Dolphins downplay Tony Sparano's return

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
4:30
PM ET
DAVIE, Fla. -- Tony Sparano led the Miami Dolphins for the past four seasons. But according to the Dolphins, they have moved on and they hope Sparano, the Jets' offensive coordinator, has done the same.

"I think it's probably a little bigger for him than it probably is for us," Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said. "I always thought highly of him, don't get me wrong. But at this point, I think we have so much we're trying to do here, the last thing we're trying to think about is somebody that's gone."

Sparano's return to Miami is one of several interesting storylines for Sunday's AFC East game between the Dolphins (1-1) and Jets (1-1). Both teams are trying to get above .500 and get at least a share of first place in the division.

Sparano was fired in the middle of last season after more than three underachieving years. Jets head coach Rex Ryan quickly picked Sparano up in the offseason and put him in charge of the offense.

What is ironic is Ryan and Sparano didn't get along as opposing coaches. But things have been fine now that both are working toward the same goal.

"My big thing is he thought he was tougher than me," Ryan said of Sparano on Wednesday's conference call. "He thought his team was tougher than mine and I thought my team was tougher and I was tougher than him. But I always respected him and I recognized him as being an outstanding football coach."

Does Sparano have an advantage over Miami? Sparano has coached many of the Dolphins' players. At the same time, Miami has implemented a new West Coast offense and a 4-3 defense this year.

"He has really unlimited knowledge about personnel," Dolphins guard Richie Incognito said. "But as far as scheme and what we’re doing, it's totally different. So it gets caught in the wash. This is a totally different team."

Dolphins rookie head coach Joe Philbin, Sparano's replacement, shrugged at the Sparano question this week. To Philbin, Sparano's return is a non-story. The Dolphins are just trying to win another game.

"Those of us that’s been in the league for a while understand coaches move, players move," Philbin said. "That's just the natural evolution of the game. I think it probably is too much made of it."

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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