Fins G Murphy slides home for fathery advice

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
DAVIE, Fla. -- Shawn Murphy doesn't have to venture far to find someone who understands.

The Miami Dolphins selected Murphy in the fourth round of last year's draft. He was an honorable mention All-American guard at Utah State. The Dolphins were high on him.

He didn't start a game, didn't play a game, didn't even dress for a game his rookie year.

Murphy's father has a story to relate. Dale Murphy had a career many people think was good enough to earn induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dale Murphy is in baseball's rare club of back-to-back MVP winners and hit 398 career home runs.

Dale Murphy, however, struggled to break through as a professional. The fifth overall pick in 1974, he didn't debut in the majors for two years. He was switched from catcher to first base to outfield. He didn't play 20 games until his fourth season.

"He was a natural athlete, a big, strong guy," said Shawn Murphy, who has been getting first-team reps at minicamp. "But he had a lot of technical things to work on. It just took time."

Dale Murphy always seemed on the verge. The other exclusive back-to-back club he belongs to? The Topps trading card company featured him as a top rookie prospect two years in a row, 1977 and 1978. That means he failed to meet expectations the first time.

"He ended up being a two-time MVP, being a great player," Shawn Murphy said. "But he always relates to how he started. He was a work in progress. That's how it is for everyone.

"I'm not even saying that my career is going to be like his. I'm not trying to compare them at all. But it's an example that you can have a rough start and work through it and have a great career."

Shawn Murphy was inactive for all 16 games last year. He was leapfrogged on the depth chart by sixth-round pick Donald Thomas, who was viewed as a project.

When Thomas went down with a season-ending foot injury on opening day, the Dolphins plugged in Ike Ndukwe, an undrafted player who had been released by three previous NFL teams.

The Dolphins combed the waiver wire for guards all season. Matt McChesney and Evan Mathis were picked up and played, while Shawn Murphy watched in street clothes.

"I wouldn't really call it self-doubt. It was frustration," Shawn Murphy said of his lost rookie campaign. "I trust my coaches. If they're saying I'm not ready to play, then what do I need to do to improve? It was a question of what I have to do to play."

Thomas has been sidelined with a pectoral muscle injury, clearing the way for others to get first-team reps.

"I try not to think about it from a first-team, second-team perspective," Shawn Murphy said. "I try to think 'Did I do better today that I did yesterday?' Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't."

He claimed he has put his disappointing season behind him and is feeling much more comfortable in the NFL.

"It's been a gradual thing," Murphy said. "I don't think there was any moment of revelation. It was just sort of a gradual process. I needed to pick it up in this area or that area, and then when the season ended I said I was going to treat [2009] like a fresh new season.

"I'm going to forget what happened last season. I'm going to come out and work hard all offseason, come to OTAs and camp with a new perspective."