The Miami Dolphins opened their 2015 offseason workout program this week, a voluntary program allowing players to get back to the team facilities and do strength and conditioning work. While it is a voluntary program, and the team cannot compel players to attend, they are encouraged to show up and do the workouts as a team. When a player like Dion Jordan, the 2013 third overall draft pick who has struggled to stay on the field for the Dolphins since his selection, it is something that will be noticed.
When the executives of the team are asked about Jordan's absence, and they simply dodge the question, it moves from something noticed to something that is an issue.
On Friday, the Dolphins held a pre-draft press conference with Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum, General Manager Dennis Hickey, and Assistant General Manager Eric Stokes. It did not take long for the topic to change from the Draft to Jordan.
"Yeah, right now we're in the voluntary part of the offseason program and we're really happy with the attendance and if somebody chooses not to be here that's obviously their decision," Tannenbaum replied when asked about Jordan's absence.
"Again, it's the voluntary part of the program and we can certainly talk about the guys that are here," Tannenbaum continued when asked again. "That's the part of the offseason program where we're at."
If the Jordan questioning stopped there, maybe there would not be a lot to discuss. Of course, it continued a little later in the media availability, starting when Hickey was asked about tracing a player's love of the game. "I think you go back to, one, that's part of the research and what is his past performance and the people who have coached him, been around him, how they describe his love for football," he replied. "And then you also watch how he plays and is it evident by when you put on the tape that this guy loves football. Obviously, there's interaction, but a lot of that goes into all of the research that you do and what you see with your own eyes."
For me, similar to what Dennis said, if you're winning 37-0 or losing 37-0 and you put on the tape, is that the player, is he the same guy, is he playing with bumps and bruises?" Tannenbaum added. "To me, who you are in life is how you treat people that can't help you. When you go to the equipment manager at a school or the trainer or the third assistant strength coach, who's the first guy in after a loss or who's the last one to leave? All of those things are factors that I think answer that question."
Then, Stokes added, "And Mike hit it with all of those factors. It also comes down to your gut, to your instincts, what is that little ticker inside of you really saying once you have opportunities to visit with these players and sit down with them and look them in the eye. That really goes back to me. I trust my gut, I trust my instincts, and I also factor that in as well."
That, of course, then led to whether or not Jordan has the proper love for the game, or if there is concern about how invested he is to the game. After a moment of silence, Hickey finally answered, "This is a pre-draft (press conference). We'll talk about the draft on that."
Suddenly, Jordan not being at the workouts is no longer something that was noticed, but a story. Why the hesitation in the answer? Why the blatant punting of the question? There was blood in the water, and sharks beginning to circle now.
"Look, I think what we're expecting now is to just get through this press conference and get back into the room," Tannenbaum answered later when asked whether Jordan would be at the team's first mandatory practice later this offseason. "We'll deal with other issues down the road and I'm sure there will be plenty of those to deal with."
Jordan is now an "issue" that has to be dealt with "down the road." What is the issue, though? Is it a love of the game thing, where Jordan simply does not mentally want to continue? Is it a drug issue again, one that, following two suspensions last year, could wind up putting Jordan on the shelf for a large portion of the season? Is there something else going on between Jordan and the Dolphins?
Whatever the situation, it seems Miami is not fully behind their third-year defensive end anymore. Signs seem to point to the Dolphins looking to move on from a player who came to the team with so much anticipation, only to now appear ready to go out with a whimper. Oregon's Jordan has all the potential in the world, potential that had him rated as the top defensive player in the 2013 Draft and a player the Dolphins were lucky to be able to grab. Miami's Jordan has been nothing but a disappointment thus far, and it does not look like that disappointment has yet reached its end.