A whole new ballgame

We already knew things were going to be a little different for the Dolphins under new coach Nick Saban, and the beginning of training camp has done nothing to change that perception. And, for the most part, it's pretty clear the changes are for the better.

A lot of things have been said about Nick Saban so far, but one thing that has been constant in talking to players about their new coach is praise about how well organized Saban is.

Quarterback A.J. Feeley, who pretty clearly wasn't a big fan of how things were run last year under Coach Dave Wannstedt, said the biggest difference between this year and last year was the "structure" under Saban.

Clearly, this is a guy who has a plan and knows how to execute it.

Players also have talked about how hands-on Saban is on the practice field, particularly when it comes to the defensive backs, a group Saban spends a majority of his time with.

But there are plenty of other changes as well, such as the practice schedule, which has cut down on the number of two-a-days and also shifted the second practice to the evening on those days when the Dolphins do work out twice.

Saban's logic is that there's no sense in running his players into the ground with two practices in the daytime and the scorching South Florida heat, and he's got a good point, too.

The approach in dealing with the media also has changed, with reporters given a lot less access than before.

For one thing, the media no longer watch practice from the field but rather from the stands. For another, the Dolphins locker room is now off limits during training camp, with all interviews being conducted at a nearby hotel.

The one exception to that rule was the Ricky Williams press conference, which took place in the auditorium at the team's training facility.

Assistant coaches no longer conduct interviews, with a couple of exceptions, the idea being that Saban wants there to be only one voice speaking for the Dolphins, his own.

Whethere the new media policies help the Dolphins on the field is debatable, but Bill Belichick has similar rules and the Patriots have been doing pretty well lately, last we checked.

But that's not the biggest change under Saban. The biggest change involved a whole new atmosphere.

With Saban, everything is more organized, structured and there is no questioning who's in charge.

That wasn't always the case around these parts in recent years. And that, more than anything, could make a difference on the field next season.


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