DAVIE, Fla. -- Chad Henne spoke about how hearing a few Miami Dolphins fans chanting for Kyle Orton at a practice earlier this week seemed unpleasant. A few minutes later, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano gave a benign answer about his team's level of interest in Brett Favre, quickly creating a buzz anyway.
Ah, the annual quarterback circus in Miami appears to be heating up nicely.
Henne said Thursday that he understands criticism comes with the territory of being a quarterback, which seems especially so in Miami given that each of the 15 starters who followed Dan Marino have tried and failed to fill the shadow he continues to cast on the franchise. At an open practice Monday night, a small number of fans broke into a "We want Orton!" chant, referencing the team's apparent interest in acquiring the Denver Broncos' quarterback.
"Absolutely you hear it," Henne said Thursday. "But you take it in, take it out. ... The biggest thing is if you're a Miami Dolphin fan, hopefully you're cheering for the Miami Dolphins and players out there rather than somebody that's not."
Sparano jumped to Henne's defense Wednesday, calling the chants "sick" in an unusually sharp-tongued display from a coach who tends to be mild-mannered in interview sessions. On Thursday, Sparano lauded Henne again, saying he's the team's No. 1 quarterback despite the recent signing of Matt Moore, most recently of the Carolina Panthers.
Then Sparano was asked if the team would rule out any possibility of adding Favre, and the coach seemed to know even the mere mention of the 41-year-old oft-retired quarterback would make news. Almost grudgingly, Sparano answered anyway.
"I can't rule anything out. OK? So, I mean, we don't rule anything out," he said. "I don't know how you want me to answer that. That'll be all over the news now too, but I'm giving you the only answer I can give you."
Sparano confirmed the Dolphins brought in running back Tiki Barber for a workout Tuesday and noted the team added Jason Taylor a few days ago for defensive depth. Barber is 36, Taylor turns 37 on Sept. 1.
"You know Tiki's age. We signed Jason Taylor," Sparano said. "So we're going to flip over whatever rocks we think are necessary in this process. I don't want to say something that my feet are to the fire on."
Within moments, Sparano's comments related to Favre quickly spread on social media, with some perceiving his words as confirmation of Miami interest in Favre. In actuality, Sparano was only answering a question by using a familiar phrase -- "flipping rocks" is the same verbage former Dolphins personnel czar Bill Parcells used when talking about finding talent to fill Miami's roster for the past few seasons.
The one area where Sparano and Henne differed Thursday was their sense of who's where on the depth chart. Even though Sparano said Henne is the No. 1 guy "right now," Henne refused to tab himself as the first-stringer.
"I'm competing every day," Henne said.
Henne threw for 3,301 yards last season with 15 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, tying him for fourth-most in the NFL. He has started 27 times in parts of three seasons; the Dolphins are 13-14 in those games.
So given that, Henne understands that fans may have a certain level of frustration.
"Criticism is always going to be out there, especially in my position," he said. "The head coach and the quarterback are the most critiqued people. For a quarterback, you're out there. If you're winning games, things are going well. If you're not, if you're losing games, everything's pointed toward you. It's part of the position, and obviously, it is a little bit of motivation.
"You want the respect of the fans, and you want them to have your back," Henne added. "But at the same time, they have their opinions. Everybody has their own opinions. They're going to play it as it is, and if I'm doing bad, then they can critique me, but if I'm doing well, obviously they're going to be happy."
Henne even tried to put a positive spin on those fan chants from Monday night, saying it helped the Dolphins prepare for what sort of environments they'll face on the road this season.
Of course, he didn't expect that to happen in his home stadium.
"I don't let a lot of things show," Henne said. "Deep down inside, it does hurt. But hey, I'm here for the team. I'm here to make myself better and help the team be a better team."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press