The roughly 1,300 souls who played hooky and caught Dolphins practice Wednesday morning got an unexpected treat:
They saw Knowshon Moreno in a Dolphins helmet for the first time this summer.
When exactly they’ll see the running back in a game, however, remains a mystery.
The Dolphins cleared Moreno to practice and activated him off the physically unable to perform list early Wednesday, confident that his scoped left knee had sufficiency healed.
But coach Joe Philbin (not to mention common sense) was quick to douse water on any suggestion that Moreno will make an instant return to the lineup.
“This was his first practice out here [Wednesday], so I don’t know if it would be a wise coaching decision [to play] a guy who really hasn’t participated, to throw him in a game yet,” Philbin said.
Because he didn’t take any real contact in his first day back, Moreno suiting up for Friday’s preseason opener at Atlanta would defy all logic. Moreno playing in Tampa one week from Saturday even seems like a bit of a stretch.
But considering just last week he wasn’t sure when he would even practice, Wednesday’s progress was a welcome development.
“Just gradual [improvement],” Moreno said, describing his recovery from his surgery in June. “Just gradual every day. Trying to make a step towards getting out there. But [Wednesday] was just testing it out and seeing how it feels.”
He added: “It feels good to put the shoulder pads on and come out here and just work with the guys.”
Apparently, the feeling was mutual.
“It’s good to see the guys that we expect to be playmakers this year to come off the sidelines and get some work,” said Daryn Colledge, who again worked as the starting left guard Wednesday.
Moreno hasn’t practiced fully since this spring’s organized team activities but has tried to keep up with mental reps. He said Wednesday that he’s not too concerned about his place on the depth chart — which is probably a good thing.
In Moreno’s absence, Lamar Miller has strengthened his grip on the starting job. Miller has taken the vast majority of live snaps with the first team this camp.
His closest competitor had been Daniel Thomas, but now he’s injured too. Thomas missed his second consecutive practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
Still, Colledge expressed optimism about the running game, a weakness for the Dolphins last year. The lineman praised the rotation of backs who have gotten carries — a list that includes Mike Gillislee and Damien Williams.
Plus, he said, “We want to be an offensive line that opens holes that [a sports reporter] could get through.”
Added Philbin: “The only thing I can tell you right now is that [the running game] looked better in training camp so far than I remember it looking in prior training camps. I haven’t seen it in a game yet, but I like what I’ve seen; I like the space that we’ve created; I like the line working together so far.”
As for Moreno, the most likely scenario is that he practices for the next two weeks, gets a handful of carries in the all-important third preseason game, and then does little more until the Sept. 7 opener against the Patriots. His priority is to be ready for that game.
“It would be good to go out there and feel full-speed action [in the preseason], but at the same time, I’ll be ready [regardless],” he said.