“There comes a time and place where you have to sit back and put some of your accomplishments of past seasons, look at them and figure out where you are in your career physically, mentally and where you’re trying to go and what you’re trying to accomplish. I felt like this was the perfect fit.”
Bushrod ended last season on injured reserve and uncertain if he’d retire. He told South Florida reporters a week ago that he had decided to continue playing. At that point, he preferred to re-sign with either the Dolphins or Saints.
“It’s a good time for the family,” Bushrod said. “My wife is a New Orleans native, so she’s happy, my side of the family is happy, her friends are happy, and we’re happy to be here.”
PARKLAND — Jermon Bushrod isn’t retiring and Sam Young is in a holding pattern as the NFL’s free-agent window is about to open.
Bushrod, a former Pro Bowl guard who endured an injury-shortened 2017 season, said he wants to play a 12th NFL season. Bushrod revealed his plans during an appearance Sunday at a youth football clinic the Dolphins conducted with players from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High at Pine Trails Park.
“I’m going to keep going,” said Bushrod, who will be 34 next season. “I want to do it again. I feel good. I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent healthy but after I get this brace off my wrist, I’ll feel a lot better about myself.”
Bushrod doesn’t want his career to end on its present note.
“I went out last year,” he said. “That was my first year on injured reserve, not being able to finish the season.”
Bushrod said he’d “love” to play for the Dolphins in 2018, “But at the end of the day, it’s a business and they’re going to make the best decision that they feel they have to make for the future.”
Young, a free-agent offensive tackle, also is uncertain about his future, saying things are “quiet” as free agency begins this week.
“In terms of my own situation, we’ll see what happens when we come to it and just make the best decision for myself and my family.”
Given that Jermon Bushrod will turn 34 before next season and suffered through an injury-plagued 2017, it was easy to assume that might be the last we’ve seen of him.
And while retirement remains a possibility, there are signs he might attempt to end his lengthy NFL career on a more upbeat note.
Bushrod, a guard, appeared at a “Police and Youth Conference” hosted by the Dolphins and the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project with a cast on his surgically repaired right arm. That’s noteworthy because when the Dolphins shut him down in December, it was because of a foot injury.
The Dolphins obviously have had seemingly never-ending needs on the offensive line, and if they feel Bushrod’s performance was significantly hampered by multiple injuries, they might be open toward at least giving him a look this summer.
“I don’t know,” Bushrod said when asked if reporters should refer to him as a “Dolphins player” or “former Dolphins player.”
“Just put a question mark over my name,” he added. “We’ll figure out what’s going to happen career-wise or team-wise.”
If that sounds more optimistic than expected, there’s a reason.
“I feel good enough to keep going,” Bushrod said. “It’s weird. You know, during the season you’re thinking about how you’re feeling in November, December. But now that I’ve always had to get fixed up from training camp, I feel good. I had 45 days to take some time off and get my body back under me.”
Bushrod said if this is the end, he could live with it.
“Because I played for 11 years,” he said. “I played a lot of football, over 125 starts, almost 140 games. So whether I play again or whether I cut it off now, I’m very happy with the journey so far.”
MIAMI GARDENS — Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills was going to pick up a pizza and go home. It was to be a simple Sunday night errand, only it quickly escalated into something not so simple.
As he pulled out of the parking lot, he noticed police eyeing him. He nodded at the officers and started driving away, but when he saw the cruiser in his rearview mirror, he started to get nervous.
“I knew I didn’t do anything wrong, and so I pulled over into the parking lot of where I was and just parked, put my window down,” Stills said.
As the cruiser parked behind him, a now-familiar scene broke out.
“Immediately, what I do, I put my hands out the window and I’m like, ‘All right, I don’t want anything to go down,’ because I’m nervous at this point,” Stills said.
Then, things took a turn — for the better.
“They get out of the car and they’re like, ‘Hey, we ran your plates. We saw it was you. We wanted to come and say hi,’ ” Stills said.
