Dolphins center Mike Pouncey comes back home this year. And we’re not talking about his and twin brother Maurkice Pouncey’s upcoming birthday party, which will be at Mike’s home.
No, this “home” is center after a season of his office being moved next door to guard. Pouncey moves back with a new contract, too. So, it’s like his rookie season — playing center with a new contract — except with a greater appreciation for his neighbors.
“I learned to appreciate my offensive guards,” Pouncey said. “That’s a tough position. I took it all in last year. I got better and better each week. I didn’t appreciate my guards until I played the position.
“You’re playing in a lot more space. You’ve got to block a lot of guys one-on-one in pass protection. That’s the biggest thing. In the run game, it was easier because I didn’t have to snap the ball then run off on guys.”
Not often does a center get asked to move sideways after going 2 for 3 in Pro Bowl selections, especially coming off missing four games with a hip injury. But the Dolphins held little confidence in their guards, and Samson Satele was good enough for government work at center in Pouncey’s absence.
That got the Dolphins through last season. This year returns Pouncey to the position the Dolphins drafted him to play in 2011.
“It’s a position I feel comfortable at,” Pouncey said of center. “I like to be the guy going up and getting the front set. I like to be kind of like the quarterback of the offensive line.”
Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin: “He’s a very good athlete. And he’s got good energy and game speed. I think you can feel his energy, his quickness, his tempo on the football field. He’s got some juice for the game. That’s one of the things we’re looking for him to bring to the offensive line in general.”
In other words, being an engine, a leader.
Pouncey cried several times at the news conference announcing his contract extension. As big as the money — which was big, mind you, at $22 million guaranteed — was the symbolism of it. That’s long money. When teams dish out long money, they’re investing in the player on and the person off the field. No one ever doubted Pouncey as the former, only the latter. Pouncey vowed the Dolphins would see better leadership from him.
Perhaps that’s why this year’s birthday party will be at home with “family only,” Pouncey said with a laugh. Last year’s birthday party at South Beach’s Cameo night club resulted in the Pounceys accused of assault after an alleged altercation (the state attorney’s office decided evidence didn’t warrant filing charges). In 2013, the brothers posed for photographs in “Free Hernandez” hats at their Cameo-hosted party.
Also, when asked for any reaction to the guilty verdict in former University of Florida teammate and roommate Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial, Pouncey refused comment politely as if a grown man asked about youthful foolishness.
And when asked about what he wants to see from himself this season, he said, “I just want to help this team get to the playoffs. I feel like with team success comes individual success, so I just want to help this team get to the playoffs.”
That’s something Maurkice, Pittsburgh’s center, has on Mike. And you know how brothers use something like that.
“He always gives me a hard time. Any time we talk about football, he always brags how his team is a better football team,” Mike said. “It gets under my skin a lot. Something I’ve dreamed about since I came into the NFL is to make a playoff game. Just to get the experience. I’ve watched him go through it, seen him go to a Super Bowl. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to.”