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Saying Goodbye to 54

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Wow. Never in the history of this franchise has there ever been such a conflicting damn-this-really-sucks-but-this-was-a-good-move moment like this one. It's hard to articulate. Zach Thomas is a Dolphins icon, the kind of player that defines the passions of an entire fan base with his fervor and balls-to-the-wall approach to the game, hard nosed, full throttle and all heart.

Zach Thomas was a freight-train every Sunday. A head-hunting gladiator seeking out the guy with the football so he could knock off his head and shit down his neck. This fan base fell in love with Zach as soon as he set foot on the field in 1996. He was a gritty kid from Texas, a 5th round pick no one ever heard of. The only thing we knew about him was that his father accidentally rolled the family pickup over his head when he was a kid, and the boy didn't feel a thing. But as soon as he hit the gridiron, he immediately turned heads and drew comparisons to Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti. He came kicking in skulls and crushing opposing players into fine powder, and we immediately knew we had ourselves a star middle linebacker for many years to come.

He's a 7-time Pro Bowler and arguably the greatest player on the defensive side of the ball in Dolphins history. And as far as the Pro Football Hall of Fame goes, consider this: Zach Thomas has more career tackles than all the linebackers currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Sadly, his last season with the Fins was mired in concussions, migraines and a palpable feeling that he was inevitably going to be shown the door. It's a shitty way for a legend to end his 12-year marriage with this team and its fans. But that's the cold reality of this business. Zach's age, recent injury issues and hefty contract would’ve been too much weight for another team to trade for him. His release frees up Miami's salary cap space and officially signals the call of a franchise building for the future. So the bottom line is that it was a good business decision by the Dolphins to cut him.

But it still stings like a bitch.

Zach Thomas is the Miami Dolphins. In as much as Dan Marino and Don Shula are. This team might be improved in the future without him. But this team will never be the same.

So, good luck Zach. We love you. Thanks for everything. Thanks for giving us all you got and nothing less. Thanks for your blood, sweat and tears. Thanks for being a class act. Thanks for signing those autographs for me. Thanks for representing us with your fearlessness and determination every Sunday. We'll see you when they hang your name and number up in the Dolphins Ring of Honor. Then we'll be able to give you a more proper farewell. One fit for a true warrior.

Goodbye, 54.

(And please, for the love of all that is good and decent, don't go to the Patriots.) -- Chris Joseph

For more on sports from Chris Joseph visit Finsnation.com.

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