MIAMI (AP) - The Miami Dolphins deployed cheerleaders and other employees to locations in three counties Monday to advertise the NFL’s return.
Phones rang frequently at the ticket office, and the team complex bustled with meetings in preparation for the start of practice Thursday or Friday.
As for coach Tony Sparano?
“It’s tough to get to see him,” Dolphins vice president Harvey Greene said. “He’s obviously behind closed doors, getting ready for the avalanche to fall in the next few days.”
With the lockout over, an offseason of activity will be condensed into a matter of days for every NFL team. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland are ready for a frenetic stretch in free agency while training camp simultaneously begins.
“I would say the game face is certainly on,” Dee said. “Jeff Ireland and Tony and their respective groups have been preparing for this day. They are in lockdown, ready for the week ahead, ready to hit the ground running. There’s a lot of work to be done on and off the field. I think we’re well prepared to move forward.”
Camp will open Thursday, although players may report for strength and conditioning workouts beginning Tuesday. The first exhibition game is Aug. 12 at Atlanta.
Veteran free agents can begin signing on Friday. At the top of the Dolphins‘ shopping list will be a quarterback to compete with Chad Henne, and a running back to share time with rookie Daniel Thomas.
Off the field, the Dolphins will try to make up ground in lagging ticket sales. Because of the lockout, Dee said, the sale of new season tickets is down 60 percent from the norm. The “community blitzes” Monday evening were a first step in the campaign to win back disenchanted fans.
“There was a tremendous amount of negative energy for a while around the work stoppage,” Dee said. “In recent weeks I think we’ve seen it already begin to turn. I think we’ll be able to play catchup here.”
With the labor dispute settled, the Dolphins restored employee pay reduced because of the lockout. Salaries returned to previous levels effective immediately, and all compensation withheld since reductions took effect May 15 will be returned in full in the next paycheck.
“You learn a lot more about people in tough times than you do during times that are great,” Dee said. “Our staff was outstanding, never complained and supported the cause. It was great news to deliver to them today to restore compensation back to traditional levels.”
Regarding the labor deal that ended a 4 1/2-month lockout, Dee said everybody won.
“We believe this was a fair outcome,” he said. “The game is positioned for long-term prosperity.”