Chad Henne, Will Allen, Davone Bess, Dan Carpenter, Brian Hartline and Brandon Fields spoke with the media while taking part in the annual Fins for Kids Holiday Toy Event at the Dolphins training camp.
"It's like losing a family member," said defensive back Will Allen. "Obviously, everybody in our business understands the nature of it. We're graded on wins and losses and, unfortunately, Tony was head honcho and all that responsibility was going to fall on him and he knows that."
In almost four years as Dolphins coach, Sparano went 29-32. But Miami started this season 0-7 before going on a four-game winning streak. The team dropped to 4-9 after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
"It's a shame he had to go out that way," Henne said. The quarterback has been nursing a shoulder injury to his non-throwing left arm for much of the season. "He and [Dolphins GM] Jeff Ireland drafted me. I wish I could have him for another year as my head coach because I respect the hell out of him.
"We've been through a lot of the same things because it's either the head coach or the quarterback who gets blamed for a lot of things."
While the players admitted to being caught off guard by Sparano's firing, they diplomatically declined to second-guess the decision.
"You know that's a decision that has nothing to do with me," said Carpenter, the team's kicker, when asked if Sparano should've been allowed to finish the season. "That's (a decision) that Jeff Ireland and (owner) Stephen Ross had to make."
Added Bess: "It is what it is and it's a business. Management and players, we all have responsibilities. If you're not productive with what you're doing, they want to find someone who could get it done."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press