Minutes later in the Dolphins locker room, offensive tackle Tyson Clabo shifted direction while answering a question on the “situation” involving offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.
“On another note,” Clabo said in the middle of an answer, “we have a game Monday night against Tampa. That’s a pretty big deal. We’re excited. I thought we had a good practice. I though we had good energy. I’m excited to see how we’re going to go out and perform.”
Yes, the Miami Dolphins do have a game to play Monday night, even though that’s almost been forgotten this week amid the back-and-forth, accusations and questions relating to the events that led to Martin leaving and Incognito being suspended by the team.
While the media inquiries continued in full force Saturday, the players in the locker room said they have been and remain focused on what they’re paid to do — trying to win football games.
“We’re ready to play again,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “I’m tired of all this stuff that’s going on. I’m tired of hearing all the questions about something that, honestly, I have no control over. I’m just ready to play on Monday.”
The game against Tampa Bay will come 11 days after Miami’s last outing, an overtime battle that ended with Cameron Wake winning the game for the Dolphins with a sack of quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone.
The victory put the Dolphins at 4-4, and they’re currently tied for sixth in the AFC in the loss column.
But the Cincinnati game, the start of the second half of the season and the team’s playoff aspirations have barely registered a blip on the radar screen in the last week or so.
“We didn’t hear anything about our win last week, we didn’t hear anything about winning on a safety, none of that,” cornerback Brent Grimes said. “We just (went) right into this stuff. Hopefully after Monday night, if we play well, we go out there and play well and put some good stuff out there, maybe that’ll push this to the backburner a little bit.”
In Tampa Bay, the Dolphins will face a team with issues of their own, namely an 0-8 record, the departure of former starting quarterback Josh Freeman and reports of displeasure with Coach Greg Schiano.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, will feel a tangible impact from the absence of both Martin and Incognito, two of their starters up front. Veteran Tyson Clabo again will replace Martin at right tackle, as he did against Cincinnati, while the left guard spot will be manned by Nate Garner, who stepped into the lineup after Incognito sustained a neck injury in the first quarter of the Halloween night game.
Not surprisingly, though, Dolphins players were asked about the Martin/Incognito situation being a distraction that could hurt the team on the field.
“Something like this can really just bring a team together and I think that’s what happened because we’ve had some really good practices here,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. “When you have incidents like this, it’s time to pull together and refocus and come together for one common goal and that’s what I think we did this week.”
Said Clabo: “We see it a distraction that we’re not going to let distract us. We’re going to stay focused on football.
“The pressure that all this has created from the media standpoint can really cause some problems. But as far as the guys in this locker room, we all pretty see this thing through the same set of eyes. We’re just ready to go and try to change the narrative here and get back to football and get back to people talking about we’ve got a pretty good football team here.”
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