Help is on the way for the league’s 28th-ranked defense.
Chris Culliver told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that he could practice now if NFL rules allowed it, and expects to be on the field in two weeks — which is the earliest players on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list can be.
That’s the good news.
Here is the bad news:
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Dion Jordan, who underwent surgery to his left knee in the summer, needed to have the knee “cleaned back up” since the start of the regular season, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told the Miami Herald.
There is no definite timetable for the former No. 3 pick’s return, but the Dolphins have not ruled him out as far as playing in 2016.
In the days after what has been described as a “minor” procedure, Jordan was seen around Dolphins campus on crutches. And in recent days, Jordan has been conspicuously absent from the group of players who rehabilitate outside while their teammates practice.
Jordan, who has not played since late 2014 because of injuries and a year-long drug suspension, is on the NFL’s Non-Football Injury (NFI) list.
The rules for PUP and NFI are similar: Players who begin the season with that designation cannot practice until after the sixth week of the regular season.
Once that embargo passes, teams have an additional three weeks to evaluate the injured player before deciding whether or not to elevate them to the active roster. But just because players can practice after six weeks, it doesn’t mean they have to. The Dolphins really don’t have to decide what to do with Jordan until well into the season’s second half.
Along with getting healthy, Jordan must also continue to comply with the NFL’s terms of his reinstatement before seeing the field. The league has mandated he undergo counseling after failing at least three drug tests since entering the league in 2013.
The Dolphins have been encouraged with Jordan’s attitude and commitment to getting his career back on track since the league reinstated him on July 29.
As for Culliver, the 28-year-old cornerback has made a strong recovery from a torn ACL that ended his 2015 season last November.
Culliver said that his reconstructed knee is at 90 percent strength, and that he’s running well. His lateral movement, however, still needs work.
“It feels good,” Culliver said. “I’m doing good, feeling good. It’s a draining process, because you’ve just got to wait. Try to play within the rules and do what I’m told and get it in.”
Culliver added: “I’m definitely going to be practicing, doing something. I can’t be sitting around watching anymore. It’s definitely frustrating, because you want to be out there with your team, battling.”
If healthy, Culliver would be a boon to a secondary that has struggled through the first four weeks. The Dolphins had hoped Byron Maxwell would be a No. 1 corner after trading for him in March, but he has been so ineffective, the coaching staff benched him for last Thursday’s loss to the Bengals.
Plus, the Dolphins’ other Week 1 starter, Xavien Howard, sustained a knee injury in practice Tuesday. Howard’s status for Sunday’s game against the Titans is unclear.
When asked how he could help the team, Culliver responded: “Just by coming in, bringing my presence, my game and how I view football: the real aggressive and physical way. Also, my knowledge, experience, things like that. They really can’t feel you, feel you, until you’re out there with them.”
Culliver, who insisted he will not wear a brace on his mending knee but might use a sleeve, is willing to play on the boundary or in the slot when he returns.
“I can play whatever,” Culliver said. “I like playing slot. Slot’s easy, quite honest. Slot, outside. Outside’s 1 on 1. It’s not really that hard, especially a lot of years in the league.”