Dion Jordan is the first to admit he lost his way.
Multiple failed drug tests and the six-game suspension that came with it made for countless embarrassing headlines.
But never before has the third overall pick in last year’s draft explained how he got to that bleak place — in a treatment center and one strike away from a prolonged ban by the NFL.
“I feel like, stepping into this league, it’s hard for a lot of young adults,” Jordan recently told the Miami Herald. “You’re blessed with so much in such a short amount of time. It’s kind of hard to adjust and take it all in. Everything kind of moves really fast.”
Jordan continued: “I had the support system. I just really wasn’t relying on it as much as I [had before]. They’re the reason I am where I am right now. I understood that, with all that time that I had to myself. I had a lot to think about it. That was one of the major things to me, to make sure I don’t forget where I came from.”
The question now: Where is Jordan going? Drafted to rush the passer, Jordan has just two sacks in 20 career games.
However, in the month since his return, Jordan has demonstrated that his value rests in his versatility. He has been a significant special teams contributor, returning a blocked field goal 58 yards against the Lions two weeks ago.
And later in that game, Jordan did something all but unthinkable for a man his size (6-6, 275): he covered Calvin Johnson in the end zone and broke up a would-be touchdown pass to the all-world receiver.
Jordan, who has been in coverage on 18 percent of his defensive snaps, might get a similar assignment this week.
The Broncos have an arsenal of offensive skill position players, led by Peyton Manning. It would not at all be surprising if Jordan is asked to match up with dynamic tight end Julius Thomas — assuming Thomas plays. He has been held out of practice this week with an ankle injury.
“I think he’s coming along,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of Jordan. “From a football conditioning perspective, I think he’s kind of built his stamina up a little bit. He’s showing that he’s able to sustain a high level of effort throughout the course of the game. He’s made a good contribution, both in special teams and on the defensive side of the ball.”
Philbin added that Jordan has been a “very good” teammate, diligent in his preparation and tireless on the practice field.
Jordan is likewise pleased with how he has played in his four games back. But effort and athleticism have never been his issue.
When asked if he believed Jordan’s personal issues are behind him, Philbin said: “In football, everything is day to day. I like the progress he is making in a lot of areas and, like anybody else, there is room for development just like with other guys on our team. I like what he’s doing so far.”
Jordan acknowledges he made a mistake but insists he isn’t dwelling on it.
“The only thing you can do when you make a mistake like that is move forward,” he said. “I have that opportunity now.”
And when asked if it was important to change the public’s perception of him, Jordan shrugged.
“I know what type of person I am,” he said. “The people that know me know the type of person I am. If you don’t know me and you’ve got some judgments, that’s on you. All I can do is live my life. I can’t change what people think or say about me.”
As for what those who know him best think of him, Jordan responded: “I’m Dion. I’m very kind. Loving. I’m a good kid, all around. I can’t even lie to you. I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve made some choices in the past that really didn’t benefit me in the long run, but it’s in the past.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Tight end Charles Clay now has a hamstring injury to go along with an aching knee that has bothered him for much of the season. Clay missed practice Thursday, and ESPN.com reported that he will be a game-time decision for Sunday’s game against the Broncos.
▪ Cornerback Cortland Finnegan will likely miss Sunday’s game. He hasn’t practiced all week with an injured hamstring.
▪ Three other Dolphins — LB Koa Misi (ankle), RB Lamar Miller (shoulder) and LB Jordan Tripp (chest) — were held out of a portion of practice Thursday after working fully the day before.
▪ Dallas Thomas is expected to start at right tackle Sunday after playing on the interior line earlier in the season.
When asked if he feels that tackle is his best position, Thomas said: “Now, I don’t even know, because I’m used to being at guard and tackle. I feel comfortable at both really.”