Mike Pouncey doesn’t know who did it. He just knows it hurt.
“Some pile-jumper from the Dallas Cowboys jumped on me,” Pouncey said. “He fell on top of me.”
That pile-jumper cost him the first four weeks of the season.
But Pouncey was back in pads and at practice Tuesday for the first time since fracturing his hip back on Aug. 19. And while the Dolphins center made no promises about playing Sunday against the Titans, the signs are encouraging.
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“I’ve been feeling good a long time,” Pouncey said. “Its something we had to be real careful with so we didn’t have any setbacks. ... Obviously it’s up to coach [Adam] Gase whether I play. I’m looking forward to showing them what I can do.”
Gase said Pouncey “seemed good” in practice Tuesday, but a determination on his availability for Sunday won’t be made until the end of the week.
“I keep telling him, ‘If you feel good at the end of the week, then we'll give you the green light. If there's anything that doesn't feel right, then we'll be on hold,’” Gase said.
While Anthony Steen did a passable job in Pouncey’s absence, the Dolphins could certainly use their three-time Pro Bowler. They rank 29th in rushing through the first four weeks of the season. They’ve allowed 11 sacks in four games, seventh-most in football. And they’ve converted just 27.3 percent of their third downs -- the worst rate in the NFL.
“It's where everything starts on the offensive line, at center, with communication, everything,” said Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James. “It's going to be good to have him back. ... He's a good leader. Also, he's an intelligent football player, so it's his job to make sure we're all in order, and where we're supposed to go. We all work off him. Knowing that's going to be consistent and knowing that's him back, that's a good thing.”
Added Gase: “As a player, obviously, he's special at what he does. But attitude, he's a different breed. He brings the kind of confidence you want as a coach. You know he's a guy you can always rely on. You know he's a guy that can rally the troops when things aren't quite going right. His mindset is exactly what you want -- a guy that puts his head down and works. He's a true pro all the way. Guys like that, you want around, especially on game-day, as much as possible.
Pouncey acknowledged that his third hip injury in as many years is cause for concern. He’s had surgery on both hips since June of 2014. Pouncey has missed 10 games since the start of the 2014 season -- more than one in four. When he suffered the most recent hip injury, Pouncey wondered if his remaining time in the NFL might be short.
“Talking to the doctors, all the what-ifs came into play,” Pouncey said. “You start questioning how long you can play in the league and how physical this game is. I’m fortunate to be as fast as I am. When I first injured this hip there was a lot of doubt in my mind -- would I ever come back and be the same player? I guess we’ll see today.”
When asked if he had worries about his long-term health after those three injuries, Pouncey responded: “We all have concerns long term. Every guy that plays in the NFL. But right now I’m not too much concerned. I wouldn’t put myself in the position to hurt myself or have a setback if I wasn’t ready to play.”