DeVante Parker is about to run out of chances.
The Dolphins have been nothing but patient with their fourth-year wide receiver.
And their approach is probably smart. His talent is undeniable.
But at some point, they will decide enough is enough.
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That point could come in early 2019, when the Dolphins decide whether to honor the fifth year of his rookie contract — and pay him in excess of $9 million.
If he wants that big pay day, he must start playing like a No. 1 receiver — beginning Sunday against the Bears.
Parker is “not really sure” whether he will play this week or if he will miss his third consecutive game with an injured quadriceps muscle. He has practiced all week, and the sense is he will be available Sunday.
“It’s going pretty well,” Parker said. “I’m just happy to be back. I’ve got that motor running again.”
Parker is a man of few words, and he was even more guarded than normal Thursday when he met with reporters. Not that anyone could blame him. Most every word that has been written him about him over the past few years has been negative.
He’s been called fragile. He’s been called a bust.
And perhaps the most frustrating part: His body has not allowed him to prove everyone wrong. Parker has been able to appear in just one of the team’s five games this year, and has dealt with injuries to his foot, ankle, hamstring, finger and now quad since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2015.
“It’s football,” said fellow Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson. “That’s what he loves to do. When he doesn’t get a chance to do it, it’s kind of a bummer on his side. He’s very excited.”
When asked if he has lifted Parker’s spirits, Wilson responded: “We don’t have to do no spirit lifting. He’s in a good place. It comes with the game. We’re just waiting for him to get back.”
Perhaps no one knows what Parker is going through more than Danny Amendola, who had a string of injuries early in his career that kept him off the field.
Amendola has only known Parker for a few months, but in that time he’s seen an athlete who “is always trying to improve. He’s always trying to grow as a player. I’m excited to see where he’s go.”
Amendola added: “He works hard every day and takes care of his business. He’s focused and he’s going to do a lot of great things for this team. It’s just a matter of whenever he gets back and gets healthy. That’s it. It’s a rough game. It’s not easy to play.”
The Dolphins could certainly use him. Miami’s first-team offense has scored just one touchdown in the last two weeks, and teams have figured out a way to slow down the Dolphins’ speedy receivers, Wilson and Jakeem Grant.
This offense needs, more than anything, is a big, rangy receiver who can pick up a third-and-7. The Dolphins rank 29th in third down conversions (30.9 percent), and third-and-long has been a no-win situation this year. They have been in third-and-7 or longer 31 times this year. The Dolphins have picked up just four first downs in those plays.
Parker alone cannot fix that problem. But he can help in a big way.
When asked what he can bring to this offense, Parker responded: “high-pointing the ball and doing whatever coach wants me to do.”
Coach wants him to get healthy, stay that way and start performing at a high level. In short, for all of the reasons they offered him that fifth-year option to begin with.
The toughest part of his season to date?
“Not being out there,” Parker said. “Obviously.”