MIAMI -- In this, Don Shula's silver anniversary year as a head coach in the NFL, we find a silver-haired coach not quite ready for the rocking chair. In fact, this coach still rocks the boat with the best of them, merrily leading his troops through "gassers," a drill only sergeants, Ditkas and Shulas could love.

"Gassers" are designed to make you run out of gas. Wearing shoulder, knee and thigh pads, you line up on one sideline and sprint to the opposite sideline as -- all the while -- coaches tell you to suck it up and keep going. You do this three times -- though you're fortunate to get a 20- or 30-second break in between -- and you must be cognizant enough in the end to remember your recorded time. If you're an offensive lineman, by the way, you'd better run your gasser in about 45 seconds, lest Shula get in your facemask.

Few outside Miami Beach or Boca Raton know how effusive this Don Shula can be. Chicago Coach Mike Ditka might get all the publicity -- he sure can throw gum a long way -- but Shula can throw some things around, too, including four-letter words (this from a guy who once wanted to be a priest). One Monday night a few years back, ABC cameras caught his mouth in the act, and he says his mother called him the next morning to say, "You shouldn't talk like that."

He also got a letter from a woman begging him to do all defamations off camera or, next time, she would send her children to bed before halftime highlights.

So, this is how 57-year-old Don Shula has spent his last 25 years, 18 of them with the Miami Dolphins. There's a huge poster outside his office that says, "Twenty-five years!" as if someone's actually surprised.

In these 25 seasons, he's won 270 games, second all-time in the league. Even at his .702 winning percentage, he's got his work cut out for him if he wants to catch George Halas as the all-time winningest NFL coach (319).

In his career, Shula has brought us Tom Matte's playbook-on-a-wrist; the Christmas game that wouldn't end; the game Redskins fans like to forget (Super Bowl VII) and much, much more. Alas, he lost the famed Super Bowl III to Joe Willie Namath; he lost a 1965 overtime game to Vince Lombardi on Don Chandler's phantom field goal; he lost in overtime to Kellen Winslow, 41-38, in 1981; and he lost to the Redskins the next time he saw them in the Super Bowl, 27-17, in 1982.

"I've been in Super Bowls in the '60s, '70s and '80s," he said the other day, marveling at himself, for once.

In a way, this should be a celebration season for Shula, but reality has set in. On the personal level, his wife Dorothy has had cancer twice and, on the field, his team won only eight games last year (that's terrible for him) and has stooped to the level of Buffalo and Indianapolis this year.

Heading into tonight's matchup with the Redskins, Shula complains that three of his offensive linemen are hurt and that all he's got is a quarterback (who's the best), a couple wide receivers (who are very fast) and a linebacker or two (one's a budding superstar). Otherwise, he's got a lot to worry about.

So, he has had no time to mellow. In fact, people who know Shula say it's "fear" that makes him such an extraordinary coach. Six-foot-7 tackles squirm when he strolls by. Players know if they mess up, they'll be sent to play football where it's cold.

Mike Charles, a former Dolphins defensive tackle, got caught smoking marijuana once and found what it's like to be on Shula's so-called "list." Shula expected Charles to keep himself under 300 pounds, but when Charles showed up this July five pounds overweight, then passed out in the Miami heat, Shula did more than throw gum. He threw Charles off the team.

"Never surprises me to hear what comes out of his mouth," guard Roy Foster said of Shula this week. "Guys want not to like him, but he's a winner."

Truth be known, Shula wondered if he was being too tough on his Dolphins when they slumped last year. David Shula, his oldest son who's also Miami's assistant head coach, says his father gave a lot of thought to laying off his players this season, but gave it further thought and decided it would be silly to change after all these years.

In fact, reserve quarterback Don Strock says this was Shula's most difficult training camp, chock full of gassers.

Shula just doesn't think football was meant to be plush, which is why the Dolphins' training facility isn't. Workouts take place at St. Thomas University, where dorms are within a Fuad Reveiz field goal of the practice field. Students hang over the dorm ledges, drinking beer and throwing footballs to their friends below in the parking lot. One throw went astray on this particular day, nearly smashing into Freddie Banks' black BMW.

Former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese happened to be hanging around the parking lot and witnessed the near calamity. He noticed a red Porsche, a gray Mercedes and Banks' BMW (which says "SMOOTH" on the license plate), and said: "The cars don't change, just the players do."

Shula doesn't change, either, his single-mindedness as evident as ever. In fact, Shula is so much into football, he's not as worldly or up on things as his son, David, who's a Dartmouth graduate.

