Jermon Bushrod paused for a moment to carefully choose his words.
There’s no great way to answer the question -- Did you think of quitting the game you love? -- when the answer is yes.
“I mean, you know, yeah. I did,” Bushrod said Monday. “Last year, mentally, was tough for me.”
A mangled shoulder and a lost job can have that effect.
But Bushrod was all smiles Monday. There are still a few miles left on his long road back from major shoulder surgery, but the veteran offensive lineman passed an important benchmark Monday.
When the Dolphins began the third week of organized team activities, Bushrod was on the field.
He practiced for the first time since February surgery to repair an injured labrum and biceps tendon -- reinforcing the Dolphins’ belief that he will be available for the coming season.
“I think this is where we’re hoping it would end up to where he could kind of get going here at the end of OTAs, minicamp,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “We’ll see how it plays out. We want to be smart with what’s going on. We don’t want any setbacks with him. Every day is going to be, ‘How do we feel the next day?’ And then see where we go from there."
To be fair, Bushrod didn’t do a whole lot Monday. He participated in walk-throughs and did some individual work. But the Dolphins stopped short of subjecting him to team drills.
With the season still three months off, there’s plenty of time for that. And there are plenty of other guards to evaluate in the meantime. The Dolphins have given long looks to Laremy Tunsil, Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas and Kraig Urbik. They need to find a starting left and right guard after having among the worst production in the league a year ago.
When asked if there’s currently a depth chart at the position, Gase responded:
“Every day [the assistant coaches are] creating a different one. They have a different rotation every day and we’re just trying to give guys reps.”
Simply being able to lift his right arm is a blessing.
It was still in a sling when Bushrod affixed his name to that contract three months back -- a reminder of his challenging final year in Chicago. He got hurt in Week 3 last fall, and Charles Leno Jr. played well enough in his place to remain the Bears’ left tackle after Bushrod was cleared to return.
Bushrod was disappointed, but he did whatever Gase, then his offensive coordinator, asked -- including play tight end.
“When you’re in your ninth year and your starting job … when they go in a different direction and you’re not feeling good physically and mentally you’re not in a good place, yeah, [retirement] runs through your mind,” Bushrod said. “But in the last few months I haven’t thought about it. The only thing I think about is getting this thing ready and getting around these guys and getting myself ready to play some ball here.”
Bushrod, the two-time Pro Bowler, continued: “Coach Gase gave me an opportunity. He helped me out along the way. ... I got hungry again after things didn't really go my way. Mentally and physically, I had the urge to keep going. ... I feel good mentally, I feel good physically. I'm in a good place. Whatever happens, happens. I want to win. It's the only reason I'm here. I'm going into my 10th year. I'm just trying to win again."
To steal a line from the lotto, you can’t win if you don’t play.