CARSON, Calif. — Mike Pouncey’s voice began to crack as he described what it meant just to play in an NFL game again on Sunday.
Pouncey is a tough guy. But he literally didn’t know if he would experience this moment again.
“It was more in the fourth quarter, our last drive right before we got the game-winning field goal and you know it just brought me back down to reality, where I was, eight months ago in this whole recovery,” said Pouncey, who has come back from multiple hip injuries. “To where I’m back out there playing the game that I love. And it just meant so much to me. And I didn’t want to take away from the victory. So I didn’t make a big deal out of it. But deep down inside it meant so much to me to be back out there…”
Pouncey slowed down as he recalled the moment, becoming emotional again.
“…with those guys. Just to be in the huddle again. And I’m just glad we got the ‘W.'”
Pouncey hadn’t played a game since last Nov. 13, against these same Chargers (though in San Diego).
He had a stem cell treatment. He’s missed ton of practice time, by design.
The Dolphins held him back for this moment, and it paid off.
Miami running back Jay Ajayi gained 122 yards on 28 carries, an average of 4.4 yards per carry.
And quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked only twice.
“Jay ran the ball really hard,” Pouncey said of Ajayi. “Obviously we’ve got to do a little bit better in the run game, keeping those guys off the first level. Because once he gets to the second level, he can break tackles like crazy. And I think Jay (Cutler) did a great job getting the ball out of his hands and made all the right points throughout the game. We’ll fix anything we had problems with out in the game today when we get back to practice, but it was a good way to start the season.”
Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James said the average person wouldn’t realize the impact Pouncey has on the game, beyond even his stellar on-field production.
“More than people see is the identification of fronts of where we’re going and things like that,” James said. “The more mental side of it. Getting everybody on the same page. Everybody sees how he can play. He’s a great player. But he does a good job of getting everybody where he’s supposed to be.”
Pouncey said the team showed great resiliency in overcoming the distractions such as Hurricane Irma forcing the team to relocate its camp to California for the week.
He said the plane ride back to Florida will be a much better one with the victory.
“As soon as we get on the plane, we’ll process what just happened,” Pouncey said. “I think we’ll be able to watch this one and enjoy it especially after everything we’ve been through this week. We had our family out here and had a great time. Just to fight through everything we fight through and come through and on top today, was just big for our organization and good for our football team.”