For instance, TV star Don Johnson visited the Dolphins locker room after their big victory over the undefeated Bears in 1985, and someone introduced him to Shula.

"Coach, this is Don Johnson of 'Miami Vice.' "

"Oh, how you doin, Don," Shula said.

"Great job, coach," Johnson said, "Great job."

"You guys do a great job, too," Shula said.

"You'll have to come out and watch us shoot sometime," Johnson said.

Shula walked away miffed. He wondered: "Why was someone here from the police department? What am I gonna watch him shoot? A smuggler."

"Uh, Coach," someone chimed in, " 'Miami Vice' is a TV show."

Or there's the time that Cheech, the comedy sidekick of Chong, visited the locker room. Shula didn't know what to make of anyone named Cheech and certainly had no idea who the guy was. Someone told Shula he was part of a comedy duo, and Shula said: "Oh, you mean like Burns and Allen?"

He's so single-minded, he forgot to raise his children, though that's where Dorothy comes in. While Don was winning Super Bowls, Dorothy was cleaning toilet bowls and seeing David, Donna, Sharon, Annie and Mike through adolescence.

"Yeah, she raised us," David says of his mother. "And she knows exactly what to ask my father and what not to ask. She doesn't ask him to make decisions that would be difficult for him to make. For example, she wouldn't say, 'Could you please stay with me today and skip work?' She knows what football means to him. She'll never call and ask, 'What time will you be home?' or, 'Do you think you could be home at this time so I can go out?' It was never that way."

Dorothy Shula is heavy into love and understanding. When Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard was interviewed many years ago for a job with the Dolphins, Don and Dorothy brought him into their home and had him spend the night. He got the job, and -- as the only unmarried assistant coach -- Dorothy had him over for dinner all the time.

"Oh, he's so cute, isn't he?" Dorothy said of Beathard this week. "He was like having another son around."

People in South Florida adore Dorothy, and she and Don are out often socially, though Don says, "I'm no social butterfly." Friends say they don't hug much in public, but that Don adores her for being so caring and so strong. If Dorothy knows your wife or your kids, she'll ask all about them every time she sees you.

She's been through a lot lately. Two years ago, she was found to have breast cancer and needed a mastectomy. Don says Dorothy wanted to keep the publicity about the surgery as low-key as possible; she didn't want anyone feeling sorry for her.

Then, last June, she needed a second operation, for lung cancer, though it appears now that she's recovering. Again, Don and Dorothy kept the surgery under wraps, until there was a night given for her in Broward County (north of Dade County, where Miami is located) earlier this football season. Later, ESPN's Roy Firestone and ABC's Frank Gifford -- a close friend of Dorothy Shula's -- announced her cancer surgery on national television. The response has been staggering.

Amazingly, Don was able to stay the same through it all, no one ever guessing that he'd leave practice and go to the hospital instead of going home.

"He's been wonderful," Dorothy says. And then she pleads for no sympathy: "It {the cancer} is no big deal; it's just no big deal. There's been no spread of it. The cancer was isolated.

"The only thing that makes me nervous is how uneducated I was and how uneducated the whole public is about cancer. People think the minute you've got it, you're dead. My cousin in Ohio called me a while back and said a friend of hers thought I already was dead."

Don kept quiet and kept the faith. At one point, he begged the Miami Herald not to write about Dorothy's cancer. A Roman Catholic, Shula remembers his freshman year in college when he heard a priest speak during a retreat.

"He was so dynamic, I just wanted to follow him when he left," Shula says. He pronounced he was going into the priesthood, but that lasted "about an hour," he said.

"Well, I'm tone deaf," he added, "so I'd have had trouble singing the high masses."

His admiration for Dorothy is almost overflowing, and the children are a testament to how well she raised them. Sharon's an attorney, Annie's a teacher, Donna's a mother of two, David's a coach and Mike's a quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though just recently.

David is certainly a chip off the old block. When Wally English left in 1982 to take the Tulane head coaching job, Don asked David to help out. David quit law school, and -- in a playoff game against New England -- devised a play-action pass play near the goal line that worked for two touchdowns.

"He sure flexed his muscles that day," Don Shula remembers.

David Shula could be another Don Shula, but David warns: "I'll try to be Dave Shula first and see how that turns out."

In the meantime, Don contemplated picking up Mike -- the former Alabama star -- as his replacement quarterback during the players' strike, but decided against it since Dan Marino was the Dolphins' player representative. For one, it would've been difficult for Don if Marino had thrown barbs at Mike for crossing the picket line.

And, of course, what would Mike have thought of gassers?