DAVIE, Fla. -- Team bonding is a funny thing in the NFL. There are a hundred different ways it can happen successfully, but there is no textbook way to do it.
For the Miami Dolphins, part of their team-bonding experience this year comes in the form of a T-shirt. The players came up with a series of statements called the "Dolphins credo" that everyone aims to abide by. Among those statements are "I will always place the team first" and "I will never accept defeat." [You can see the full credo in the picture I shot Wednesday after practice.]
It is well-documented that Miami had issues with leadership and locker-room culture last season. The Dolphins have been diligent in improving that area of the team, and head coach Joe Philbin was impressed players took it upon themselves to create this in-house motto.
"I think the best way to do things is to give them some ownership and not let them feel like I'm coming down from the mountaintop and saying, 'This is a must' and 'This is a mandate,'" Philbin explained. "I thought they did a good job. I thought they gave some consideration and some thought to it. I think it's good."
The Dolphins appear to be a more together team this summer. The team is moving on from last season's harassment scandal involving former Dolphins Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Even things like rookie hazing, such as funny haircuts the Dolphins did nearly every year, are a thing of the past.
Philbin himself has made it a point to be more communicative and accessible to his players. This is part of the growing process for the third-year head coach, who continues to learn after going 15-17 his first two seasons in Miami.
"Believe it or not, some guys believe I have too many rules or I'm a little stiff. I don't know why and where anyone would get that from," said Philbin, who prompted laughter from the media. "But in all honesty, the great teams I've been around as a coach and been a part of, the players really take control of it. I have locker-room policies, weight-room policies, dining-room policies, player-lounge policies, travel. It gets old."
In the end, what matters most is what happens during game days. But the Dolphins hope bonding experiences like these during training can help them get over the hump and end a five-year playoff drought.