Mike Pouncey survived.
And he helped get the Dolphins into the end zone.
So consider the mission accomplished in Pouncey’s first game action since November.
Pouncey’s long-awaited return from a chronic hip injury finally arrived Thursday, but if you blinked, you might have missed it.
The Dolphins center was barely on the field for a dozen snaps before Adam Gase pulled him.
But that small sample size was significant in a number of ways.
Most importantly: He emerged with his health intact.
“It responded well,” Pouncey said of the hip. “It feels good. I don't have any issues, as expected. Obviously, I wouldn't have even been out there if there was a chance of it not responding the way I wanted it to. It feels good.”
Pouncey knew he wouldn’t play long Thursday — Gase was serious about keeping him in “bubble wrap” this preseason — but he got in some quality work in the short time he was in the game.
He was part of the first touchdown drive by the Dolphins’ starting offense this preseason.
“The plan's been so good so far that whatever plays they told me, I told them I don't even want a play count,” Pounceu said. “Whenever you're done, you see what you want to see pull me out of the game. That's what they did. We went out and scored a touchdown.”
Even with their leader back, questions remain about the Dolphins’ offensive line. Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil had shaky moments on the edges. Jermon Bushrod played through a minor injury he suffered Thursday night. And the Dolphins still need to figure out who will start at left guard. Anthony Steen and Jesse Davis split reps with the first string Thursday.
Still, Pouncey’s teammates raved about what having him back in the huddle meant — and will mean going forward.
“It's always different when Big Mike is in there,” said running back Jay Ajayi. “He changed that whole dynamic. He's a vocal leader up there with those guys. His physicality as well, and his aggressiveness. I think all of them feed off of him, and myself as well. I always love having him in there.”
The Dolphins won’t have him in there again until the regular season opener. Pouncey said “we’re ready” for the season to begin and that “I can do that all game.”
But even if he was still rusty, the Dolphins likely wouldn’t risk him to injury in the preseason finale at Minnesota next week.
“Even if I wasn't worried about injury about injury, I ain't playing in the fourth preseason,” Pouncey said. “I don't play in those games.”