This time, Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase didn't wait until the team was mired in a midseason losing streak to put his foot down; when eleven year veteran linebacker and offseason free agent signee Lawrence Timmons went AWOL last Saturday night, the second year coach summarily suspended him for four games, and the front office wasted little time trading for his replacement.
Although there has been no official account of what actually transpired, this is what I believe may have happened: Timmons committed some sort of violation of protocol; perhaps, as many have suggested, he was late to a team meeting, or for curfew, etc. Upon being informed that he wouldn't be starting on Sunday -- Timmons, remember, had an active streak of 101 straight starts prior to the Chargers game -- he just snapped and left the team's hotel in a huff. It had to have been rather embarrassing for Timmons; his friends and relatives across the country were probably excited about being able to see him in a new uniform for the first time since being drafted by the Steelers in 2007. The indignity of having to tell them that he wouldn't be in the lineup until later in the game had to be a bitter pill for him to swallow.
I for one think Gase is 100% right in his approach; this is a common problem for teams that haven't been competitive for a long time. A player from another, more successful team comes to town and expects to be able to get away with a little bit more than they did with their old team. You can almost hear Timmons complaining on the phone to his friends: "What the _ _ _ _, man, I'm late for one stinking meeting and they're trippin' like this ?" Many mediocre teams, like the Browns and Jaguars, etc, have had similar issues.
It's not as if Gase is a stern taskmaster; by his own admission, he only has two basic rules: be on time and play hard. Some coaches have had some pretty ridiculous rules over the years; Tom Coughlin, for example, insisted that his players wear a jacket and tie when traveling or conducting interviews. At least one coach refused to allow his players to wear sunglasses. During the early part of his career, Don Shula notoriously refused to allow any drinking water on the practice field. In today's NFL, coaches can no longer get away with that kind of iron-fisted routine. With the advent of free agency, players will avoid that kind of coach like the plague.
As it stands now, there are two things we can likely assume about the team's relationship with Lawrence Timmons: one, he probably isn't going to return to the team, and two, the front office is intent on recouping at least a portion of his guaranteed money. You don't suspend a player for four games if you expect him to play for you. According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, the reason the Dolphins suspended him is twofold: it enables them, obviously, to avoid paying him for the next month and buys them time to parse their legal options with the league office, as well as the players union, as they ostensibly try to have some his guaranteed money rescinded.
As for Timmons' apparent replacement, former Saint Stephone Anthony, why more fans aren't excited about this is beyond me. The team gives up a fifth-round draft pick for a former first-round draft choice when just about everyone in the Northern Hemisphere knows that the Dolphins have a crying need at linebacker, and all we can muster is that we don't know how we're supposed to feel? You're kidding, right? Even if he only plays for them this season, Anthony is manna from heaven for Miami. On to New York to crush the Jets; it's an exciting time to be a Dolphin fan.