a series of years.

Typically, the team will guarantee the roster bonus before it's paid in order to further spread the salary-cap ramifications.

Beyond that, owner Wayne Huizenga has typically not wanted the team to pay bonuses in excess of $10 million in one lump sum.

Spielman declined comment Sunday.


As for Thomas, he said he is looking forward to getting off the sideline after watching drills and doing individual work, such as running sprints and riding an exercise bike.

''It drives you crazy,'' said Thomas, who had arthroscopic knee surgery July 8. ''It's more that when you're just standing and watching, you don't feel part of the team. You stand there and visualize, but it's not the same as being out there getting reps. It's like when you ride a bicycle and every time you ride, you get a little better. I may be riding the [exercise] bike, but it's not helping me on the field. It's the same thing on the sideline. It's not helping me visualize.

''The field is different. You run and stop your feet, you take on somebody and run again. It's all kinds of movements and you can't get that same feel. So that's the reason I'm going to be a little rusty when I come back, but I'm starting up Monday.''

Thomas said there has been one good side effect to his being out. Players such as Eddie Moore, Derrick Pope and Tony Bua have gotten more work and have shown that the linebacker depth could be much better this year.

''Derrick Pope looks real good, he's got great instincts. He looked real good today, and he has been having a great camp, too. Even Tony Bua, and there's other guys who are stepping up.

''That was the one question on defense, the depth at linebacker. That definitely is solid behind me and Junior,'' Thomas said.

''Eddie [Moore] is looking good. He's definitely getting more comfortable. It's good that he's getting all these reps. He missed all the reps last year, and if I was out there, he'd be missing all that this year. It's kind of a good thing I got hurt. Not a great thing, but I'll be going in with fresh legs.''

-The ever-changing face of the offense will start another Nip/Tuck job today when the Dolphins hold two practices at Davie headquarters.

To help take pressure off their rushing attack from the unexpected retirement of tailback Ricky Williams, the Dolphins had spent the first week of camp emphasizing slant routes that would take advantage of wide receiver David Boston's ability to drag cornerbacks for extra yardage after a catch.

But that must be scrapped because of Boston's season-ending knee injury Friday at a joint practice against the Houston Texans.

"I think we have to look at two things," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Who are the players we have and what do they do best? We're going to have to adjust all season long. We were going to have to do that anyway.

"There's no such thing as `This is the NFL way.' I'm not concerned about what is the NFL way to move the ball and score points. I'm concerned about how to score points."

Actually, Wannstedt should have said the biggest concern is scoring enough points to win, as he may have new offensive coordinator Chris Foerster play close to the vest, leaning on a high-paid defense to force turnovers and control field position.

Recent results indicate such an approach could help compensate for offensive shortcomings.

The 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with the NFL's 28th-ranked offense but still finished 11-5 and reached the NFC Conference championship game thanks to a dominating defense.

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens went two steps farther with an even worse offense and better defense, winning Super Bowl XXXV despite a five-game touchdown drought in the regular season.

Asked to assess his unit's strength, quarterback A.J. Feeley said, "It's too early. We had a big-play weapon with David, and now things are going to change a little bit. We might be a possession team now. It's tough to say."

But such a change wouldn't sit well with tight end Randy McMichael.

One of the top remaining skill-position players, McMichael became agitated when asked his thoughts about the installing a conservative offensive approach that would place even more pressure on the defense.

"I think it's a bunch of crap," McMichael said.

"For people to doubt us and say we have to be conservative and let our defense win it, well then don't come to the game and watch us play. We still have the mind-set that we're going to be the No. 1 offense in the NFL and have enough playmakers on this offense so that we can do it."

McMichael, though, seems to speak more from optimism than statistical fact.

Williams accounted for 1,723 rushing and receiving yards in 2003, 37.4 percent of the Dolphins' offensive production.

And Boston's 70 catches last season in San Diego are 42 more than the total posted by every receiver besides Chambers in 2003.

In the aftermath of Boston's injury, Wannstedt mentioned fullback Rob Konrad and tight end Donald Lee as potentially playing a bigger role.

Neither has game-breaking speed, but Foerster should be willing to explore just about any option in preparing for the first exhibition game, Saturday against visiting Jacksonville.

"It was the same conversation after we lost Ricky," Wannstedt said. "What can everybody do? We have plenty of experience in a lot of different areas on our offensive staff.

"We'll look at the bits and pieces and put together a good offensive plan. In the next couple of weeks we'll find out from an ability standpoint what guys can and can't do."

-No to WR Jenkins

The Dolphins have decided against conducting a workout for ex-Arizona wide receiver MarTay Jenkins as a replacement for Boston.

Ex-Green Bay wide receiver Antonio Freeman is still slated for a Tuesday workout.

-Two team sources said the Dolphins had a brief discussion with agent Mitch Frankel, who represents Boston, and Frankel said he had no plans to pursue any action against the Dolphins in the aftermath of Boston's left knee injury.

Although Boston complained of some soreness in the knee before practice Friday, his knee checked out as structurally sound when examined by Dr. George Caldwell.

-Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison will give out coupons for free children's haircuts to the first 100 parents who register to vote at a voter registration drive in Liberty City on Friday. The event will be at the Freedom Market Place on NW 27th Avenue.

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