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Omar Kelly: Dolphins players say lack of veteran leadership contributes to skid

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Omar Kelly: Dolphins players say lack of veteran leadership contributes to skid

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Last year Ryan Fitzpatrick lost his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa, the rookie quarterback the Miami Dolphins wanted to build around.

Nevertheless, the savvy veteran was still called on in emergency game situations when clutch play was needed and retained his alpha male status in the locker room, which is why he was given the Leadership Award by his teammates at the end of the 2020 season.

Ereck Flowers taught Miami’s young offensive linemen how to be pros on and off the field, and former Dolphins center Ted Karras taught them how to study film and made proper in-game protection calls.

Former Dolphins safety Bobby McCain held the secondary together, making all the coverage checks and calls, keeping the unit on one accord.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy made many of the front-line checks and got everyone in position. According to team sources, Van Noy also routinely challenged the coaching staff about troublesome game plans and in-game calls, keeping them accountable to the players.

If we’re doing a deep dive on what’s gone wrong this season with the Dolphins — attempting to explain how a 10-6 team in 2020 delivered a 1-6 start in 2021 — we have to bring up the purge of leaders that took place this offseason.

As a free agent, Fitzpatrick moved to Washington, where he was named the starter before injuring his hip in the season opener, and Tagovailoa has struggled to come out of his shadow as a leader, not player.

“He’s great, and he’s trying,” one Dolphins player said about Tagovailoa, who owns a 7-6 record as Miami’s starting quarterback heading into Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills (4-2). “But it’s not Fitz.”

Releasing Van Noy and McCain, trading away Flowers to move up 14 spots in the seventh round of the draft, and not re-signing Karras created cap space. But their departures left leadership voids on units that have struggled this season.

Miami’s linebacker unit has have been a mess, and Jaelan Phillips has struggled to replace Van Noy. The secondary constantly features breakdowns, although Jevon Holland has shown early promise as the starting free safety. The offensive line is on its third starting center and lacks a quality NFL starter like Flowers, who has started every game for Washington this season.

In a tough stretch like Miami’s six-game losing streak, leadership matters, because it is those veterans who are responsible for the heavy lifting when it comes to restoring morale and instilling fight and belief into the team.

Elandon Roberts, Jesse Davis and Clayton Fejedelem, who were all captains in 2020, and receiver Mack Hollins are doing their best to steer the Dolphins into less troubling waters.

But somehow, this team has lost its way.

“As a leader, you learn that it’s hard to motivate people. You’ve got to learn from each individual person what each individual person needs,” said Hollins, who was named an offensive captain this season.

“There are guys that need to get [yelled at]. There are guys who need to be brought over to the side. There are guys that you need to tell their best friend that [they] need to talk to them. Being able to maneuver that is something all leaders [must do]. You never complete that job. It’s never I know how to work with everybody, especially in this league because there are always people changing, there are always new teammates, there are always new players.”

And that’s part of the problem the Dolphins have had trying to build on 2020′s success.

Two weeks ago, the Dolphins held a players-only meeting to address what they felt were the team’s pressing issues.

There was talk about accountability, lack of effort and commitment, doing the extra things in practices and the team’s preparation, the need for more excitement and energy on the field.

Plenty of talk happened.

The problem is, it didn’t stop the bleeding, and sources say the solutions proposed — more energy, more accountability — weren’t going to fix anything, because it’s on-field execution that has been the issue.

“Are players who make mistakes getting benched?” a Dolphins defender asked. “Are they losing their roles? They pushed out the veterans for the young guys, and then wonder why we don’t look the same. It’s because mistakes keep getting made, and who is being held accountable?”

More importantly, who has this team been able to lean on for performances that back up the words of wisdom, or inspirational prep talk?

After all, words are better followed up with action.

“We’ve just got to take it one game, one play and one practice at a time. It’s no secret,” said Roberts, who will likely have more responsibility if Jerome Baker, the team’s leading tackler, is sidelined by the knee injury he suffered in last Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“There’s no magical thing that you need to do as a captain or as a teammate. It’s nothing. You just got to come in every day with the work mentality to get it right, and that’s by taking it one practice at a time, taking it one play at time and taking it one game at a time.”

