Miami Dolphins Weekend Roundup: Paul Soliai taking franchise tag seriously

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend. Now it's back to reality and the start of what is a very big week for the National Football League. The players and owners get back to the bargaining table for four consecutive days of meetings beginning today. Significant progress towards a new collective bargaining agreement must be made by the week's end if the league wants to see training camps start on time.

The key date is July 15. If a new CBA can be signed and delivered by that day, camps will start on time and no preseason games will be missed. But to maintain that timeline, the two sides must be very close to an agreement by the end of the week. It's that simple.

Moving on, there were some nuggets of news this weekend worth highlighting regarding our Miami Dolphins.

Soliai training hard, in "football shape"

Without question, one of the major reasons Miami's defense finished ranked 6th in the league a year ago was the play of Paul Soliai. Soliai's unexpected rise from bubble player to key cog in the Dolphins' 3-4 defense cemented Miami's defensive line. After the season, the big Samoan was rewarded financially for his dominance in 2010 by being slapped with the team's franchise tag - meaning Soliai will play the 2011 season on a one year deal worth over $12 million guaranteed.

Giving that kind of money to a player who has had just one good season is always a risky proposition. But from what Soliai said during his radio interview on WQAM, Paul is taking his responsibilities as the defense's highest paid player seriously.

"It means a lot to me, but there’s a lot of things I got to do," Soliai told Omar Kelly. "I got to come into camp in good shape, come in at the right weight, and try to become a leader. I got to do everything right."

Soliai has historically had trouble keeping his weight below 350 pounds. Ideally, this coaching staff wants Paul at around 340 come September. But thanks a rigorous workout regimen in Utah with fellow Samoan and Polynesian players Haloti Ngata as well as a diet that has restricted Paul from eating his favorite dishes - including food from his island heritage - Soliai says his current weight is 342 pounds.

"It's a lot of stuff you got to sacrifice to be committed to what you want to accomplish," said Soliai. "I'm right where the Dolphins want me to be at. My weight's pretty low and I'm happy with it."

While Paul won't have to worry about being fined by the team due to his weight - a frequent occurrence throughout his first three seasons - Soliai is concerned with proving to this team that he's going to continue to improve and is worth a long-term investment.

"I'm not really satisfied with what I did last year. I know I could do better. I want to do better every year and show everyone why I got franchised," Soliai told Kelly. "That's something that's really pushing me right now."

Henne determined to remain starting quarterback

Love him or hate him, there's no denying that the man on the hottest of hot seat once camp starts will be Chad Henne. We know the Dolphins will be bringing in at least one veteran quarterback to compete with Chad for the starting job. To Henne's credit, he's continually said and done all the right things this offseason as he prepares for the impending camp battle.

On with Sid Rosenberg of WQAM on Friday, Henne basically said everything you'd expect a player in his shoes to say.

"Everywhere you go you’re going to get critiqued and obviously I know I need to improve as a player," Henne said regarding the criticism he's faced here in Miami. "But I’m still young and I’ve taken steps forward to improving and I work hard at it and I take pride in what I do out there. And obviously I take all the risk and critiques about it but overall I just want to improve and help the team win and get to the playoffs and one day a Super Bowl."

Henne went one step further when asked about how confident he feels about remaining the starting quarterback for this team, telling Rosenberg "that’s up to the coaching staff but I sure as heck want to be the starting quarterback for Miami Dolphins and lead them to the playoffs and the Super Bowl and I’m going to do the best I can to compete out there and earn that spot."

The entire interview is worth a listen. You can also get the nuts and bolts of the interview here at Andrew Carter's blog.

What I will say about Henne is that the kid is geting better at dealing with the media and with the heat being thrown his way. He's shown the leadership this offseason that we've all questioned since last year. I don't know if that's going to translate into more production and improved play on the field. But it's fair to think that this lockout may have actually benefited somebody like Henne who needed to prove he can be a leader - with a tip of the cap to Jake Long, of course, who assisted Henne in organizing these workouts.

I'll leave you with this quote from Henne regarding rookie receiver Edmond Gates, who took part recently in some of the workouts organized by Chad.

"Yeah, he’s got a burner and I did some throws out there that made him go get it and he definitely got them," said Henne of Gates. "But the thing that impressed me is coming from a small school, how he can run routes and how he transitions after the catch. So he should be a great addition to our offense."

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