The Miami Dolphins held their first full team practice Thursday, following the ratification of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by the NFL Players Associations - a practice attended by the largest training camp crowd of the year. With the CBA's ratification, and the Dolphins shrewd change of the practice's start time, players such as restricted free agents Lex Hilliard, Kory Sheets, and Nate Garner, and new arrivals Reggie Bush, Matt Moore, Jason Taylor, Marc Colombo, and Jason Trusnik, were all released from their holding pattern around the fringes of practice.
"It is tough because it just made a long vacation even longer," Hilliard said. "It’s frustrating sitting on the sideline watching other guys run around and fly around. With the long offseason that we had, you’ve got to get back on the field and get ready for the season, so I was eager to get back out there for sure."
It didn't take long for the new Dolphins to make an impression on the practice.
Running back Reggie Bush took his first carry and followed rookie center Mike Pouncey on his first carry. The result? A 30-yard run.
But, Jason Taylor wasn't going to let Bush have all the glory. The linebacker, beginning his third tenure with the Dolphins, beat Garner on the rush, sacking quarterback Matt Moore.
"It’s the reason that we changed the practice, to have the possibility to get everybody out here," Head Coach Tony Sparano said. "All of a sudden the competition jumps up another notch amongst the team and it really gives you a pretty good indicator in a couple of practices here of where you’ll see this football team start to grow."
Coach Sparano wasn't wrong. The entire atmosphere around the practice seemed to change. Suddenly, the offense opened up and deep passes were the name of the game. Quarerback Chad Henne started finding his receivers, including Bush, who made a beautiful cut immediately after catching the Henne pass, racing down the sidelines.
But, it wasn't all on the field competition that was of note. Two scuffles broke out during the practice, the first between rookie defensive tackle Frank Kearse and backup center Joe Berger. The two were conducting 1-on-1 blocking drills, when Kearse jumped off sides, then threw the football at Berger. On the next snap, Berger shoved the rookie to the ground, and a short scuffle ensued.
Only a short time later, cornerback Vontae Davis took umbridge to a block thrown by receiver Marlon Moore during punt coverage drills. Davis let Moore know his displeasure, but the confrontation quickly calmed down.
As for the newcomers and their ability to transition to the team, Bush stated it best. "Not practicing wasn’t so bad in the fact that it gave me the chance to get the mental reps, learn the playbook and not just kind of get thrown in there to the fire and have to learn on the fly," said Bush, who was acquired from the New Orleans Saints last week and restructured his contract. "Now I got a chance to learn it from a mental standpoint, help some of the younger guys come along while learning the playbook and know that when I finally got in there I’d be more than prepared."
The Dolphins look to continue their training camp practices tomorrow at 3pm. Once again, the practice will be held at the Nova Southeastern University campus in Davie, and it will be open to the public.