If you remember back to when Joey Porter was released by the Dolphins earlier this offseason, he painted an ugly picture for how the 2009 season ended. He spoke about a lack of leadership. He claimed that head coach Tony Sparano wasn't even speaking to him by the end of the year despite Joey being just one of two healthy team captains. The other two, of course, were on Injured Reserve and didn't attend most practices and meetings.
And the one captain who Sparano did seek out and trust late in the year is not only no longer in Miami - he is now a member of a hated division rival.
Yes, things have changed.
Joey Porter is in Arizona. Jason Taylor is in New York. Jason Ferguson is in retirement. And the lone 2009 captain who remains in Miami, Chad Pennington, is recovering from yet another shoulder injury and is currently penciled in as the third-string quarterback.
Clearly, the locker room dynamic will be very different in 2010. New leaders will need to emerge. The coaching staff will have to rely on new faces for setting the tone, especially late in the season when players grow tired of the head coach's voice.
The coaches and front office, of course, know this. Perhaps that is why the Dolphins went out and drafted seven team captains back in April's draft. Seven. That doesn't happen by accident.
Back on the final day of the draft, general manager Jeff Ireland told the media that he believes having "good guys" on your team is important because "they're easier to coach and they develop faster than the guys that aren't good kids." Ireland added:
"We're in the business of developing football players, and the faster they develop, the better a team we are. Character has a lot to do with that. When a guy is a team captain and people are leaning on them to make a decision for their football team and making decisions to get those other guys going and motivate them, that's big for me."
With that said, it's unfair to expect any of these rookies to become locker room leaders right away. Instead, there are some key veterans who will need to step into more of a leadership role in 2010 - beginning on Friday when the pads go on for the first time in 2010.
Despite the fact that Pennington will be relegated to a third-string quarterback this year - at least to start camp - he remains the epitome of what a leader should be and could even be a captain again. But there will be at least three vacant captain roles.
Yeremiah Bell could be one of those players who takes a larger leadership role this year. After all, Bell did win the Don Shula Leadership Award this past offseason - an award voted on by teammates. Bell's path from a late-round draft pick to Pro Bowl safety has been a long one - but one that can't help but earn the respect of teammates. Upon winning the award a few months ago, Bell told the Sun-Sentinel, "With leadership comes respect. I guess I earned it somewhere along the way, and I'm very happy about it."
Ricky Williams is another guy who might assume more of a leadership role in this locker room. In fact, Dave Hyde reported last month that Tony Sparano has approached Ricky already about doing just that. Ricky seems like he's up to the challenge.
Others who might emerge locker room leaders include Ronnie Brown, Jake Long, Karlos Dansby, and (of course) Chad Henne.
Henne will be particularly interesting to observe starting Friday. It's been his team since week four of last season and he entered the offseason as the undisputed starting quarterback for the first time. How will he command the huddle? How will he take control of this offense - both on the field and in the locker room?
There are lots of question heading into tomorrow's first practice of 2010. But there might not be any bigger than which players rise to the occasion and fill the leadership voids left by the departures of some of the team's most vocal and respected veterans from last season.