Dolphins’ Sparano receives contract extension

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DAVIE, FLA. (AP) - Tony Sparano stared into space stone-faced, tapping his foot and chomping on gum.

Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland also wore a somber expression, his cheeks turning red as awkward details were discussed.

Team owner Stephen Ross sat between them, sweat glistening above his upper lip while he tried to put lipstick on a pig of a week for the Dolphins.

They did damage control Saturday, holding an extraordinary news conference to announce a two-year contract extension for Sparano _ and to acknowledge mistakes in dealing with the team’s coaching situation.

“The lines of communication should be handled differently,” Ireland said.

“Now,” Ross said, “I would go about it a different way.”

Ross and Ireland flew to California for an interview Thursday with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, leaving Sparano in very public limbo. Negotiations broke off, Harbaugh took a job with the 49ers, and Ross decided to keep Sparano.

Ross, who took over the Dolphins two years ago, said he had never interviewed a coach before and was naive to think he could keep his meeting with Harbaugh secret.

“I should have probably let Tony know,” Ross said. “I never thought it would be national news. I realized after having read the papers the anguish I had put Tony through. It’s probably a mistake on my part not thinking that when you do something like this, it’s public.”

Ross, Ireland and Sparano said any harm to their relationships had been repaired, but their body language and demeanor suggested otherwise.

Sitting at the end of a long table before 40 media members, they did not look at each other. Ross did most of the talking and occasionally chuckled, while Sparano and Ireland sat rigid with the sort of expressions common on the Dolphins‘ sideline during their late-season meltdown.

However, everyone said all the right things, including Sparano regarding his week of uncertainty. He said it was difficult not only for himself, but for his players and assistant coaches and their families.

“I had a lot of different emotions,” he said. “Frustrations bubble over a little bit sometimes when there’s uncertainty.

“We’re in a happy place right now, and we’re going to do the best job we can to get things right.”

With the extension, Sparano’s under contract through 2013, and changes this offseason will be limited to his roster and staff. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning, for one, is leaving.

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