By Bill Cox

We started the Miami Dolphins Web Weekend today on Friday November 25. Thank you to Dolfan UK for allowing me to represent the club this year. 

We had a private tour of the stadium with the upgrades to the VIP clubs as the focus of the morning. “The Nine” is the over the top private luxury club for the Living Rooms. The price to join this is staggering!!! Mr Ross even had a private elevator to this level. 

The 72 Club has another extremely luxurious club which has an entrance to the field. All the season ticket members are allowed onto the field at some point before or after the game. All of these clubs have free gourmet foods and free drinks with driver service to and from the games available to them. Also, a  great feature is a large glass window to watch the Dolphins Cheerleaders warming up and they walk through the club to the field before the game starts.

Since last season they have started to put in large amounts of art work inside the stadium. I have attached photos of some large wall murals including my favourite one of Coach Shula. Each end zone has its own private club for their use which is smaller but very nice.  

On the opponents side (north) we went into the Hyundai club. This gets quite a bit of use as the seats associated are directly in the sun. All food and drinks in this club has to be bought and not provided for free. Phase 3 will be to upgrade the concourses and Club area. Along with the exterior of the stadium. I can honestly say as a season ticket holder for 8 years our stadium is something to be proud of…

As the second part of the Web Weekend we went to the Dolphins Training facility and were seated inside the training Bubble at midfield. 

First, we had Andre Branch come in for a quick talk before his defensive meeting began. He is a very nice and humble young man talking about how he had to make the most of the chance he has received from the Dolphins this season. He spoke about how close the team is under first year coach Adam Gase and the atmosphere of the environment. It seemed they really believe in the whole organization this season.

Next we were very lucky to have Jarvis Landry pop in for a talk. He is a very engaging and well spoken young man who echoed what Andre Branch has said about the team environment and Coach Gase. My favorite question asked seemed to be Jarvis Landry’s, as well. He was asked about the play against the Rams where his teammates pushed him into the end zone which can only be compared to a Rugby Scrum. He said he saw Ju’wan James come in first as the others followed and his feet didn’t touch the ground until he was in the end zone!!! 

Finally, we had Mike Tannenbaum come in to talk to the group. He was asked many questions about the draft process and how he felt the way the draft played out this year with Laremy Tunsil falling to them at #13 in the first round?

He started to talk about the trade that dropped them five spots from 8 to 13. They felt that the drop of five spots would still land them a quality starter while adding two defensive starters with Byron Maxwell and Kiki Alonso at manageable salaries. Alonso will be under his rookie contract for ’16 and’17 as he lost a year due to an injury that landed him on injured reserve. Mr Tannenbaum never thought Tunsil would have dropped to us at #13. When GM Chris Grier scheduled Tunsil for an interview at the combine in Indianapolis he thought it was a waste of one of their 60 interviews that were allowed during the week. But, he says you never know how a draft can play out 

He was also asked if he thought the change of coaching has been why we have had so much more production out of our young players? Tannenbaum was very diplomatic in his answer. But, said that Coach Gase is a very good problem solver and is one of the reasons why they signed him to lead our franchise. 

Saturday afternoon we will have our tour of training camp and talks from executives and former players which is usually quite entertaining…

Miami Dolphins Web Weekend continued on Saturday morning with our charity event assembling hurricane relief packs. We had a nice turnout and finished in under an hour. Where in previous years attendees said it lasted for several hours..

At 4pm we assembled at the Dolphins training camp to begin the evening. We started with a tour of the locker room and this is a rare event that is not offered regularly. we were told this because the locker room is their  “Home away from Home’. Players have photos of family and other personal items and we are asked not to take any close ups of the lockers. It is an impressive place with each position having their own meeting rooms, weight room, training and treatment rooms, enormous equipment rooms, cafeteria and probably too many others that we didn’t see.

Then onto a very quick look inside the Practice Bubble because they were beginning a rehearsal of the halftime show. At 5pm we were seated back in the main meeting room and were very lucky to have Tom Garfinkel stop by who is the President and CEO of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. He is a very busy man and left his family to come in and speak to us, as you can see by his casual attire, which we all liked. We had Tom speak last year and he is a favorite of the group and a fantastic speaker. He spoke in detail of the incredible renovation process of the Stadium and is very hands on with the process. One of the group asked him about the different phases of the renovations and he told us that Mr Ross has and probably will keeps adding phases as he wants the stadium to be first class and maintained to keep it looking new. 

The Miami Dolphins are one of the few franchises that has an owner who owns both the team and stadium. Mr Garfinkel told us of the challenges to improve parking and entering and leaving the facility quickly. They meet every Monday after games and go over everything that went right and wrong and seek a way of improving. There is even talk of pedestrian overpasses to cross streets safely. One critique he said that was received from the players is that they cannot hear the music or announcers in the stadium from the field. That will be addressed so that the players can hear more of the music. The new HD highly focused and widely dispersed sound system is directed at the fans. As a season ticket holder i can say it is so much better than the old sound system because if you were anywhere near a speaker it could be painful afternoon. We can all hear the announcers voice much clearer without echoes now.

After a very nice barbecue dinner we were seated again in the auditorium meeting room and James Walker the ESPN journalist who covers the Dolphins exclusively came to speak. One very good question he was asked was if it is easy to become biased covering one team or does it become personal, at all. He acknowledged that it was a good question and said over time there will be coaches and players that you like and don’t like, but you have to keep that out of the way you cover the team. Fans just want to know what happens between the goalposts. 

We finished the evening with maybe the most entertaining group many of the long time attendees can remember. Sam Madison, Kim Bokamper, Troy Drayton and Mark Duper all sat together and gave us a group talk hosted by former Dolphin Twan Russell. We could not have had a better evening as they told us some great stories from back in the day… 

But first Sam Madison was asked about a personal situation where he had donated a kidney to his 11 year old daughter this past September. A great story which can be found if you Google it online.

There were so many great stories from this group that had us laughing out loud and wishing we had all been NFL players. The final question of the night was my favorite. Sam Madison and Mark Duper were asked about their relationships with longtime teammates Patrick Surtain and Mark Clayton coming into the league a year apart and playing so many years at the same positions together. We enjoyed hearing what close friendships they developed and still have today. They speak often and especially during the football season when they call each other saying that they would have made that play as they watch the Dolphins… Good stuff..​

Our final day of Web Weekend was game day!!! All the groups met for a tailgate party in the outside corner of the stadium. At 12:00 we were escorted onto the field to watch the warmups. I have some great photos of the team. Tannehill and his receivers looked sharp with a lot of energy which translated to the performance.  Devante Parker after catching a pregame pass on an out pattern stopped to high five a few of us. Even the referee stopped for a few pics. 

One of the things I noticed that was different from other previous years was the defensive backs were also catching passes from the QB’s. It seems like a good idea to possibly activate ball skills in coverage. 

Stephen Ross was on the sidelines and we got some photos of him looking very pleased before things got started. Six wins in a row has put a smile on many Dolfan’s faces…