Miami Dolphins

Thanks to life-changing extension, Dolphins’ Grant laughs last at his many doubters

Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant : ‘Ready to get back rolling so I can provide for the team.’

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant talks to the media after the Dolphins Organized Team Activities at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Davie.
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Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant talks to the media after the Dolphins Organized Team Activities at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Davie.

For a small human, the chip Jakeem Grant lugs around on his shoulder is huge.

And it doesn’t seem likely to shrink, even after signing a four-year, $24 million contract extension last week.

“It’s a very big deal,” Grant, the 5-foot-6 wide receiver and kick returner, told reporters Sunday. “It just shows that the hard work has paid off, all the criticism and everything that went with it. Just from people saying, ‘Oh, [you] can’t make it to the league, you’re not going to be able to make the roster, this and that.’

“And then just going out each and every day with that on my shoulders and just playing and just going out there and saying, ‘Screw what they say, I’m going to go out there and make the best of my moments.’”

Has he ever. After struggling to track and catch punts — and occasionally passes — as a rookie, he’s become a dependable player on both offense and special teams.

The Dolphins believe his best is yet to come. His year-over-year stats as a receiver and returner have improved in each of his first three seasons.

And now that he’s healthy — having recovered from a calf injury that cut his 2018 season six games short and a hamstring issue that kept him out of the first three preseason games — they’re probably right.

“It’s truly an honor, just for them to just have the faith in me and saying that you’re one of our key guys and we want you here for a long term,” Grant said. “It just brings joy to my heart. It just makes me want to go out there and play even harder. And it’s a big relief of just saying, hey, now the weight is not on my shoulders anymore. I can just sit there and breathe and just go and be me and play the game like I know I can and just not worried about, ‘Oh, should I be able to be healthy making it to free agency?’ So now I can go out there and just turn the wheels loose and just go out there and grind.”

The Dolphins paid Grant a year earlier than they had to because “his value as a kick returner, punt returner and his ability to make big plays in those areas, I think [is] very important,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said.

Grant plans to take a big chunk of his newfound wealth to take care of his mother, Sylvia Whittaker, who “worked her butt off to raise three of us all by herself.”

QB battle update

In two weeks, the Dolphins play a regular-season game against the Ravens.

But who will start at quarterback for that game — Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen — remains up in the air.

In fact, Dolphins coach Brian Flores told reporters Sunday morning that he’s not even leaning a certain way at this point.

“This could go either way,” Flores said. “... I think they’re both working hard, both have leadership, both have done a lot of good things. This will be a hard decision for the staff.”

So three and a half months into a battle, with dozens of practices, hundreds of reps and three preseason games, Flores suggested it’s still wide open.

Fitzpatrick has long been viewed as the favorite to win the job, but Rosen’s play in the preseason has perhaps given the coaching staff second thoughts.

Rosen, playing mostly behind an inferior offensive line, has a better completion percentage (62.2 to 53.1), yards-per-attempt (7.8 to 5.2) and touchdown drives led (3 to 1).

Flores left open the possibility that all three quarterbacks on Miami’s roster — Rosen, Fitzpatrick and Jake Rudock — could play in Thursday’s preseason finale.

And while some teams use the last week of the preseason to start game-planning for the regular-season opener, this week in general and Sunday in particular is about “fundamentals, technique and us getting better individually and as a team.”

Flores added that a decision on the starter will be made before the Dolphins start practicing mid-next week, although acknowledged he might not make that decision known publicly.

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