The 2018 NFL season had begun, but Brice Butler wasn’t on the field or even on a roster.
He was at home, a free agent on opening day for the first time of his career. His wife put him to work. There were groceries that needed to be bought.
“That hurt,” Butler said Tuesday. “... People were wearing jerseys walking around and I was thinking ‘Man, I’m supposed to be playing right now. I’m not supposed to be out here in Aisle 12.’ “
Now a member of the Miami Dolphins, brought in to bring depth to a wide receiver room that has lost two playmakers for the season in Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant and also has DeVante Parker injured, Butler is ready for another chance to make his mark on the league.
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“Happy to be here,” Butler said. “Happy to be part of the team and whatever I’m asked of, I’m going to do it. I don’t know exactly what my role is going to be. All I know is I was getting a lot of reps with the offense with guys like Kenny [Stills] and Danny [Amendola] and all those guys. Just working day by day.”
So far, so good. After his first practice with the team Tuesday, quarterback Ryan Tannehill singled out Butler for making a few plays. Butler credited his short preseason stint with the Arizona Cardinals for the early success, saying the Cardinals’ offensive scheme and terminology was similar to what Miami runs.
“I felt pretty good,” Butler said. “I think the biggest thing was getting used to the weather at this time of the year. Obviously Dallas is hot, but not right now. Just getting used to that. ... Just trying to learn the best I can.”
It has been an up-and-down year for Butler, a former seventh-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
After five steady seasons in the league — two with the Oakland Raiders and three more with the Dallas Cowboys in which he caught 73 passes for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns — he found himself unemployed after the Arizona Cardinals released him on Sept. 1.
“Humbling experience,” Butler said. “Hopefully I learned what I needed to learn while I was out.”
The Dolphins continue to have a lengthy injury report on top of the nine players who have gone on season-ending injured reserve.
But help could be on the way.
In addition to Tannehill returning to the starting lineup, starting offensive tackles Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil were both active in practice after sitting out the Dolphins’ loss to the Green Bay Packers before the bye with knee injuries.
For the rest of the injury front, cornerback Bobby McCain participated in practice but is still in the concussion protocol. Parker and running back Kenyan Drake, both dealing with shoulder injuries, wore red non-contact jerseys during practice on Tuesday.
“The fact that they’re out there and working is good,” coach Adam Gase said of Parker and Drake. “We just wanted to make sure nobody thumps them up and sets us back.”