Two snaps in two years, but Miami Dolphins TE Thomas Duarte gets shot at last

Dolphins tight end Thomas Duarte works in practice. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Just another day of work, Thomas Duarte was saying, which pretty much amounted to fiction, of course.

Wednesday wasn’t just another day for him, because it was unlike nearly every other day of his Dolphins career.

On Wednesday, Duarte, a tight end, was on the active roster, taking a spot opened when tight end Julius Thomas was placed on injured reserve. No more practice squad duty for Duarte.

Duarte was a seventh-round pick out of UCLA last year who has suited up for only one out of 30 possible games since. He was briefly unemployed last year after the Dolphins waived him before signing him to the practice squad.

Finally, last November, he got to wear a uniform, suiting up for a 27-23 victory over the visiting New York Jets.

In the second quarter of that game, Dominique Jones caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill. You probably don’t remember that play, but Duarte does.

It’s one of only two snaps he has played in his NFL career.

Yes. Two years, two snaps.

And yet, now that he’s back on the roster?

“Just another day of work,” Duarte said. “I mean, it’s good to finally be able to contribute to the team, but again, we’re getting ready for Kansas City, so that’s kind of the only thing on my mind right now.”

Duarte arrived like many draftees, with sterling college credentials. Getting on the field had never been a problem. He was a two-year starter who caught 97 passes for 1,626 yards and 17 touchdowns but found himself moving from receiver to tight end when making the jump to the pros to take advantage of his size (6-feet-2, 244).

That in itself was an experience. A learning experience.

“Oh, a little lazy,” Duarte said when giving a scouting report on himself as a rookie. “Not really adamant about recovery and all that stuff. But I’ve learned my lessons like everybody else.”

He’s not the same player today.

“Matured a lot,” he said. “Everything away from the building — there’s so much emphasis put on recovery, study, film and all that stuff. And maturing as an athlete, as a professional, you realize that. You realize how much you could utilize what you see on film, what you study in the playbook.”

Despite the bumpy road, Duarte said he never doubted this day would come.

“I’ve always told myself, ‘I’ll get a shot, I’ll get a shot, I’ll get a shot. My time’s coming,’ ” he said. “So it paid off for me.”

Sunday in Kansas City, he hopes to avoid the inactive list and see action against the Chiefs. That Jets game last year remains fresh in his memory.

“Huge win for the team,” Duarte said. “I remember the last play I was in. We scored. Dominique Jones caught the ball in the end zone and I celebrated with him. It was everything I thought it would be.

“But itching — itching to get back out there.”

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