The Dolphins finally removed the protective bubble wrap surrounding their top draft pick while inside the practice bubble Tuesday.
Rookie defensive end Dion Jordan participated in drills for the first time in several weeks after aggravating his surgically repaired shoulder Aug. 9. He probably will miss Thursday’s preseason finale against the Saints but appears to be on schedule for the regular-season opener. Having Jordan back on the field was the first bit of good news since tight end Dustin Keller went down with a season-ending knee injury.
“Physically, I felt good,” Jordan said after practice. “For me, it’s mainly little things, continuing to brush up on my fundamentals, and whatever they ask me to do I’m able to go ahead and do it at full speed so I can help this team.”
Jordan, the player the Dolphins moved up in the draft to grab at No. 3 overall was not on the field for most of the preseason, but what’s the point of risking the health of such a valuable player when the games don’t count? The plan for Jordan, as the Dolphins’ coaching staff has said, is for him to be ready by the season opener only 12 days away.
“We wouldn’t put him out here if we didn’t feel he was ready to go,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said.
Asked about the frustration of watching from sidelines for the majority of August, Jordan said, “I’m just working, man. I’m trying to continue to protect myself and make sure I’m healthy and at the same time make sure I’m on top of my things as far as plays and everything else that is going on around here.”
Protecting yourself while also learning how to play football at the professional level can be difficult. Jordan’s setback occurred after taking just seven snaps against the Jaguars in the Dolphins’ second preseason game. He recorded two tackles in the Dolphins’ first preseason game and hasn’t done much since. If there’s a learning curve for NFL rookies, Jordan is behind it.
But although time off the field has stunted his development, Jordan has the luxury of having plenty of veterans surrounding him on the defensive line. There isn’t pressure on Jordan from inside the organization to start immediately, and the veterans are aware the rookie needs to make a smooth transition from injury to activity.
After a lengthy conditioning drill following practice, Jordan toted four sets of gear into the training facility.
“That’s probably the main reason why I want Dion Jordan back,” defensive lineman Jared Odrick said. “It’s to carry my pads after practice. Because I’m pretty tired after practice and he’s got his technique down. I think he puts two helmets on the left hand and one on the right.”
“A lot of people have been hurt before in terms of having surgery and coming back from that, so guys know what it’s like to be in a position where you’re just trying to get acclimated to a football team,” Odrick said. “We’re here to help [Jordan] and give him any kind of advice that he needs. We’re like brothers in that D-line room. It’s not like we’re just business associates. We’re friends.”
But it is a business, after all, so the Dolphins will to protect their investment.
“He looked good,” Philbin said of Jordan. “I’ve got to watch the tape a little closer but he moved well and worked on some of the basic fundamentals and techniques and we’ll see how it looked on tape.”
Philbin’s review of Jordan’s practice drills won’t be very enlightening. He looks the part. Now he just has to stay healthy.
Fullback Jorvorskie Lane was one of nine players cut Tuesday.
It didn’t look good for Lane last March when the team signed multiple wide receivers, making the likelihood of a three-receiver, one-back set tangible. It looked worse a couple of months ago when the team started actively pursuing fullback Vonta Leach.
And although Leach was not signed, it still looked bad when Lane, a starter in 2012, was demoted behind Evan Rodriguez at one point in camp. The Dolphins also terminated the contract of right guard Lance Louis, who signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract in the offseason.
They also cut receiver Jeff Fuller, defensive end Emeka Onyenekwu, receiver Andrell Smith, linebacker Nathan Williams, linebacker David Hinds, linebacker Michael Clay and receiver Julius Pruitt.
Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero contributed to this report.