Davone Bess, neither fleet of foot nor physically imposing, has managed to grind out an NFL career by simply getting open and catching the football.
Take, for example, an 8-yard out route he caught late against the 49ers last December. Nothing remarkable about it all, but effective nonetheless.
Fitting, then, that it was his final catch as a Miami Dolphin.
Bess, the team’s second-leading receiver a year ago, missed the last three games of his Dolphins career, and now we know why: He had a broken back.
Bess, now a member of the Cleveland Browns, told Miami reporters Wednesday that he sustained a fracture in a vertebrae in his lower back that prevented him from playing.
“Everybody’s injury is different,” Bess said. “I couldn’t go, and I didn’t. That’s the way it unfolded.”
Details of what sounds like a significant injury never surfaced last winter. The Dolphins do a good job of muzzling such talk.
But the Dolphins, down to Marlon Moore and Rishard Matthews as weapons opposite Brian Hartline, could have used Bess down the stretch. Despite finishing with a fourth consecutive losing season, they still had a playoff pulse entering Week 16.
Without Bess, however, the passing game was no match for the Patriots in the season finale, which New England won 28-0.
And although he said Wednesday he carries no grudges against his former team, the relationship between Bess and the Dolphins deteriorated after the injury, ultimately leading to his exit via trade.
However, those familiar with the situation say the decision to move Bess was based more on finances than anything else.
The Dolphins re-signed Hartline before free agency then spent big money to bring in Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson.
Keeping Bess to be essentially their fourth receiver at his price — his base salary would have exceeded $2 million — was seen as untenable. (Although with Armon Binns’ season-ending knee injury and $22 million in available salary-cap space, some argue the Dolphins could have afforded the extra depth.)
“You can’t be surprised in this business,” Bess said. “I learned that just from watching others and watching the way the league has operated over the years.
“I can’t say that I was surprised, but at the same time, I wasn’t expecting it.”
When asked Wednesday if Bess’ injury history played a role in the trade, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wouldn’t answer.
“Davone was a very good player when he was here,” Philbin said. “He’s no longer with us, and we wish him well, but I’m not going to delve into those kind of comments.”
There’s no doubt about Bess’ role in Cleveland, which acquired him for essentially a fifth-round draft pick Miami used on Mike Gillislee. Bess will start Sunday, when his new team plays host to his old one.
“I’m forever thankful of the Dolphins organization for giving me the opportunity to play in this league,” said Bess, who played five seasons with the Dolphins. “We’re nothing without the opportunity. I’m forever grateful of that. All good things must come to an end.”
TE Dion Sims (groin) was limited in his participation, and LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), DE Dion Jordan (shoulder), S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) worked fully.