The Miami Dolphins’ Ping-Pong table in the heart of the team’s locker room has gone from provider of a fun, leisurely activity for players to distraction that needed to be weeded out and now the cause of inconsistent messaging across the team.
When coach Mike McDaniel first offered the news that the table had been removed from the Dolphins’ locker room at their practice facilities, he made it sound like it was a decision brought forth by the captains, with receiver Tyreek Hill at the forefront, to help increase Miami’s focus on game preparation.
When Hill was asked about it on Thursday, he said it was no such thing — that it was all about bringing in a new, custom-designed table to replace the basic one that had suffered overuse and was, according to Hill, bent.
Revisiting the topic on Friday, McDaniel had his final say. He doesn’t mind what the ultimate narrative is behind the table’s removal or potential upgrade to come, and he’s happy with what the players want.
“It’s the players’ locker room,” McDaniel said. “If they giveth, they can taketh away – and they can re-giveth.
“That is their space. I just want them to be here at work as long as possible. If the story changes 14 times, I could care less. I’m just doing my best to report the news, but at the end of the day, it’s their space. I’m happy if that is the truth, which, if it changes, I could care just as much less. If it does change, good for them for upgrading their standards of Ping-Pong play. Because nobody wants to be average, and when you have an average, green table, what’s that about?
“I like the fact that they have all that stuff going on. It’s hard to keep up, and in two days, who knows? Maybe, for Tyreek, it was punishment, and then he thought his teammates deserved it and he gave it back to them. Or, this whole time, he was just playing a ploy on all of us. All of which, it’s really not that meaningful to me, but I’m glad that they’re getting all worked out down there because it is the captains’ locker room, and he is one of the captains. So, what he says, goes, to a degree.”
McDaniel has gotten to enjoy Hill’s personality since the two came together in Miami this offseason — Hill from Kansas City and McDaniel from San Francisco.
“It’s tremendous. I appreciate humor,” McDaniel said. “I appreciate people coming to work every day with energy. The bottom line with Tyreek is, when he’s in here, he’s in his parking spot, he comes inside, everybody on the team, whether it’s a player, coach, football staff member, knows that he’s going to get himself ready to go, perform on the field. He’s really held in high regard.”
Not so fast on Austin Jackson
After offensive coordinator Frank Smith said he was “extremely” optimistic on a return for right tackle Austin Jackson off injured reserve for his ankle injury, McDaniel cautioned to pump the brakes on Friday.
“What you guys are learning about Frank Smith is he’s overly optimistic to a fault,” McDaniel quipped. “I think that was a hair aggressive by one of my favorite people on staff. … We’re taking it day by day with [Jackson].”
Sure enough, ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, Jackson was not seen on the practice field Friday after participating in Wednesday and Thursday drills.
Jackson landed on IR following the Dolphins’ Sept. 11 win over the New England Patriots in the opener. The placement on IR put him out a minimum of four weeks. He is now eligible to return. His return to practice earlier in the week started his 21-day clock to be activated off IR.
“A.J. has done a great job in his rehabilitation, his preparation, being active and involved,” Smith said Thursday. He is such a hungry learner. I mean, just coming into the NFL so young. I mean, he’s just been really fun to work with. I know we’ve all enjoyed his progression.”
Other injury updates
Aside from Jackson, Dolphins starting left tackle Terron Armstead was not seen at Friday’s practice, marking another full week where he misses drills.
Armstead has been able to play through the lack of practice the past four games, but in last Sunday’s loss at the New York Jets, he exited after eight plays due to his lingering toe injury.
Armstead stayed in the New York/New Jersey area overnight Sunday and into Monday to see a foot specialist before returning to South Florida.
Dolphins defensive back Elijah Campbell (foot), the only other player on Miami’s active roster to miss Thursday drills, returned to practice on Friday.
Quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater, while remaining in concussion protocol Friday, were both seen throwing with the team and able to expand their practice workload, according to McDaniel.
Injury designations ahead of Sunday’s game will be made later Friday afternoon.
This story will be updated.