The Miami Dolphins have had injury concerns all offseason, with players like Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert rehabbing a knee injury, rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker needing foot surgery in June, and Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey leaving Saturday's Preseason game with an apparent knee injury. For a Miami team looking to end a playoff drought, not having potentially impact players available could damage the start of a promising season. Based on Monday's practice, the team may be getting all three players back fairly soon.
Albert was working with the first team offensive line during Monday's practice, a step up from the light work he was doing with the second string players last week. After a report indicated the former Kansas City Chiefs left tackle would miss the first two weeks of the season, Albert came out on Monday to prove he could, potentially, be ready well ahead of that schedule. While he admitted nothing is set in stone, he would not rule out being ready by Week 1, either.
While Albert is clearly the top option to start on the blind side of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Jason Fox has been starting at the spot all offseason and in the first two games of the Preseason. He was forced to miss the Week 3 game last Saturday, however, as he dealt with the symptoms of a concussion he sustained in the Week 2 contest against the Chicago Bears. If Albert is not ready for regular season Week 1, Fox will likely be the guy sliding into the starting spot, and on Monday, he received clearance to resume football activities.
Parker, who had a screw replaced in his foot, an injury dating back to the start of the 2014 Louisville season, also began working out with the team. He previously had been doing some running, but no route or team work, and, while he was in pads at practice at the end of last week, he had yet to get onto the field in an actual workout. That ended on Monday as the team's first-round draft pick was finally cleared to resume practicing. He was clearly rusty, needing to work on his route running and trying to play catch-up with the rest of the team, but the goal of Parker being able to make his NFL debut in Week 1 is still on track.
"I watched some of the route timing, I didn’t really didn’t get a great glimpse of him during team period, but I watched some of the route timing and it looks like it’s (been) a while since he’s run routes, but he looks good, he’s moving well," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of Parker's return Monday. "He’s just working on the timing and the rhythm of the play and the splits, and the depth and those things is extremely valuable for him at this point."
Linebacker Jordan Tripp finished the team's first exhibition contest, a game against the Chicago Bears, on the sideline in street clothes wearing a walking boot and using crutches. Tripp, a special teams ace for the Dolphins, had been serving as the primary second-string linebacker, able to plug into any of the three linebacker positions and have a solid performance. He was the primary middle linebacker option behind Kelvin Sheppard as the Dolphins waited for Koa Misi's calf injury to heal (Misi played in the team's game against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday). Tripp's injury appeared severe, but he was also able to return to practice on Monday.
Pouncey and Albert are the two main cogs in the Miami offensive line, and losing one of them is bad. For most of the game against the Falcons, the Dolphins were without both. While Albert was never expected to play on Saturday, Pouncey was out with the team as the starting center, before his leg was rolled up in a pile, and it appeared he could have suffered a serious injury. He initially tried to wave off the trainers, but was taken out of the game for a play, before returning for a couple more, then exiting the game for good. An MRI was scheduled for Sunday morning, which is never a good sign. The test, however, came back negative and Pouncey was able to return to the team - and avoid a serious injury like the one his twin brother Maurkice of the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered earlier this Preseason - and practiced on Monday, though he was wearing a knee brace.
"Everything came back good, so I’m ready to go," Pouncey told reporters before Monday's practice. He did admit that he was nervous going in for the MRI, especially after seeing the play in which he was injured and knowing what happened to his brother, but he was ready to play on Monday.
Overall, with the number of players Miami had return to practice on Monday, it was a good day.