DeVante Parker was back at practice Wednesday.
The more important question:
When will he again look like the dynamic player who wowed coaches in the spring?
Even Parker, who missed the Bills game Sunday with discomfort in his troublesome left foot, doesn’t know that answer.
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It all depends on his health. Parker is still paying the price for two surgeries on the foot in less than a year. Still, team doctors insist, structurally, the foot is not a long-term issue.
“The bone is 100 percent healed,” Parker told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. “Won’t need another surgery or anything.”
The Dolphins blamed his latest setback on troublesome scar tissue. More precisely, he has a soft tissue bruise.
And while Parker did say he’s feeling “a lot better” this week, neither he nor his coach, Dan Campbell, made any promises about Parker playing Sunday against the Eagles.
And neither believe that this will necessarily end up being a “redshirt” year for the draft’s 14th overall pick.
“We still have eight games left and a lot can happen,” Campbell said. “With his skill set, the faster he comes along health-wise, there again, he has the ability with just a little bit of practice time that you would feel good that you’d get him out there at some point, that this year is not lost for him.”
When asked if he can still be the player the Dolphins envisioned in 2015, Parker responded: “I have it in me.”
Parker was the star of organized team activities, making big play after big play in shorts.
But then came his June surgery — doctors replaced a screw that was inserted into a broken left foot early in his senior year at Louisville — and he hasn’t been the same player since.
Parker ranks 35th among NFL rookies in catches (4) and 31st in receiving yards (49). The lack of production comes from lack of opportunity; Parker has been on the field for just 21 percent of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps this year.
In fact, none of the Dolphins’ last three first-round picks — Dion Jordan, Ja’Wuan James and Parker — played against the Bills. James is out for the foreseeable future with a toe injury; Jordan is serving a year-long drug suspension.
The Dolphins’ spotty draft record has hurt their depth, and their bottom line. The Dolphins need a remarkable second-half turnaround to avoid a seventh-straight season without a winning record — easily the longest stretch in franchise history.
In Parker’s absence, Rishard Matthews has flourished. Matthews’ 554 receiving yards not only lead the team, but also represent a career high — a remarkable achievement, with half the season remaining.
But Matthews is in a contract year and might be gone next season. Health permitting, Parker is here for the long-term.
So Ryan Tannehill has been in the young receiver’s ear, helping keep his head up.
“It’s tough to see a guy that you know has talent and can help the team not be able to be on the field,” Tannehill said. “I’ve tried to just give him my confidence so when he’s back healthy and not bothered by that foot, that I have confidence he’s going to make plays for us.”
Parker took last week off from practice, and said the rest was beneficial. He acknowledged that this has not been the year he wanted, but added, “you just have to overcome adversity.”
Parker added: “It’s very tough. You want to be out there with your brothers, making plays, things happen.”