©2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Game time: Fast facts, odds, injury report and key info for Miami Dolphins (4-7) vs. Carolina Panthers (5-6)

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1638025093 555 Game time Fast facts odds injury report and key info

DOLPHINS (4-7) vs. PANTHERS (5-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium

TV: FOX (Chs: 7 in Miami-Dade/Broward and 29 in Palm Beach); RADIO: WQAM (560 AM), KISS (99.9 FM), WQBA (1140 AM, Spanish)

Coaches: Brian Flores is 19-24 in his third season with Dolphins; Matt Rhule is 5-6 in his first season leading the Panthers.

Series: The Dolphins have a 4-2 edge in the all-time series with the Panthers, Miami’s least-faced opponent in the NFL, but Carolina has won the past two meetings.

Line: The Dolphins are a 2-point underdog; the over/under is 42.

Injuries: Dolphins — Out: TE Adam Shaheen (knee), DB Elijah Campbell (toe/knee), CB Trill Williams (hamstring); Questionable: S Brandon Jones (ankle/elbow); Injured reserve: WR DeVante Parker (shoulder/hamstring), WR Will Fuller (finger), C Michael Deiter (foot/quad), C Greg Mancz (ankle), RB Malcolm Brown (quadriceps), S Jason McCourty (foot), WR Lynn Bowden (hamstring), WR Allen Hurns (wrist), T Larnel Coleman (knee), T Greg Little (undisclosed); Panthers — Doubtful: G John Miller (ankle); Injured reserve: QB Sam Darnold (shoulder), CB Jaycee Horn (foot), C Matt Paradis (knee), OT Cameron Erving (calf) among 11 players on IR.

Noteworthy: The Dolphins put a three-game winning streak on the line in a key contest to see if they can keep clawing closer to .500 and back into the postseason hunt if a few more victories are strung together. …

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was with the New England Patriots in the preseason before he was cut, making way for Mac Jones to start there. Spending the first half of the season without a home, Newton rejoined the Panthers, whom he spent the first nine seasons of his career with, two weeks ago. …

Newton makes his second start with Carolina after also playing in goal-line packages in his first game back with the Panthers. He lost his start against Washington Football Team, 27-21. When he was with the Patriots last year, the Dolphins split the season series. …

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is coming off a 27-of-33 performance for 273 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the 24-17 win against the New York Jets last week. …

Dolphins punter Michael Palardy played in 68 games for the Panthers from 2016 to 2020 with 295 punts. The Panthers have South Florida high school connections with wide receiver Robby Anderson (South Plantation), defensive end Brian Burns (American Heritage), guard John Miller (Miami Central), offensive coordinator Joe Brady (Everglades) and cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper (Miami Killian).

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Front Range retailers hope 2021 holiday shopping season is a little brighter

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Front Range retailers hope 2021 holiday shopping season is a little brighter

Area businesses that have survived the pandemic are banking on the increase in activity and travel to make this year’s holiday shopping season a bit brighter.

Department and big-box stores offered deals on Black Friday while local stores looked forward to Small Business Saturday. The day geared toward independent retailers and other businesses was founded in 2010 by American Express and is cosponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Wheelhouse Gifts on Denver’s South Pearl Street opened in 2020. The store, owned by Jody Fidler, was open for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday last holiday season.

“But because of the pandemic, it wasn’t probably as impactful as it could have been for us,” said Molly Casey, an employee who’s in charge of the store’s social media. “This year, knowing we can be fully open despite the mask mandate, is really important to us.”

Retail analysts and trade organizations say there’s reason for optimism this year. The National Retail Federation said sales rose in October by 1.7% from September despite ongoing labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and rising inflation.

Denver-area shopping centers experienced “a very significant and positive visit trend” in October, according to a statement by Placer.ai, which provides analysis of foot traffic based on data from devices enabled to share the information. Data from Placer.ai showed visits in October to three metro-area shopping centers — Cherry Creek in Denver, Southlands in Aurora and Park Meadows in Lone Tree — were at or slightly above levels for the same period in 2019.

October’s sales numbers indicate people are responding to factors affecting retailers heading into the holidays, said Dave Bruno, director of retail market insights at Aptos, a retail technology company.

