There will come a day when the Dolphins finally see up close the huge talent that made Dion Jordan the third pick of the NFL Draft.
When that day will actually arrive, however, remains very much in doubt.
Jordan wasn’t on the practice field when the Dolphins opened camp Sunday morning and might not be any time soon.
The Dolphins placed their promising young pass rusher on the non-football injury (NFI) list, a sign that his surgically repaired shoulder still is not ready for contact.
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He cannot practice for as long as he remains on that list — but neither he nor coach Joe Philbin would say precisely how long that will be.
“Taking care of my body is the main thing for me,” Jordan said Sunday. “I want to be able to have a good, long career. I’m going to do whatever I need to make that happen.”
For Jordan, it’s just the latest setback in what has admittedly been a frustrating six months. He had surgery on a torn labrum in February, and that shoulder issue limited him during rookie minicamp in May.
And then NFL rules forbade him from working with his new team in any other offseason activities because his school, the University of Oregon, operates on the quarters academic system.
Now, he’s on the NFI, which functions essentially the same as the preseason physically-unable-to-perform list. Jordan still counts against the team’s 90-man roster and can come off the list at any time.
The move gives the Dolphins some protection in case Jordan is not healthy enough to play at the start of the season. They could then put him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which would keep Jordan out of the first six weeks of the season. But he wouldn’t take up one of the team’s 53 regular-season roster spots.
“He’s on NFI,” Philbin said. “That’s all I’ll say in regard to him.”
When asked if he was concerned that Jordan risked falling far behind because of all of the time he has and will continue to miss, Philbin responded succinctly: “No.”
Jordan’s teammates, meanwhile, are taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to appraising the highest-drafted Dolphin since Jake Long.
“He can finish a conditioning test,” defensive lineman Jared Odrick said with a grin. “We’re happy about that.”
Added pass rusher Cameron Wake: “The proof’s in the pudding. I haven’t gotten the chance to see him with the pads on yet, but from his reputation, what he’s brought out, he should be a hell of a force.”
The Dolphins will have to wait, at least for a while, to see if Jordan’s production warrants the hype. And they will have to wait just as long to see the complete result of what was one of their most active offseasons in years.
Newcomers Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and Brent Grimes worked with the starting defense Sunday. Mike Wallace, Tyson Clabo, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller all got time with the first-team offense. They all worked in shorts Sunday; the pads come on Tuesday.
Philbin insisted the offseason spending spree puts no more pressure on him or his team. But he said: “We want to get out of the gate better as a football team this year. That’s one of the things we’re going to focus on.”
He said producing more explosive plays on offense — and limiting them on defense — are priorities, and so is the need to commit fewer turnovers and create more of them.
“That will help our won-loss record more than any play design,” he said of turnovers. “To get our program turned around, that’s the No. 1 focus on both sides of the ball.”
Quipped quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “It’s crazy. I was laying in bed [Saturday night] thinking about [Sunday], how we have the first day of practice, and the season’s getting kicked off. You’re working every day until the season’s over.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.