Dolphins Make Surprising Debut on In-Season Hard Knocks Despite Initial Reluctance

The very first scene of this year’s in-season Hard Knocks makes it abundantly clear that the Dolphins are not enthusiastic about being a part of it.

Coach Mike McDaniel, speaking to his team during their first gathering after the bye, makes a valiant effort to prevent the potential distraction of Hard Knocks from becoming an actual distraction for the Dolphins.

“So, Hard Knocks starts today,” McDaniel announces. “And I’m actually convinced I’m fired up about it. It’s a heavy burden on a lot of people. Big paychecks, OK, in this room, it’s a burden on you. The players that are recognized around the league, it’s a burden on a day-to-day basis.

“But I refuse to do this job and not give you guys my authentic self. I’m not going to change. I will not. We’ve worked too hard. And this is part of our journey. We’re going to have people document this whole season. Awesome.

“I’m not changing, OK? Nor do you guys have to. So shit’s gonna get weird, OK? Who cares. It is a distraction if we let it. I refuse to have our journey tainted by that shit.”

It’s evident that McDaniel would rather not be involved with “that shit” by the fact that he referred to it as “that shit.” However, it remains unclear why or how he was required to participate.

McDaniel has players who do not want to open their lives to NFL Films cameras and microphones. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa shares this sentiment. During the first team meeting recorded by Hard Knocks, Tua appears visibly anxious by tapping his right leg.

When asked by reporters if he will watch the first episode, Tua responded, “No. I’m not watching any of that.”

Will it have an impact? If Mike McDaniel were being entirely honest, he’d say he’d rather not find out. He would say he’s got enough challenges to deal with without having to worry about whether it will create problems for his team.

He already had to address it on Wednesday when the first episode’s repeated references to the universal language of ass whooping came up in McDaniel’s press conference.

“Universal language,” he remarked. “I’m fluent in that. I learned that in middle school on the bad end — just kidding. . . . That’s kind of what I alluded to in a team meeting before about the unintended consequences. There’s some natural resistance to your safe place. We do things in a way that would — from a foundational standpoint, you try to do things not because it’s been done or the way that you’ve done it before, but what makes the most sense. When you’re doing stuff like that and you let your guard down, your guard is down because you’ve learned to let your guard down in the safe place. For that to be violated, it was kind of nerve wracking.”

Indeed it is. The safe place is no longer safe, because anything you say can be used against you. Unless the editing process catches it and scrubs it out before the next episode drops.

Once again, it’s just more for McDaniel to worry about at a time when he should be focused solely on the performance of his team. So, yes, it’s a distraction for McDaniel, primarily because he’s preoccupied with ensuring it doesn’t distract his team.


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