CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -There's an unwritten rule in most locker rooms, mandating that players never publicly point a blaming finger toward a teammate.
Of course, at Miami, there's another unwritten rule: Don't go 5-7.
It has been a long offseason for the Hurricanes, longer than any of them ever wanted. They were done on Thanksgiving weekend last year, unable to even qualify for a bowl game, after posting the proud program's worst record in three decades. As they packed up their lockers following a season-ending loss at Boston College, some players with eligibility remaining went around the room, vowing to one another that things needed to immediately change for the better.
Starting Friday, when the Hurricanes - with a revamped roster - report for the start of camp, those promises made eight months ago will be tested.
``Some of the players we had to get rid of were kind of cancerous to the team,'' left tackle Jason Fox said last week at the Atlantic Coast Conference season kickoff in Greensboro, Ga. ``They really brought us down and didn't care about football. They're gone now, which is really good for us. We can get back to focusing on football.''
Fox didn't name names, which would violate the code. Ordinarily, even saying that much could get a player in some hot water with a coach. But when Randy Shannon heard what Fox said, he was thrilled.
The way Shannon sees it, the Hurricanes are starting to become more accountable - which is exactly what the second-year coach has wanted.
``If you read into what the players say, they know,'' Shannon said. ``I can keep preaching on what we need to get done at Miami and I said it all last year during the season. I've put it on myself to get it done. I've put it on myself to make sure we bring in the right kids who love football, who have passion for it, who have great character and want to win for the right reasons. The players this year have taken control of some things now.''
The accountability factor began turning in the direction Shannon wants a few months ago, shortly after the team began its offseason workout program. Glenn Cook, one of the senior linebackers who was sidelined by injury last season and became a defacto assistant coach, designed some green-and-orange rubber wristbands with a short message on them and handed them out to teammates.
``No excuses.''
If a quarterback doesn't make a good throw, it's his fault. If a receiver didn't make the catch, it's his fault. If a safety gets beat, it's his fault. It's all quite simple, not exactly groundbreaking principles. But the Hurricanes will freely acknowledge that over the last two seasons, they've had more excuses than victories.
``You've got to have fun,'' defensive end Eric Moncur said. ``You've got to be relaxed to play this game. You can't be all stiff, all tight. Just be relaxed and play football, and we haven't always done that.''
It's hard to be relaxed when losing.
On Nov. 19, 2005, the Hurricanes were ranked No. 3 in the country and plotting ways to sneak into the Bowl Championship Series title game. They lost that night to Georgia Tech, starting a run where Miami has now lost 15 of its last 28 games - an unthinkable slide considering how dominant the Hurricanes were only a few years ago.
This season, Miami doesn't have any experience at quarterback, some glaring losses to fill following the early departures of defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Kenny Phillips to the NFL, and is already dealing with some injury issues on the defensive line. It does not seem to be the perfect recipe for a turnaround season, but when hearing that, the Hurricanes point to their wristbands and stick to the ``no excuses'' mantra.
Only time will tell if it'll make the sort of difference Miami wants this season.
``Before, everybody cared about football and everybody cared about winning,'' Fox said. ``But totally devoting themselves to what we're trying to get done and buying into the system and our coaches and each other? That's ultimately what it takes to be successful at this level and we're definitely on our way.''

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