Jelani Jenkins returned to the practice field Wednesday and the hope is he’ll be playing in the postseason game at Pittsburgh on Sunday. And that’s good news because the Miami Dolphins linebacker corps, an obvious weak link on the team the past few weeks, is in desperate need of upgrade.
But this Jenkins news is also different than what we’ve heard multiple times this season when the linebacker played simply because Jenkins says he feels pretty good right now.
“I feel better than I did, when was it, for the Jets game?” Jenkins said. “I feel pretty good. We’ll keep taking it day by day, though.”
That’s a welcome change because the truth is seeing Jenkins on the field hasn’t always signaled he’s healthy. He has played several games this season, despite injuries, in a diminished capacity.
It has, in fact, been a common thread to Jenkins’s season: Playing but doing so despite an injury that keeps him from performing to his ability.
So why has Jenkins chosen multiple times to play -- even when he wasn’t going to play well and possibly risk re-injury -- rather than sitting and waiting to be fully ready?
“That’s a hard question to answer and the thing is were it to happen again, my competitive nature would make me do it again,” Jenkins said. “But that’s just me wanting to be out there. I tear up every game that I’m standing on the sideline and not being able to play with my teammates”
Teams love this kind of mentality. They love a player willing to sacrifice self for the good of the team. And that’s what Jenkins has done.
He played in the season opener only 10 days after knee surgery. He played with an ankle injury. He played with a hand injury. And the other knee injury that has forced him to miss four of the past five games was still a problem when he took the field against the New York Jets Dec. 17.
And despite all those injuries and sometimes with those injuries, Jenkins has played knowing he wasn’t right.
“That’s an internal battle that I have to learn to protect myself and heal rather than going out there when I’m not ready,” Jenkins said. “But having said that, I probably would do the same thing all over again.”
It’s apparently the way Jenkins is wired. And it could continue this week despite the linebacker’s optimism because after saying he felt good, he cautioned his knee “could blow up” tomorrow.
Jenkins wants to play Sunday. So being 100 percent healthy becomes a relative issue.
Is Jelani Jenkins at, say, 85 percent better than a Spencer Paysinger or Neville Hewitt?
The Dolphins believe he might be. But what if they’re wrong? What if the Jenkins we see is the one who struggled while playing hurt?
“You know what you can do but your body is not allowing you to do it,” Jenkins said of those times he tried but wasn’t himself. “It’s just a constant battle mentally -- wanting to be out there and when you do get out there, you see that play you know you can make but your body just isn’t ready. It’s frustrating.”
Jenkins, by the way, has been trying to rehabilitate his injuries as well as possible to be healthy as quickly as possible.
“It’s a constant thing,” he said. “For the last six weeks it’s been treatment 24/7. I do treatment at home myself.
“The training staff has done a good job of trying to get my strength back in my leg. I’ve done a good job. I’m excited to see how I’ve progressed.”
We’ll see on Sunday.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero