Miami Dolphins

Mitchell, Culliver hope to return to field for Dolphins Sunday

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (90) during Dolphins mini-camp at Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Wed., June 15, 2016
Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (90) during Dolphins mini-camp at Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Wed., June 15, 2016 adiaz@miamiherald.com

Earl Mitchell hasn’t played since Week 1. Chris Culliver hasn’t played since mangling his knee last November.

But both Dolphins defenders are hopeful that they’ll return to action Sunday in San Diego.

Culliver, the veteran cornerback coming of reconstructive knee surgery, said Wednesday that he was told he would play this week. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was much less certain of that. Coach Adam Gase later sounded more like Joseph than Culliver.

“The plan is to continue to evaluate him,” Joseph said. “He’s getting closer and closer each week. When he’s ready, we’ll play him. He wasn’t quite ready last week. Hopefully, he’s ready this week.”

And the chances of that are good?

“Yeah, yeah,” Joseph said. “Obviously we want to get him out there. We need more capable corners. If he’s ready he’s going to play.”

If activated, Culliver would play exclusively at corner. He’s never played in the slot. But Culliver will only be active as long as he practices well with no setbacks.

“Just coming in, filling in where needed,” Culliver said. “First game back. Obviously you’re not going to just come in and start every single play and play. Just get to it and get busy and keep progressing and see how we go from there.”

Mitchell, meanwhile, is expected to be activated from injured reserve this week. He aggravated a pesky calf injury in the opener and hasn’t played since.

“When I first learned I was on IR, it was pretty rough,” Mitchell said. “But I knew it was something that I could come back from and overcome. I was still excited about the opportunity to come back.”

Dion Sims remains in the concussion protocol but he practiced fully Wednesday. Fellow tight end MarQueis Gray has an ankle injury and was held out for precautionary reasons, Gase said.

Cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) remains sidelined. Two Dolphins players were limited in their participation Wednesday: safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle) and guard Jermon Bushrod (shoulder).

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