- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins, coming off last year's controversial bullying scandal, believe their locker-room culture has improved and will not be an issue this year.
Several key members of the organization spoke about the team's improved chemistry and character as training camp opened Friday. Last year, the Dolphins were marred by an ugly harassment scandal toward former offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, who left the team and eventually was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in the offseason. A league investigation followed and produced the Ted Wells report, which pulled the curtain back on various issues of harassment in Miami's locker room.
However, with a new year comes renewed optimism, and the Dolphins believe last year's high-profile scandal is a thing of the past.
"We talked to our players about being good teammates, respecting each other and that's what we're about," Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said.
"That's our overarching principles of respecting our teammates and being a good teammate. That's what we emphasized to our players and that's the kind of guys we have on this team."
Miami head coach Joe Philbin first spoke at the owners meetings last spring about being more in tune with his players. Philbin received criticism last season for being unaware of issues going on with Martin, former teammate Richie Incognito and others.
Philbin said he's made it a point to talk more with his players away from the practice field.
"We've been emphasizing respect for one another and communication," Philbin said. "I thought our communication last offseason was the best it's ever been. ... I've had many, many more one-on-one [conversations] with players in the offseason. I think they have a better understanding of where I'm coming from."
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross explained Friday that he brought in people to talk to players about proper leadership and teamwork. Ross also said that he's talked to Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey personally. Pouncey is the only remaining player on the team who was cited in the Wells report last year for harassment.
"Coach Philbin, Mr. Ross put in a bunch of things to change that," Pouncey said of the locker room. "Right now, we're heading in the right direction. The guys, everyone has bought into this program and the way we want it done here."
The Dolphins were 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs by one game. They enter this year with high expectations internally.
"That's our only expectation -- to make it to the playoffs," said Pouncey, who is on the physically unable to perform list and could miss as many as eight weeks. "We were so close last year. I know that's in the back of a lot of guys' heads."
2hEric D. Williams
1dBy Ian O'Connor