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Jimmy Johnson’s First Miami Camp Starts; Rookies Trickle In

July 15, 1996

Jimmy Johnson started his first training camp as coach of the Miami Dolphins with the same message to rookies he used to send out in Dallas _ if you want to make the team, don’t haggle over a few dollars.

As camp opened at the team’s training facility in Davie, Fla., the Dolphins signed rookie running back Jerris McPhail, a fifth-round pick out of East Carolina. But Johnson was clearly unhappy that running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar and cornerback Dorian Brew were not in camp.

The Dolphins seemed to be nearing a deal with tight end Johnny Mitchell, released earlier this spring by the New York Jets. He is expected to sign soon, replacing Eric Green, who was released last Tuesday.

Mitchell underwent a physical Monday in South Florida and a press release announcing his signing was printed and waiting for distribution. The fifth-year player from Nebraska caught 45 passes for 497 yards and five touchdowns last season for the Jets.

Meanwhile, the focus was on rookies, who under Johnson are often thrown right into action.

``It gives us a lot of motivation,″ said rookie linebacker Zach Thomas, a fifth-round pick from Texas Tech. ``It’s a great time to come in. It’s a new coach, a new defense. You’re a rookie coming in and everybody has something to prove.″

McPhail, who received a $95,000 signing bonus for his three-year deal that will net him $131,000 this season, said he didn’t want to anger Johnson by holding out.

``You don’t want to get into Jimmy’s dog house,″ McPhail said. ``I just want to get out there and show what I can to do.″

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Bengals

Cincinnati signed three of its draft choices, including second-round pick Marco Battaglia, as the team opened training camp Monday at Wilmington, Ohio.

Battaglia is a tight end from Rutgers. Also signed were linebacker Tom Tumulty, a sixth-round selection from Pittsburgh, and offensive lineman Rod Jones, a seventh-rounder from Kansas.

Cincinnati also waived defensive back Anthony Prior, who had played in 40 games for the Jets from 1993 through 1995.

Rookies, quarterbacks and some veterans moved into their rooms at Wilmington College, with the team’s first workout set to take place Tuesday.

Three draft picks remain unsigned, including No. 1, offensive lineman Willie Anderson of Auburn. The Bengals also are still trying to reach agreement with two key veterans, tight end Tony McGee and kicker Doug Pelfrey.

Coach Dave Shula wants to go with a two-tight end formation now that running back Ki-Jana Carter is back and presumed healthy. Carter, the NFL’s No. 1 draft choice last year, lost his rookie season when he tore knee ligaments in an exhibition.

Eagles

Linebacker Pepper Johnson, cut last week by Baltimore, worked out Monday for Philadelphia.

Johnson, a member of two Super Bowl-winning teams with the New York Giants, went through a number of tests and drills for about an hour. Coach Ray Rhodes said he wanted Johnson, but that it would be up to the front office to figure out if he can be signed at an acceptable price.

Johnson was scheduled to make $1.29 million this year, but the Eagles aren’t expected to offer much more than half that amount.

``He had a good workout for us,″ Rhodes said. ``Pepper’s a good football player and he still has a lot of football in him.″

Saints

Running back Mario Bates made a lot of mistakes last year.

`My rookie year I didn’t know what to expect,″ Bates said. ``And last year was one of the big mistakes of my life. I had a lot of injuries and I really didn’t come in in shape.″

Whether he is in shape this year remained an open question Monday after Bates failed to complete the annual running event that kicks off the Saints’ summer training camp in La Crosse, Wis.

Bates has never completed the conditioning test, failing every year in college and for three years in the NFL.

``I ran them Wednesday on my own and had no trouble,″ Bates said. ``But when I get out there, I just can’t do it. I don’t know if I warm up too much or if it’s nerves. I do get nervous about them.″

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