MIAMI GARDENS—It was a tough 2017 season for Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch after establishing himself as a starter the year before, and much of that frustration was because of a variety of injuries.
Branch was rarely himself as he dealt with groin and knee issues, as well as any possible injuries that weren’t shared publicly, and he underwent surgery two weeks ago. He didn’t specify what the operation was or give a timetable for being football-ready, but his recovery is going well.
“Rehab’s going great, man,” Branch said at the Dolphins Cancer Challenge today. “I’ve hit the rehab hard so far and I’m progressing well. I’m ahead of schedule, and that’s always great.”
At the end of last season, he lamented that he wasn’t able to play as well as he wanted because of his health. The previous year, he overtook Mario Williams as a starter and had 5.5 sacks while earning a three-year, $24 million contract.
Last season, he put up 23 tackles and 4.5 sacks while missing two games and playing just 53.6 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps.
He described his surgery as “much-needed,” but was unwilling to have it during the season.
“Those are my brothers, man,” Branch said. “At the end of the day, I’m never going to let my brothers down. Me being out there as a leader on the defense, I can’t be myself if I’m not (playing). I’m never gonna let my family down, and that’s exactly who they are.”
When pressed about whether he’ll be available for Organized Team Activities this spring, he said, “We’ll see how it goes.”
At 28, he goes into a critical season. He and 36-year-old Cameron Wake are the incumbent starters, but 2017 first-round pick Charles Harris is vying to take over one of those spots.
There’s no sign that Wake is on his way out after another double-digit sack season, though he’s currently scheduled to be a free agent next year. Branch, meanwhile, has two seasons left on his deal but can be released for a $2 million salary cap hit after this year. His cap hit for the upcoming season is $10 million.
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