The Miami Dolphins began a new era on Tuesday, as head coach Joe Philbin opened his first minicamp with the team in Davie. But the biggest news of Philbin's first day on the field was the absence of star linebacker Cameron Wake, who is skipping the workouts in protest of his current contract, which will pay him $615,000 in 2012.
Wake wants to restructure his deal and sign a contract extension a year before he becomes a free agent, and has vowed not to report to any team activity until that happens. He skipped a series of voluntary team workouts earlier this month.
But Philbin did not outwardly let Wake's absence spoil his good mood. "We've had some good discussions. We've talked," he told the Miami Herald of Wake. "As you guys know, I'm entering my 10th year in the league. This isn't a new phenomenon."
He is right on that count, and a player of Wake's caliber will not be missing much by skipping April minicamp.
Even though he was the only Dolphin absent on Tuesday, Wake's teammates said they understood why he made that decision. "It's definitely tough, but it's a decision that he had to make," linebacker Karlos Dansby told the Palm Beach Post. "He's got to look out for him and his family. I understand that."
There is still plenty of time for Wake and the Dolphins to mend fences, so it is far too early for Dolphins fans to start pondering a Wake-less season.
Philbin also said he has been in frequent contact with general manager Jeff Ireland in advance of this week's NFL Draft. "He's been very willing, listened to our staff and myself," Philbin said of Ireland. "We'll offer opinions" about draft prospects, he added, "but that's really [Ireland's] area of expertise."
"I'm looking forward to a very productive draft," Philbin concluded.
Philbin's optimism extended to All-Pro left tackle Jake Long, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn biceps but said he felt healthy on Tuesday. "Our hope is as this process develops he’s going to round himself into good shape and be one of those guys where we match him and not worry about that side," Philbin said of Long.