NEW ORLEANS -- Tony McDaniel has a plate in his thumb that keeps together bones borrowed from his wrist.
He has undergone at least three surgeries in the past 18 months — not including a knee drain performed quietly during the 2012 season.
Last fall, he played through a torn meniscus, a sprained ankle and turf toe — all on the same leg.
In short, McDaniel was never really healthy, and yet managed to appear in 11 games.
For that, his teammates selected McDaniel the Dolphins’ Ed Block Courage Award recipient, given to the player who exemplifies “commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”
Winners must symbolize professionalism, strength and dedication, while also serve as a community role model.
“People see me get injured, but they really didn’t know the things I was going though,” McDaniel told The Miami Herald. “I tried to battle through and play and be the player I was. Even if I didn’t think I had it in me to go, I went.”
McDaniel’s bad luck began in the 2011 season opener, when he broke his thumb. He underwent surgery, was able to return, only to reinjure it late in the season and go back under the knife.
Then in 2012, he tore his meniscus in the second preseason game. McDaniel had famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews repair the knee, but it swelled up later in the year, leading to the drain. He didn’t feel anything close to normal until late in the season — too late to make much of a difference.
McDaniel is one of a roughly dozen Dolphins about to hit the free agent market, and said he wants to return to Miami — although he has yet to enter contract talks with the front office. He says he’s finally healthy, and ready to perform at a high level.
When asked if the world saw the best of him last year, McDaniel responded: “Not even close, to be honest with you. I knew I wasn’t healthy playing this year, but still had to be motivated to make something happen. I’ll be back next year.”