While the first blast of South Florida humidity wasn’t enough to scare off Manny Fernandez, the drive north to his first Dolphins camp back in 1968 — crammed into a station wagon with a bunch of teammates — nearly did the trick.
Not to mention the carnivorous mosquitos.
“Boy, did I screw up,” Fernandez remembers thinking.
As an undrafted rookie, he had his choice of teams. So why did he sign with the Dolphins, with Miami’s oppressive heat and hungry wildlife?
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“I thought I might be able to make this team,” Fernandez acknowledged.
It ended up as the best decision of his career.
Not only did he make that Dolphins’ roster nearly five decades ago, the defensive tackle was so good that he’s about to officially join the franchise’s long list of legends.
Fernandez, now 68 and a few weeks removed from back surgery, will be inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll on Dec.21, the team announced Wednesday.
He played eight NFL seasons — all with the Dolphins — and started 93 games during that span.
While his career stats are impressive (including 35 sacks, which are second-most by a Dolphins defensive tackle), Fernandez will be most remembered as a player who was at his best on the game’s biggest stage.
Fernandez recorded 17 tackles in the Dolphins’ triumph over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII, an unthinkable total for a defensive tackle.
Fernandez said that game “without question” was his fondest memory as a pro.
“We finally got there and finished the job,” he added.
Fernandez, who will be the 27th member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, will have his name unveiled at halftime of Miami’s home game against the Vikings.
The induction will cap the Dolphins’ 2014 Alumni Week, which will also feature a golf tournament and banquet.
Cortland Finnegan, whose health was a regular concern during his two years in St. Louis, sat out all of practice Wednesday with a neck injury.
If he can’t play Sunday against the Packers, expect either Jamar Taylor or Will Davis to start in his place. Davis, the team’s third cornerback for much of the first four weeks, was pulled for Taylor after ineffective play against the Raiders.
Wide receiver Brandon Gibson (hamstring) hasn’t practiced all week, and his availability for Sunday’s game is also in doubt. It might explain why the Dolphins brought back free agent receiver Damian Williams on Monday.
Another day, more intrigue on the offensive line for the Dolphins.
Mike Pouncey and Samson Satele are both centers, but each has practiced at guard this week. Satele played well filling in for Pouncey the first four weeks of the season, and Dolphins coaches are looking for ways to get both on the field now that Pouncey is healthy.
“Guard is different,” said Satele, who has never played the position in an NFL game. “You have to learn how to play it fast.”
Potentially complicating matters: Satele is dealing with a fibula injury and couldn’t practice fully on Wednesday.
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▪ Seven other Dolphins were limited in their participation Wednesday: LB Jelani Jenkins (abdomen); LB Koa Misi (ankle); RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow); G Shelley Smith (knee); DT Randy Starks (back); WR Mike Wallace (foot) and LB Philip Wheeler (shoulder).
▪ Misi remains on track to start Sunday after missing the past three games. “It feels great to be back,” he said.
▪ With Dannell Ellerbe lost for the year, Jenkins has emerged as a playmaker in his second NFL season. Joe Philbin said Jenkins has “really had excellent production. He’s a smart guy. He understands the scheme very well.”
▪ Philbin praised Brent Grimes for making a diving deflection on the last play of practice Wednesday.