Before lining up at right guard in a game for the first time in his NFL career last Sunday, Mike Pouncey awoke at 4:30 a.m. feeling nervous, like “a rookie all over again.”
The nerves faded quickly. But switching positions, he assured, was not easy, even though he played guard in his sophomore and junior years at Florida.
“It’s easy to do in practice,” he said. “Games are different. I feel like I was falling around a little bit.”
Still, the transition from center – where Pouncey spent his first three NFL seasons – has gone pretty seamlessly. But he’s also aware he would need to return to center if a hamstring injury prevents Samson Satele from playing Sunday at Chicago.
Satele, listed as questionable, said Wednesday he expects to play Sunday. If coaches believe Satele can play effectively, he figures to start at center, with Pouncey again at right guard.
But if Satele’s hamstring proves problematic, Pouncey would move back to center and former starter Shelley Smith likely would line up at right guard. Smith is listed as probable with a knee injury that has sidelined him since midway through the second game of the season. But he practiced without limitations for the first time Thursday.
Pouncey said he is still taking some snaps at center in practice and it would not be difficult to switch between the positions because “once you play center, you kind of know the offense like the back of your hand. When you play guard, when Samson makes calls, I am still making the calls myself because I’m so used to it. I don’t think it would bother me at all if I have to switch back.”
Pouncey, a Pro Bowl selection last season who missed the first four games this season while recovering from June hip surgery, embraced the move to guard because he wanted the team to be able to play what coaches considered their five best offensive linemen, and also because he enjoyed playing guard for two years at UF before moving to center as a senior after his twin brother Maurkice graduated.
“He’s doing one of the most unselfish things, changing positions, and not crying about it,” left tackle Branden Albert said.
But even beyond Satele’s injury, Pouncey said he has been given no indication how long he will remain at guard. The Dolphins are going week to week with this.
Last week, coach Joe Philbin “asked, ‘Would I do it for the team?’ I said, ‘No problem, let’s do it,’ ” Pouncey said. “Whatever helps the team win is what I’m all about.”
How would he rate his first game at guard?
“I played OK,” he said. “I was a little sloppy with my technique because it’s the first time I played football since four months ago. I hold myself to a high standard. I’ve got to play a lot better.”
His coaches were more complimentary. “For the first game, I thought he did it well,” Philbin said.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Pouncey “probably could do whatever he wants to do up front. I think he’s that talented a player. I thought he brought great leadership and poise” against Green Bay.
The biggest adjustment in moving to guard? “You’re playing in more space now,” Pouncey said. “At center, you’re kind of helping everybody out, setting the stage for everybody. At guard, you’re the point of attack. You’re in a lot of space and a lot of one-on-one protections.
“Each week, I’m only going to get better at it, more comfortable. I’m just excited for the opportunity to be able to play guard and continue to do it.”
Pouncey said he “will be happy regardless” of what position he plays long-term.
He is due to earn $7.4 million next season and the Dolphins are interested in keeping him long-term. “I’ve been taken care of since I came to this team so I’m not even really worried about it.”
Satele, on a one-year contract, appreciates the chance to continue starting (if his hamstring allows), but says he has the mindset that he’s competing for the job every week.
“It’s a great feeling when I’m out there playing next to Mike,” he said. “I learn a lot just watching him practice.”
▪ Safety Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) is the only Dolphins player listed as doubtful for Sunday. Satele is the only Dolphin listed as questionable.
Besides Smith, 11 other Dolphins also were listed as probable: Ryan Tannehill (ankle), Albert, Lamar Miller, Philip Wheeler, Charles Clay, Cortland Finnegan, Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline, Koa Misi, Dallas Thomas and John Denney.
▪ The Bears ruled out two starters: linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder). Linebacker Jonathan Bostic is questionable.
▪ The NFL fined receiver Jarvis Landry $8,268 for a face-mask penalty on Casey Hayward’s interception return for Green Bay last week. The play was not penalized at the time. Why such an odd number for Landry’s fine? A fine for that type of infraction was $7,500 in 2011, but twice has been increased by 5 percent since, according to terms of the labor agreement.
▪ Philbin, on losing Knowshon Moreno to a season-ending ACL injury: “Let’s face it, he only really played one game. The second game he played in, he had one carry. He played sparingly the other day. It’s unfortunate. [But] we’ll be fine.”