The Miami Dolphins have a new locker room and while some of you may have seen the changes in the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, it’s impossible to realize exactly what changes were made unless you had actually seen the old locker room. Recently I had the opportunity to tour the new digs and have had the privilege of seeing the former as well. I’ll try to describe what greets the players as they enter.
Perhaps the biggest change that I noticed was the Dolphins logo on the floor. It’s gone now. The wide open space has been replaced with tighter quarters and more personal space. Gone are folding chairs and cramped elbow room from one stall to the next. Entering the locker room prior to this season, visitors and players walked into a large open room with locker stall along the walls.
The middle of the room was where the logo was located and large black leather couches were thrown around for the players to lounge around and play domino’s, cards, or just to relax. Visiting groups like the one that I was with kept to a straight path from door to door keeping the players lives distantly away. Along the upper walls were various motivational quotes and at one point a 3D football was crashing through above the door. Notice that behind the chairs in the above image are stacks of shoes for players. Some players have shoe endorsement deals and have so many shoes they can’t get right up to their lockers.
Now, that has all been replaced.
Modernized and clean, Joe Philbin‘s attention to detail and cleanliness has made it’s way into the locker room completely. The vast open air walled lined lockers has been replaced by sectional lockers that form quads or units that a visitor can walk through from door to door. The lockers themselves are streamlined to keep the areas clean and modern. They even have their own seats built into them so there are no more folding chairs.
In the above photo (click for a larger image) you will notice the full wide seats complete armrests. On each armrest is an outlet and a USB port that is available to charge the players Ipad’s which hold the Dolphins playbooks. Practice clothes, uniforms, and personal equipment are hung behind the players seat and the helmets are now hung from hooks on the lockers rather than taking up space in the overhead bins. Shoulder pads are kept in their own compartments and an air flow system has been designed to pull air from the room and circulated out the back of the lockers to help dry the equipment and keep it fresh from smell.
Above the open pad compartment is another compartment that players can store extra shoes in instead of stuffing them under their chairs. Directly below the pad compartment is a personal compartment for each player complete with individual safe’s the players can use to keep valuables locked up when they are not in the room.
Below each seat is a pull out drawer where players keep their shoes and other gear. Using the same air flow design as mentioned above, the shoe drawer pulls air through the drawer and keeps the area smelling cleaner. The over flow of shoes is kept in the top compartment of the locker. Just below this drawer is a pull out foot rest for players that don’t have long enough legs to reach the floor. There are two sizes of locker seats to allow bigger offensive lineman more room.
The lockers, like everything else Philbin touches are done with an intention. An intention to unite the team as a team and not a series of individuals.
In years past, Dolphins players were pretty much situated by position with QB’s and WR’s close by while the Oline and TE’s were close together. While the Dolphins QB was on one side of the room, a DE or LB was on the opposite side. That is no longer the case. As you enter from the players parking side of the room, immediately in front of you is Ryan Tannehill’s locker and next to his is not an offensive player.
As explained by Dolphins equipment manager Joe Cimino, Philbin stressed unity for his team and the design of the locker room as well as the assigning of lockers was a part of that plan. I asked Joe what the story behind the lockers being so spread in terms of offense and defense not being together.
“Part of coach Philbin’s plan”, Joe started, “was to force the team away from certain groups. He knew that the players would spend hours together with each other in position meeting rooms and felt that the limited time they spent in the locker room would be better spent getting used to other members of the team.”
It makes sense considering Philbin comes from Green Bay where the number one taught priority is that each player is a part of a bigger system and none is more important than the rest. In Miami, he is trying to bring that same attention. Joe Cimino did say that there were certain requests that he accommodated. Assigned the task of assigning lockers to the players, he organized the room based on what the players wanted with certain obvious caveats.
According to Joe, players were asked what side of the locker room they would most like to be on.
“Some players wanted to be closer to the training room where they wouldn’t have to go to far to get extra tape, socks, or other equipment. Some players were more ‘workout’ focused and wanted to be closer to the weight room, while still others wanted to be closer to the dining area. We took that into account when we prepped the locker room for player assignment.”.
The Dolphins locker room can accommodate more than 70 players but still fall about 10 short of the 90 required spaces now that the NFL has upped the training camp rosters to 90. Those players at the bottom of that roster share lockers for the duration of camp until the team begins trimming down to meet league mandated roster cuts. All in all, the Dolphins locker room is now a place for practicality instead of social make-up.
The couches have been removed as have the tables and replaced by tape stands and what I imagine to be cold beverage containers. One in each area of the room. The players now have a new lounge complete with flat panel TV’s and ping pong tables located in the old media press room. It would be easy to stop here but like everything that the Dolphins do, simply stopping with a descriptive change of the locker room would leave out quite a bit of detail.
So in part two we will cover what changes were made to the lockers themselves to give players more comfort and what happens when a new player arrives to the facility. Watch for Inside the Dolphins: Locker Room Part II on Monday morning.