TAMPA – Having lived in Florida long enough to have experienced a few hurricanes, I know that no matter the degree of the storm, what you strive for most in the wake of one is normalcy.
You want the plywood off your windows, you want your family photos back on the walls and you badly want to get back to the same old boring routine you were taking for granted before the storm came your way.
The Dolphins and Buccaneers, their players reassembled now after the threat of Hurricane Irma forced them to scatter like leaves blown in the wind, got their first dose of normalcy in at least a week on Wednesday.
For the Buccaneers, it was as close to a full dose of normalcy as anyone could hope for, their entire team back together, meeting and practicing at the team’s One Buc Place headquarters in Tampa just like always.
For the Dolphins, it wasn’t quite “business as normal’’ as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh put it. Instead of practicing in Miami, they were in Oxnard, California working out at a Dallas Cowboys training facility.
Since last Friday, when owner Stephen Ross evacuated the team en masse and foot the bill for it, that has been their home, so it was probably as close to normal as they could hope for, too.
The common denominator for both is that football has become a priority again. Not necessarily THE priority, but for a few hours at least now it is enough of a priority to serve as an escape.
“I know for me, football is a getaway from my everyday life,’’ Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “It’s my escape, even though it’s stressful at times because you’ve got to focus (and) your body is hurting.
“I mean, mentally you know nobody cares what you’re dealing with. They just want to see you perform. When you’ve got all that on your mind it gets stressful, but it’s still my getaway.’’
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, football has become Suh’s escape too. He flew into Oxnard on Monday to get a head start on preparation for the Dolphins game against the Chargers but also to regain that all-important sense of normalcy.
“I’ve been watching film the last couple days and we’ve had our first couple meetings here so it’s an opportunity to take my mind off a little bit of what’s going on back home in Florida,’’ he said.
Nothing will take the players’ minds off what’s happening in Florida completely. Too many lives have been turned inside out, possibly forever, for that to happen.
But another thing you quickly come to realize in the aftermath of a hurricane is that outside of the storm’s path of destruction, life goes on, and in the NFL that means games will be played on Sunday.
The league won’t wait for the Dolphins and Buccaneers to regain their focus. The players will have to do that on their own amid all the adversity, and that too was part of what Wednesday was all about.
It was a day devoted to getting back into the routine of football, a day in which the payers were reminded that this is one of those times when as difficult as it may be, they have to perform like the pros they are.
“I think our guys are handling it well,’’ Dolphins coach Gase said of the challenge. “When we got here, our guys seemed focused, ready to go. I think they’ve been itching. I think they’re just ready to play some football.’’
Isn’t everybody? Surely the players are. The fans, too. It’s an escape, after all. Even better, it’s a return to the routine they’ve grown comfortable with, a slice of normalcy in a world suddenly turned upside down.
Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa present to start NFL combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is getting underway in Indianapolis this week and on Monday morning, one of the prized quarterbacks that will be available early in the first round of the draft was there for official measurements and to meet with teams.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, whose season ended with a fractured hip last November, is on the road to recovery and he was officially measured and also, met with numerous teams that are looking at the possibility of drafting him:
Tua Tagovailoa measured at 6-0, 217 pounds at the NFL combine today. Left throwing hand at 10”
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) February 24, 2020
In addition to not only the injured hip, but also a history of high ankle sprain problems, Tagovailoa has got to answer critics on his size. At just 6 – 0 feet there will be concerns about his ability to clearly see downfield through the massive bodies on NFL Sundays.
However, this can be combated by moving him around out of the pocket and that’s something that Alabama was successful at doing over his three years as well.
As we wrote recently, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering a fractured hip on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and then, their Citrus Bowl win January 1st, over Michigan
He came to Alabama from Hawaii and the same high school as Marcus Mariota, having thrown for over 8,000 yards which at that time was a Hawaii High School record. And, he had a career of 84 passing and 27 rushing touchdowns in three seasons.
Tua burst onto the scene nationally, when he relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and overtime of Alabama’s thrilling title game win over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first overtime possession, as Alabama celebrated their fifth National Title in nine seasons under Saban.
In his second season at the helm in the 2018 regular season, Tagovailoa was named second-team AP All-American and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, as the Tide reached the National Title game, again, before being beaten soundly by Clemson 12 months ago.
As this junior season unfolded, Tagovailoa was named almost became synonymous with the Dolphins, who started the season horribly at 0 – 7 and the moniker “Tank for Tua” began to gain momentum in South Florida.
Tagovailoa is obviously on the Dolphins list to look at strongly to select in the top five in the draft and currently, Miami is slated to pick fifth.
It is expected that Tagovailoa will work out for teams probably later in March or maybe even, early April at the Tide’s facility in Tuscaloosa, prior to the NFL draft coming to Las Vegas.
Colorado announced hire of Dolphins assistant Dorrel Sunday
Former UCLA coach and recently promoted Dolphins assistant Karl Dorrell is headed back to college, as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
The school confirmed Dorrell’s hire on Sunday evening with a five-year contract to take over their Big 12 program:
We'd like to officially introduce you to our new HC, Karl Dorrell.
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) February 23, 2020
The Buffaloes have been seeking a head coach since there coach Mel Tucker abruptly left to take the Michigan State job earlier this month.
Dorrell came to the dolphins with Brian Flores this past season, as wide receiver coach and earlier last week was promoted to assistant head coach for the upcoming season. Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, blossomed under Dorrell’s tutelage as the year went on. He finished the season with 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns becoming the favorite target of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Dorrel is the latest Dolphins assistant on the move. Flores fired the offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea he brought with him from New England. And, his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left to take the same job with the Giants.
Dorrell had also been the Dolphins receivers coach, previously from 2008 – 10 and then, their quarterbacks coach in 2011 under the late Tony Sparano.
“I am excited that Karl Dorrell has agreed to become our head football coach,” George said. “Karl has had great success as a college coach, both as a head coach and an assistant, and he knows the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast well. It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously. Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.”
The CU Board of Regents still have to approve Dorrell’s contract, which will be $18 million for five seasons.
Dorrell had previously been on Colorado staffs two other times in his career, including most recently as offensive coordinator under Rick Neuheisel from 1995- 98.
Dorrell was named head coach of his alma mater UCLA in 2003, where he lasted five seasons and went to a bowl game every year finishing with a career 35 – 27 record before being fired after the 2007 season.
Dorrell had previously been receivers coach for the New York Jets 2015 – 18 under Todd Bowles (above) and two of his receivers had made the Pro Bowl during his time there.
Colorado picked Dorrell from an interview process that also included former Buffaloes player and Kansas City Super Bowl offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, who interviewed and was under strong consideration.