Football / Sports

Dolphins have no problem with Pouncey in leadership role

DAVIE, Fla. -- Critics would argue the Miami Dolphins are setting themselves up for trouble by designating Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey as a team leader.

The debate would make it clear the franchise should have learned its lesson after trusting embattled guard Richie Incognito a year ago.

But you won't hear that sentiment coming from general manager Dennis Hickey, coach Joe Philbin, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, or Pouncey himself.

"I've always in my mind been a leader," Pouncey said Tuesday. "I've never doubted that. I would hope that anybody else wouldn't doubt that.

"The work ethic I put in, the way these guys on this football team look at me, they all know I'm the leader they want me to be. So that's all my main focus is, is to be the best that I can be."

No one doubts Pouncey's ability to be at his best on the field. He's one of the top centers in the NFL.

It's off the field where things get complicated.

Last year, Pouncey, an outgoing personality was the face of the Dolphins' bad behavior.

In a 10-month span his high-profile actions included wearing a "Free Hernandez" hat in August, landing in the middle of a bullying scandal during the regular season, and sending an ill-advised tweet which referred to rookie hazing earlier this month during the NFL Draft.

Sandwiched between those incidents was Pouncey being served a subpoena to testify before a grand jury related to the murder case against Aaron Hernandez, the former New England tight end who was a friend and college teammate at Florida.

That wasn't necessarily a result of anything Pouncey did, but it was another incident that called attention to Pouncey and the Dolphins in a negative way.

Because of the bullying scandal, Pouncey has to go through a NFL-mandated exam by a medical professional. On Tuesday, Pouncey said he doesn't know when he'll have the exam, but he made headlines by adding he doesn't think he needs to undergo such an assessment.

To many, it seems Pouncey, a member of the player-appointed Dolphins Leadership Council last season, is destined to get caught up in another embarrassing situation.

The Dolphins, however, seem comfortable with Pouncey in a leadership role. They picked up the fifth-year option on his contract, had him at the team-sponsored welcome dinner for left tackle Branden Albert, and have had him tutoring the young offensive linemen.

You'd think the Dolphins might be a little skittish about having Pouncey tutoring players considering he was involved in bullying his teammates. But that's not the case.

The Dolphins are trusting Pouncey to do his job.

"That's our job as a leader, to take the young guys in," Pouncey said, "teach them how it is to be in the NFL, when they have questions be there for them because the rookie year is your hardest year coming into the NFL.

"It's a big transition. So when you have older guys that are leaders on your football team, you want those guys to step up and help those guys."

The Dolphins say Pouncey has been setting a good example.

Lazor, the first-year offensive coordinator, said he's been impressed with Pouncey's effort.

"One of the most exciting things for me is the day I first spoke with Mike," Lazor said. "I spoke with him on the phone, and I laid out what I was looking for. He was very excited to do it. I think he's taken that bull by the horns. He's the right guy to get that done for us."

Pouncey, whose missteps have been more a case of bad judgment or immaturity as opposed to anything legal, wouldn't seem to be a Philbin guy. The third-year coach favors low-profile players.

But Philbin seems cautiously optimistic about Pouncey.

"Today is Day One," Philbin said after Tuesday's OTA (Organized Team Activities). "It's a long, long process, but he's off to a good start."

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