Mike Pouncey is rooting for a “nightmare.”
That’s the word the Dolphins’ center, who is out for the season with a hip injury, used to describe an increasingly likely scenario:
The Dolphins make the playoffs.
He isn’t able to play.
And yet, Pouncey hopes that bad dream comes true. It’ll mean the Dolphins end their seven-season playoff drought.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since Adam Gase decided to shut him down for the year, Pouncey said he believes he came back too soon from the hip injury he suffered in training camp, and suggested that playing again this season could put his career at risk.
“The risk would have been -- [the doctor] didn't know,” Pouncey said. “I got both scenarios. He said you can go out there and play on it and you could be fine and play six, seven more years after that. Or you could go out there and play on it, and you could re-injure it again and we could be talking about something totally different.”
Pouncey continued: “I guess, just talking to the coach and managing it, the best decision was probably just to go on IR and not chance it again for the rest of the season. But shoot, the way this season is playing out, it's hard.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he was never told by doctors that Pouncey returned to action too quickly, but if Pouncey was rushed back onto the field, “then that was our fault.”
Gase added that he shut down Pouncey down for the year because we wants “to be around Mike as long as he can possibly go,” and that he never wants to have a conversation with his star lineman that his career is over prematurely.
Because the Dolphins erred on the side of caution, Pouncey expects to make a full recovery and intends to participate in the offseason program. He initially fought last week’s decision to shut him down, but ultimately saw the wisdom in it. Pouncey said he does not need another surgery.
Pouncey first fractured the hip in the preseason when an opposing player fell on him. After missing the first four games of the season, his return helped jump-start the Dolphins season.
He was the leader of one of the best offensive lines in football for five weeks, but in the days after the Dolphins’ win over the Chargers, the hip started acting up again. He did not know exactly when or how he hurt it, but just knew it wasn’t right. He hasn’t played since.
“You’re still pretty sore coming from the games,” Pouncey said. “When I was running around in practice I definitely felt like something was wrong. I didn’t know if it had happened from the game. I was still on painkillers and all that stuff from the game. By the time Wednesday comes, I was out there running around. Pre-practice felt good and then by the time middle, end of practice came, it didn’t feel too good. I knew something was wrong with it, so we got it checked up. Got some unfortunate news.”
Pouncey called 2016 the most challenging season of his career. He also explained that while he’s suffered at least four hip injuries since 2014, the most recent two are different than the earlier ones. Those were ligament tears; the issue that derailed his 2016 season was a fracture.
But if he can indeed make a full recovery, it’ll create one fewer issue for the Dolphins to address this offseason. Pouncey signed a five-year, $52 million contract extension before the start of the 2015 season, but has played in just 19 of a possible 32 games since.
Pouncey is due $8 million in base salary in 2017 and has a salary cap figure of $9 million. The Dolphins could save roughly half of that if they move on from him after the season, but Gase’s comments and the team’s level of caution in dealing with Pouncey’s injury makes clear that he is in the Dolphins’ long-term plans.
In the short term, however, they’ll have to get into the playoffs without him.
“I’ve been wanting to play in the playoffs for a long, long time,” Pouncey said. “I’m ready for it. Let’s go. I’ll be there cheering just like you guys wishing the best for this football team. It would definitely light a fire in me to be back the following year."