It was just four months ago that Adam Gase said this of chronically injured DeVante Parker:
“Sometimes it takes some guys more time to learn more than others. Eventually you get tired of being the guy standing on the sideline. I do think he’s a little frustrated. He’s been the odd man out all the time. Eventually… he will know how to push through certain kinds of pain."
Consider that day arrived.
Parker surprised Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen by playing through significant back discomfort in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Parker missed all of practice last week; he was on the field Thursday, albeit in a non-contact yellow jersey.
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“I've never questioned his wanting to play,” Christensen said. “I don't think anyone has questioned it. This game is a hard game. I have a hard time questioning a guy's heart. He wants to play. He plays hard. He goes in there and throws his body around. I've never had any reason to question his heart in this thing or his desire to play football.”
That doesn’t mean Parker has immunity from criticism for how he played Sunday. Much has been made of the would-be touchdown pass that Ravens safety Lardarius Webb ripped from his hands for an interception.
Count Christensen among those who believe Parker could have done more in that bang-bang play.
“You don't know how much the injury hurt him, but from a coaching standpoint, you have to say -- ‘Hey, we've got to catch that ball or we've got to pass interfere or do something to make sure that ball doesn't get intercepted.’ We certainly coached it and we certainly expected a ball like that, especially a guy like him, who wants alley-oops thrown to him, who wants a jump ball thrown to him.”
Christensen rightly pointed out that Parker has allowed two deep passes to be intercepted in the last three weeks. Ryan Tannehill went to Parker on first-and-10 from the Los Angeles 37 in Week 11, but the receiver let Rams safety Maurice Alexander body him up for the ball.
“We've thrown two that have gotten picked,” Christensen said. “They can't be picked. They might not be big plays, you might not catch them all, but they can't be turnovers.”
On Sunday’s interception, Christensen did lightly chide Tannehill for not looking Webb off, but didn’t fault Parker for not seeing the safety until he was right on him.
“I think that sucker was humming,” he added. “You have to be able to tell the future to know that that guy was going to make that type of play.”