The Dolphins signed Brett Brackett on July 29, and although the transaction was no more than a line in agate, it represented for the free agent tight end the latest and perhaps best chance he has had to make an NFL roster after a three-year search for his big break.
Brackett had been hoping for a new team since May when the Arizona Cardinals let him go.
Those hopes were probably similar to the ones he had when the Jacksonville Jaguars let him go in 2013, and when the Philadelphia Eagles let him go in 2012, and when the Jaguars let him the first time in October 2011, and before that when the Dolphins let him go the first time in September 2011.
This second chance in Miami had possibilities because the Dolphins are desperately looking for a complete tight end who can catch the football as well as block to play in tandem with Charles Clay. And since most of their guys so far have proven they can do one or the other but rarely both well enough to suit coaches, the door is open in Miami for that second complete tight end to step through.
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So this was it.
The open door.
Then two days after signing him, the Dolphins cut Brett Brackett again.
It was the sixth time Brackett had been cut by an NFL team.
“Honestly, I was bummed,” Brackett said Thursday. “I came in and thought I had an opportunity, but things shook a different direction and they had to let me go. I was bummed.
“I went home. Then my girlfriend left for Germany on a vacation and I was kind of by myself — me and my thoughts.”
Before his thoughts became poor company, forcing him to contemplate his next move, Brackett tried to stay busy. He played basketball, visited a buddy in New Jersey, worked out and waited for the next thing …
… Which happened to be the last thing all over again.
Three days after they cut Brackett, the Dolphins learned Clay’s left knee would need significant rest for him to be able to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 7 against New England.
Down a body in training camp, the team that had already cut Brackett twice signed him a third time.
And, just as everyone planned all along, Brackett came back and led the team with three catches for 57 yards in the first preseason game against Atlanta just four days later.
“I was glad I stayed active and didn’t pout and mope because if there’s one thing about this business is you can’t do that,” Brackett said. “You miss a block or drop a pass, you have to keep moving, learn and get better because things happen fast.”
Things seem to be coming faster now for Brackett. The Atlanta game was indicative of what has been happening in practice. On any given training camp day this summer, Brackett has been catching as many passes as any other tight end and more than most.
He runs a 4.62 time in the 40-yard dash — “I can boogie a little bit,” he said — and that can be a mismatch against some linebackers.
“You guys have noticed him,” coach Joe Philbin said, “he’s kind of quarterback friendly. He’s a big target. He’s got good length. He’s kind of natural running routes. He seems to catch the ball very well so far.”
“The big thing is getting used to the blocking,” the coach continued. “One of the things for a tight end is how do you match up on a defensive end one-on-one if the tackle is not zone-blocking to you, whether it be primarily in run-blocking, but it can also be pass protection. I would say he’s further ahead in the pass game than in the run game, but very eager.”
There’s no doubt Brackett is eager. Despite the rejection of being cut time and time and time again Brackett remains excited about the chance to practice and play and, perhaps, make it into the NFL.
“This is my fourth camp and I’ve been through ups and downs so far in my career, but every time I’m on the field I try to make the most of everything I can do,” he said.
Brackett knows he’s not complete yet. He acknowledges the need to improve his blocking — a must if he’s going to hang around for any significant time.
“Every day I’m sticking my face in there and trying to learn the nuances of it,” he said. “There are different things about how to get to a guy and then how to finish him. There’s a lot more to it than just block this guy. That’s what I’m learning.”
If the lesson is learned well enough, fast enough, and he continues to perform in the passing game, Brackett can make it with the Dolphins. And if not, he promises to keep trying.
“I’ve always loved football. And I’m going to continue to try and do it for as long as I love this game and as long as I have opportunities,” he said.
“When one of those two stops — either I don’t love it anymore or I don’t have any more opportunities, then maybe that’s when I’ll stop. Until then, this is what I’m doing, I’m going to keep working to get better and hopefully something works out for me.”