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The Miami Dolphins have a new plan to keep their rookies fresh deep into the season, and it involves less time in pads and a lot more time in the classroom.
In a Miami Herald column on Monday, Armando Salguero writes that new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is focused on preventing his rookies from hitting the “Rookie Wall” by late November or early December, and to do that he plans to keep them off the field during the entirety of rookie minicamp.
While other rookies around the league will be suited up going through full-contact drills and practices, Salguero reports that the Dolphins rookies will be hitting the books to learn what it means to be a professional athlete, and what it means to “be a Miami Dolphin.”
That means they’re going to get schooled on the schemes they’re playing, their assignments, and everything football that involves the brain.
But they’re also going to get a little polished up as people. They’re going to get life labs to help them with nutrition, financial planning, sports science, and dealing with the media – the last of which is a big part of their job believe it or not.
The reasoning here is two-fold. The Rookie Wall is generally attributed to rookies being unaccustomed to the longer pro season, and the greater travel. This is augmented by the fact that the months-long build-up to rookie minicamp is itself an exhausting process, including pro days in which schools showcase their draft-elegible players, the NFL combine, private workouts and interviews with a handful of teams, the NFL draft, minicamp, and four preseason games. By the time Week 1 rolls around, rookies are often mentally and physically drained. By Weeks 11 or 12, many will have understandably hit a wall.
Full-contact practices also greatly increase the likelihood of injuries and concussions. This is perhaps a banal point, but it’s one that football teams are paying greater attention to. This year the Ivy League banned player-to-player tackling from practices altogether, and while NFL teams will likely never do anything quite so extreme, by keeping their rookies off the field longer the Dolphins are also ensuring better health come the start of the season.
All of these football reasons make logical sense. But one has to imagine that there is something else influencing Gase’s decision here, and that is the Draft-night debacle surrounding Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil fell to the Dolphins at No. 13 thanks to an untimely video, and his subsequent revelations to the media were a P.R. nightmare.
So while the classroom-only rookie minicamp may be about keeping the rookies from hitting the Rookie Wall, it’s also undeniably about making sure they are as media savvy as humanly possible as they enter the NFL world.