4 Dolphins defenders absent from 1st practice with new coach

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DAVIE, Fla. (AP) – The Miami Dolphins are lucky their first game is more than four months away, because they were far from full strength for their first practice under new coach Adam Gase.

Absent from the voluntary workout Tuesday were four defensive starters – safety Reshad Jones, tackle Ndamukong Suh, end Mario Williams and linebacker Koa Misi. End Cameron Wake was in uniform but didn’t take part in team drills because he’s recovering from Achilles tendon surgery.

Jones is believed to be unhappy with his $28 million, four-year contract, which expires after the 2017 season. Williams was dealing with a personal matter. Suh has often missed offseason sessions during his career and likes to train at home in Oregon.

No reason was given regarding Misi. Gase said he had expected all of the absences and wasn’t unhappy about any of them.

“The good thing is I know where everybody is,” he said. “There is no reason to get upset about guys not being here. It’s voluntary. We all know that right from the get-go, and we’re appreciative of the guys that have shown up and that are working hard and that are with us. These guys are here to get better, and we’re here to help.”

Regarding the possibility that Jones will skip mandatory mini-camp, Gase said: “I’m not going to get upset about anything right now. We’ll see how everything goes once we get to June.”

As for Wake, a four-time Pro Bowl end, Gase said the goal is to have him ready for the start of training camp.

The practice was the first of three this week. While there were glaring absences, the workout included 24 newcomers to the roster. More will be added in the NFL draft beginning Thursday.

Newcomers and holdovers alike were adjusting to a new coach, with Gase hired to replace interim coach Dan Campbell after Miami missed the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.

A former offensive coordinator with the Broncos and Bears, Gase roamed the practice field to check on every unit.

“It was fun to be able to be bouncing back and forth, and seeing what’s going on with special teams, and not working with the quarterbacks on some of those drills,” he said. “It was a fun experience just kind of seeing everybody coach and get to observe.”

Gase plans to call plays, and when he worked with the offense, he spoke into a walkie-talkie between plays. Who was at the other end?

“I hope the quarterbacks,” he said. “We like to start kind of that game-type mentality, and, for the quarterbacks, getting used to hearing my voice.”

At 38, Gase is the youngest coach in the NFL and not much older than the team’s oldest player.

“Him running around looking like one of us, you could tell he’s young,” linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. “But he’s smart enough to be the oldest coach.”

“He doesn’t walk around uptight,” safety Tony Lippett said. “He talks junk to the players. It’s a loose environment, and that helps you play better.”

Gase said the spring practices are a chance to eliminate a lot of player anxiety that comes with a coaching change. And he said he benefits because he can observe players in person, as opposed to on video.

Among those who impressed him more up close was second-year running back Jay Ajayi.

“I never realized how shifty he was,” Gase said. “Just seeing him stick his foot in the ground and change direction, you didn’t see him do that a lot in college. It was very impressive for me to see him in person.”

Even so, the Dolphins are expected to take a running back high in this week’s draft. Cornerback is also a priority.

Miami has the No. 13 overall pick.

“I like what we have already on the roster,” Gase said, “and I’m excited to see what takes place coming up here in the draft.”

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