Miami Dolphins

Dolphins’ Mike Pouncey still on crutches, but didn’t suffer a setback

Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, front, fiancee of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, arrives with their daughter Avielle Janelle Hernandez, Pittsburgh Steeler Center Maurkice Pouncey and his twin brother Mike, and others for a private service for Aaron Hernandez at O'Brien Funeral Home, Monday in Bristol, Conn.
Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, front, fiancee of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, arrives with their daughter Avielle Janelle Hernandez, Pittsburgh Steeler Center Maurkice Pouncey and his twin brother Mike, and others for a private service for Aaron Hernandez at O'Brien Funeral Home, Monday in Bristol, Conn. AP

The Dolphins expect Mike Pouncey to be their starting center in Week 1.

But it’s probably a good thing the season is still another five months off.

Pictures taken by photographers outside of Aaron Hernandez’s private memorial service show Pouncey back on crutches.

However, the team was neither surprised nor alarmed by the development. Pouncey did not need an additional surgery and did not suffer a setback. Rather, he underwent a stem cell procedure in recent weeks as part of his rehab process.

What’s more, the Dolphins are confident enough in Pouncey’s health that they didn’t bring in a replacement for him in free agency.

Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins center, talks about defeating the Steelers and his brother, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.

Adam Gase explained why at the owner’s meetings several weeks ago:

“I’m not going to turn my back on who I think is the best center in football. I’ll roll the dice with him for as long as I can because that’s how good he is. That’s how much he means to our organization. We’re always going to have good contingency plans if something happens. No one is ever going to be as good as him. It’s just a fact. He’s that good.”

Gase added: “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Mike’s out there for his – I always tell him 16-plus games. That’s the goal from here on out. That’s the only thing I’m going to talk to him about. I’m not going to talk to him about not missing games. It’s not going to come from a negative light for me. I’m going to talk about playing 16-plus games next year.”

Pouncey, the Pro Bowl center who hasn’t been able to stay healthy the last three seasons, missed all but five games in 2016 with a recurring hip injury. He’s needed surgery on both hips in recent years.

The Dolphins planned to take it easy on Pouncey during spring workouts and practice; “you’ll see him out there in bubble wrap,” Gase said then.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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