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Jerome Baker injury update: Dolphins linebacker designated for return

The Miami Dolphins have opened the practice window for linebacker Jerome Baker

Las Vegas Raiders v Miami Dolphins Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have used their eighth, and final, activation slot for a player on injured reserve in 2023. According to head coach Mike McDaniel on Wednesday, linebacker Jerome Baker will return to practice and begin working toward his activation and return to game play. Baker could be brought back to the 53-man roster as early as this Sunday’s Week 18 game against the Buffalo Bills, though the team has not indicated whether he will be available or not.

The Dolphins have 21 days before they have to make a decision on Baker’s status. He can be activated any time during that window, but if he is not promoted to the 53-man roster, he will revert to the IR for the remainder of the year. Under NFL rules, teams may designate up to eight players for return from IR during the season. With Baker’s designation, Miami has used their full compliment this year, preventing the team from being able to bring back offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, running back Salvon Ahmed, or wide receiver Erik Ezukanma.

Teams do not receive any extra allocation of returns in the playoffs. Miami has clinched their spot in the postseason, but Sunday’s game against the Bills is a de facto AFC East championship game. The winner will claim the division title and the second seed in the AFC playoff picture. If Miami were to lose, they would be locked in as the sixth seed. Buffalo could be eliminated if they lose.

Baker was placed on injured reserve at the start of December after a knee injury during the team’s Week 13 game against the Washington Commanders. During the second quarter, Baker was chasing wide receiver Curtis Samuel when safety Brandon Jones attempted to make a hit on the receiver, pushing him out of bounds. In the process of the play, Jones crashed into the side of Baker’s legs, spraining his medial collateral ligament.

“We have to get him out there and see how he responds,” McDaniel said of the possibility for Baker to play this weekend.

The Dolphins signed linebacker Calvin Munson to provide depth in Baker’s absence. Whenever the team activates Baker, they would have to create a roster space. Munson could be the guy to be released, though Miami should be placing linebacker Bradley Chubb, who sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the team’s Week 17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, on IR this week.

In 12 games played this season, Baker has recorded 69 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed, and two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. He is the team’s defensive signal caller when he is on the field. The Dolphins have struggled with communication at times the last couple of weeks and Baker’s return could assist the team in settling down as they begin their playoff run.