Tim Dobbins was a footnote in a draft-day trade in April that allowed the San Diego Chargers to move up to select Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews.
Dobbins lost his job to Brandon Siler in San Diego last season, but he is playing his way into a potential significant role in Miami. With inside linebacker Channing Crowder recovering from foot surgery, Dobbins has been lining up with the first team during offseason workouts.
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said the Dolphins had their eye for some time on Dobbins, who he said played "around 347 or 347" snaps last season at a variety of spots.
"(He) played a few different positions, similar type of defense, a little bit closer to our defense a year ago than right now, but similar type of defense," said Sparano. "Had some position flexibility and was darn good on all special teams. So we looked at a player here that in my mind had a pretty clear vision of being able to get some solid plays at the game from in whatever the package might be. ... I like his energy, the guy brings a lot of energy to practice out there and he's really a smart player."
Dobbins isn't likely to unseat Crowder for the starting job, but the Dolphins acquired a surplus of linebackers to create depth and competition. That luxury with Dobbins and a few young linebackers led to the release of veteran Reggie Torbor.
"I think that the message that it does send is that you just had confidence in those people," Sparano said. "It really isn't anything that Reggie didn't do. Reggie is a super guy and was really a good player for me here and really-I just like the guy, I really do. But we had some young players here that I think are going to have some really good futures. And we have some players like Dobbins here that are able to do some different things that way, so, we just felt like this time it's the best situation. We're obviously a little bit heavy at that position right now."
--In need of some positive public relations after allowing franchise great Jason Taylor to join the rival Jets and treating affable left guard Justin Smiley as if he was contagious before dealing him, the Dolphins did the right thing by signing fan favorite Zach Thomas to a one-day ceremonial contract so he could retire in his aqua-colored No. 54 jersey.
Of course, it was Thomas who suggested the idea, but credit the regime led by executive vice president of football operations Bill Parcells and his protoge general manager Jeff Ireland for instantly agreeing to it.
Thomas, an undersized, 1996 fifth-round pick out of Texas Tech, spoke about how he overcame his 5-foot-10 size limitations to become a seven-time Pro Bowl tackling machine by outworking his opponents on and off the field, especially in the film room during the week.
"When most people went home at 5 p.m., that's when I got my edge on everybody," said Thomas, who led the Dolphins in tackles in 10 of his 12 seasons in Miami. "It wasn't like a job to me. It was like recess. I hit the lottery."
Thomas, who notched nine 100-tackle seasons also had 20.5 sacks, 15 forced fumbles, 20.5 sacks and 17 interceptions -- four of which he returned for touchdowns. His successor, middle linebacker Channing Crowder, has just one interception, 2.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in five seasons.
"One of the things I have been accused of being is a football junkie. I think the guy that is going to come here next can be accused of the same thing," coach Tony Sparano said before recalling the hours he spent in Dallas game-planning against Miami's defense.
"It kept coming back to the same thing. You have to figure out a way to put a hat on No. 54 or else he is going to make all of the plays. So we figure out at 11 o'clock in the evening or some time that we have to trick this guy. We have to show him different formations.
"In two series, my guys come off the field and look me in the face and say 'Coach, your plan didn't work', the guy is calling out every play before we even get out of the huddle. It tells you about the player we are talking about right now."
After the Parcells' regime chose not to keep Thomas, he signed with Dallas in 2008 but post-concussion symptoms limited his effectiveness. He then signed with the Chiefs in 2009 but was cut before the season started.
"I had to quit being in denial," said Thomas, 36. "Now it's time to turn the page ... There was one thing I'm good at. Now it's time to see if there's anything else I'm good at."
A choked-up Thomas always wore his emotions on his sleeve especially after tough losses. His number will no doubt be in the Dolphins Honor Roll someday, and possibly a berth in Canton awaits.
"If it happens, it happens, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it," Thomas said.
Thomas, who handed out several concussions in his day, took one last parting shot at today's players.
"Don't take the game for granted. The game doesn't need you. You need the game," he said.
Copyright (C) 2010 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.