“People are shopping early to minimize the risk of supply chain disruptions and inventory outages impacting their holiday gift-giving,” Bruno said in a statement. “The big question, obviously, is whether much of the planned holiday buying is being done early and December sales will suffer, or if this confidence and buying power will sustain strong growth throughout the entire season.”

Charlotte Elich is among Denver-area business owners who hope people turn out in force to support local retailers this holiday season.

“I’m always optimistic. My goal is always to surpass the year before and I’ll say we always seem to have done it, except for 2020,” Elich said. “Now my goal is to at least match 2019 this year.”

To meet that goal, Elich will have to deal with working shorthanded, something businesses from the country’s largest corporations to small mom-and-pop shops are facing as people have quit jobs or not returned after furloughs and layoffs. Elich, who owns 5 Green Boxes gift shop and another store on South Pearl Street in Denver, was struggling to cover shifts when two employees recently quit.

Now, Elich is working in the office during the week and working the counter on weekends. She also has to worry about staffing her store in Union Station in Lower Downtown and an outlet site on the weekends.

“It seems like I had a lot more applicants” in past years, Elich said. “I don’t have a whole lot of people applying these days.”

Elich, who has weathered the ups and downs of the pandemic, has been in business for 44 years.

Shauna Sankey of Colorado Springs started BlackGirlSalsa in August 2020 and hopes to grow it into a full-time venture. She is encouraged by the support she sees for small businesses in campaigns like Google’s Black Owned Friday and Small Business Saturday.

“It wasn’t like a master plan. It just kinda fell into that situation,” Sankey said of her pandemic-born pursuit.

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Medical center in Lafayette hosts test run of humanoid robot

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Medical center in Lafayette hosts test run of humanoid robot

TRU Community Care in Lafayette was the host last week to the unveiling of a brand new technology in the medical field — a humanoid robot that can perform basic medical tasks.

BEOMNI, a remote-controlled humanoid robot, pushes a cart of medical supplies down the hall next to TRU Community Care Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Wensel during a demonstration at TRU PACE Center in Lafayette on Friday. (Matthew Jonas, Daily Camera)

Beyond Imagination, an AI company based out of Colorado Springs, visited the Lafayette hospice center to test out the robot, named BEOMNI.

“We are excited that TRU sees the almost limitless potential of our humanoid robots in health care and has agreed to run this first pilot study with us. We look forward to partnering with them to bring a highly effective solution to market,” said inventor and CEO Dr. Harry Kloor.

The robot is controlled remotely using VR technology, so that doctors and specialists can see patients who are miles away. However, the physical presence of a robotic aid such as BEOMNI can make up for gaps that are present in current telehealth technology, such as physically touching and administering care to a patient.

As the technology develops, Beyond Imagination is hoping to incorporate BEOMNIS into other aspects of everyday care, offering an alternative to modern-day nursing homes and round the clock care centers.

Annually, the average cost of a nursing home in Colorado can cost around $100,000 for an individual patient; Whereas the cost of a BEOMNI aid would come out to far less than that, says Dr. David Wensel, Chief Medical Officer of TRU Community Care.

The need for a humanoid robot in the medical field is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the staffing shortage in the medical field, according to Wensel.

1638023138 433 Medical center in Lafayette hosts test run of humanoid robot
BEOMNI, a remotely controlled humanoid robot, navigates the its way through a doorway while pushing a cart with medical supplies with TRU Community Care Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Wensel during a demonstration at TRU PACE Center in Lafayette on Friday. (Matthew Jonas, Daily Camera)

The pilot study took place from Nov. 9-12 in order to determine how the robot would fare in a real-world medical setting. The robot can perform tasks such as taking temperature using a thermometer, looking into a patient’s mouth using a tongue depressor and a flashlight, and even dance with patients — although long-term capabilities are expected to extend far beyond that.

This particular robot is a ‘version one,’ but is equipped with AI technology that will help the robot learn as it goes.

Another plus about BEOMNI humanoids in the health care field? “They can’t get COVID!” says Kloor.

BEOMNI robots are expected to be on the market in the next couple of years. For more information on Beyond Imagination and BEOMNI, visit beomni.ai.

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