With three losses in 4 games, Dolphins in a sea of turmoil

5-4 mark brings infighting, criticism of team's heart

November 15, 2003|By Alex Marvez | Alex Marvez,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

MIAMI - The current state of the Miami Dolphins is as painful to middle linebacker Zach Thomas as his groin injury.

Thomas won't know until tomorrow morning's warm-ups whether he will be able to play against the Ravens. But Thomas said he is certain that coach Dave Wannstedt is unjustly taking the heat for the team's disappointing 5-4 record.

"The players have to be men about it and get an attitude and quit having a loser mentality," an agitated Thomas said after Thursday's practice. "`Well, the reason I didn't make that tackle ... Well, the scheme isn't for me ... Well, the reason I didn't run the ball is the scheme.' No, make a block. No, make a tackle. That's all it takes."

Thomas even made reference to the conversation Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga had with Wannstedt the day after Sunday's 31-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

"Dave's not out there missing tackles. Dave's not out there running the ball," Thomas said. "Huizenga needs to come talk to us players instead of talking to Dave. That's crazy."

Because of a strained right groin, Thomas stayed behind in South Florida instead of traveling with the team to Tennessee. The Dolphins were also without cornerback Patrick Surtain, who dressed but didn't play because of a sprained right ankle.

Thomas said he turned the game off after the first quarter, not because the Dolphins had fallen behind 14-0 but because of the criticism coming from the announcing crew. At one point as the Dolphins struggled, CBS analyst Randy Cross referred to the absence of Thomas by saying, "He's been their heart, and they don't have it today."

"When they say the defense isn't playing with much heart, I take it personally," said Thomas, who tuned in again briefly during the third quarter. "They're talking about my boys. That's when I got kind of frustrated and turned the thing off. I should have just put it on mute or something."

Thomas, who joked that Tennessee would have won "28-7" had he played, hopes he doesn't have to watch tomorrow's game from the sideline. But Thomas acknowledges that he is hesitant to return if there is a risk of the groin injury lingering throughout the season, as when he tried to play with a sprained ankle in 2000.

"I'm trying to get back out there, but I'm not going to be ignorant either," said Thomas, who was replaced by Tommy Hendricks against Tennessee. "I'm going to see how it feels when I can burst. I haven't hit that last gear yet. Hopefully, I'll be fine. ... If it is hampering my play, put Tommy in and go from there."

In light of losses in three of their past four games, some Dolphins players have made critical comments on and off the record. Thomas, though, believes his teammates should be more focused on improving themselves instead of complaining.

"We can't let this divide us because there are games we should've won but didn't," Thomas said. "We can't sit there and throw it all out the window just because we have to change up now and press.

"There are teams who have had the lucky breaks, and their coaches are geniuses. We haven't had the lucky breaks. We wouldn't be talking about this if we just took care of business."

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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