DAVIE, Fla. — DAVIE, Fla. - In a team meeting yesterday morning, Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano asked his veterans to stand up, and then instructed the ones with playoff experience to remain standing.
Of approximately 45 non-rookies in the room, including eight practice squad players, only 18 still stood, further emphasizing Sparano's message that these chances aren't promised to anyone.
"We were like, 'Wow, this is real,' " rookie defensive end Kendall Langford said. "These guys have played for a long time and never been to the playoffs. This is a blessing."
"The stakes are high. It doesn't come around often and you never know when you might make it back," said linebacker Matt Roth, one of five Dolphins draft picks who have been around for at least four years without a playoff check.
"Three games and you're in the big dance. It's what every kid lives for."
The older players, such as linebacker Joey Porter and nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who have played in a team-high 10 and seven playoff games, respectively, are constantly reminding younger players to not take their first playoff game Sunday against the Ravens for granted.
"The old guys, we're thinking like, 'Hey, this is it, we're hanging our hats on every play.' That's what we're trying to drill into everybody," Ferguson said. "What you got here in your face right now, let's take care of that because it's not going to come around."
Rookie? What rookie?
After losing to quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens, 27-13, in October, the Dolphins no longer see the first-round pick out of Delaware as a rookie.
"I don't think he's a rookie no more," Ferguson said. "This is a new year, so he did all that rookie stuff in 2008. ... He figured it out. He's not trying to be the team. Now you see the team's given him the playbook more where he's taken advantage of using his big strength, his athletic ability.
"He could make all the throws. If we could at least take one part of their game from them, the running game, we'll put a little more pressure on him."
Tight end David Martin (head) and defensive end Randy Starks (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis, and Sparano said they were doing much better.