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Both physical and mental toughness of Dolphins to be put to test

"That's one. You knew what the deal was. We didn't come here today to win one. We came here today to win two. That's what the [bleep] we came here to do. One today, one in a couple of days. That's what we're doing."

Those were the words head coach Tony Sparano said to his players in the locker room just moments after beating the Titans on Sunday. It wasn't pretty by any means. But like Sparano told his team after the game, it doesn't have to be pretty.

"It's just got to be Miami Dolphins football."

That's the message Sparano delivered to his players after the game. And now more than ever, Miami Dolphins football will be defined by one word: toughness.

I said on Sunday after the game that the win over Tennessee didn't really feel like a win. But after witnessing all of the injuries this team suffered, could you blame me for feeling that way?

As fans, we have the luxury of throwing ourselves a pity party when our team runs into a rash of injuries like the one this team suddenly incurred. The coaches and players involved, though, do not have that luxury. They have to get back to work. This week in particular, they really have to get back to work - as a meeting with the 6-3 Chicago Bears looms on Thursday night.

The physical aspect

Consider the list of players who will be asked to play through injuries on Thursday night. Cameron Wake was in and out of the game with a hip injury. Jake Long was in and out with a potentially serious shoulder injury. Vernon Carey is bothered by a knee injury that caused him to miss some plays. Joe Berger has a knee issue. Chris Clemons and Yeremiah Bell both missed a few series on Sunday with some dings.

And we can't forget the season-ending injury to Chad Pennington to go along with Chad Henne's potentially (but not necessarily) long-term knee injury.

All told, the Dolphins had 13 players listed on their injury report on Monday night - which doesn't include Pennington because he was placed on Injured Reserve. Of those 13, ten are starters.

What's amazing is that this team was one of the most relatively healthy in the entire league entering last Sunday's game. Then all hell broke loose. And it couldn't have come at a worse time - during their dreaded "short week" leading up to their Thursday night prime time game.

There are going to be some sore bodies taking the field in Miami in a couple of nights against a very healthy Bears team.

The mental aspect

Just as important, of course, is how this Dolphins team responds mentally to the tough situation they've been put in. More than likely, the Dolphins will be playing a crucial game with their third-string quarterback under center. And there's at least a 50/50 chance that their all-world left tackle will be unable to play.

That right there would be enough to kill the spirits of a lesser team. But not this team - which is a reflection of their head coach.

Say what you want about Tony Sparano, two things that have always defined his team here in Miami are toughness and resiliency. He knows how to motivate his players. His players like playing for him. He owns that locker room. And one thing I'll never worry about is the effort put forth by a Tony Sparano led team, that's for sure.

That's why I believe it's no coincidence that Tony was as upbeat, positive, and energetic as I've ever seen him during a "day-after" press briefing. His players will feed off of that energy and that positivity this week.

Focus on the positives and prepare for Thursday night - that's really all this team can do. I don't know if the Dolphins will be able to overcome the situation they've been put in this week. But I do believe that if any team can overcome these obstacles, it's this one.

"We're flipping the switch tomorrow. You need to come to work tomorrow with that mindset. We're going to get win number six this week and put the pressure right back on all those [bleeps]."