The story came to mind Tuesday morning as Stills was among the featured speakers as the Dolphins and the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project held a “Police and Youth Conference” at Hard Rock Stadium, bringing together 600 high school students from Dade and Broward with law enforcement from those two counties, plus the FBI and DEA, to promote interaction between kids and police.
Stills’ appearance was noteworthy because he has spent the past two seasons kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice. Staring at a conference filled with badges and uniforms, Stills didn’t shy away from explaining why he kneels.
“I was tired of seeing the things that were happening,” he said. “People were getting killed and there was no accountability for it.”
When the moderator asked Tom Garfinkel, the Dolphins’ president and CEO, why the organization allowed players to kneel, Garfinkel said, “I don’t think it’s a question of allow or not allow. In this country you have a right to do that.”
Garfinkel explained how he spent 45 minutes visiting with social activist Jim Brown at the Super Bowl. Brown told him, “It’s about humanity. It’s fundamentally not about race, really.”
Garfinkel also watched a documentary set in 1968. “The country was pretty messed up,” he said. “And in some ways, it’s pretty messed up right now. We need to create dialogue. We need to have civil discourse. We need to have mutual respect.”
An eye-opening moment came when the moderator asked the students how many had a negative impression of law enforcement. A few dozen raised their hands. He then asked how many had a positive impression. About the same number of hands went up.
Perhaps last week’s attack that killed 17 students and faculty at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will change attitudes toward law enforcement, said Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), founder of 5000 Role Models.
“To see police officers running to the scene, the first responders coming from Dade, coming from Palm Beach, all over Broward, to save these kids, it’s phenomenal,” Wilson said. “It’s an eye-opener to say to the community and to the nation, who else do we have? Who are our protectors except law enforcement, the FBI, the DEA, all of our municipal police agencies? We depend on them, and so children begin to appreciate that.”
Dolphins guard Jermon Bushrod was among those stressing to kids ways to defuse situations when encountering police.
“I had a couple of situations where I had to be more respectful than at times you really want to be, because you feel like you are profiled or embarrassed,” Bushrod said. “But sometimes those lessons kind of come back in your head when you get caught in a situation where, ‘OK, maybe I should act this way so that things go smoothly.’ ”
In his season with the Dolphins, though, Cutler left a different impression. Wide receiver Kenny Stills enjoyed playing with him and said he wasn’t what his reputation suggested.
“I love the guy,” Stills said. “He’s a good man. People in other places have kind of given him a hard time. I got to know him as a man and as a player and I appreciate him. I like him. I’m thankful for the experience of playing with him, catching some balls from him.”
Stills put up a good season of 58 catches, 847 yards and six touchdowns with Cutler starting 14 games and Matt Moore starting the other two. Stills caught three touchdowns from each.
Cutler and Moore targeted him on 18.9 percent of their combined pass attempts, second only to Jarvis Landry’s 29 percent.
On the field, it was a tough year for Cutler. He completed 62 percent of his passes, averaged 190.4 yards per game and had 19 touchdowns against 14 interceptions for an 80.8 passer rating. He also suffered a concussion and two broken ribs.
The Dolphins’ trouble at quarterback was one of the biggest reasons they went 6-10 this year, and owner Stephen Ross cited the difficulty in replacing Ryan Tannehill as their problem.
Several of Cutler’s teammates spoke positively about him throughout his season with Miami, echoing what Stills said. Jermon Bushrod, who played with Cutler in Chicago, said before his arrival that he was “very misunderstood by people” because of how he’s been portrayed in the media.
“As a quarterback, he leads by example,” Stills said. “He’s got that veteran presence in the room, and just really understanding the receiver position to the point where we’re watching film and we see things one way and he sees it that way, and we’re able to kind of make that connection real quick and get on the same page.”
Cutler, 35, did not speak to the media after the season-ending loss to Buffalo or on locker cleanout day. He declined multiple times during the year to address his future, but he was at peace with retirement before Adam Gase called him when Ryan Tannehill got hurt.
Stills described Cutler as funny to be around, but wouldn’t give up any hilarious anecdotes. One of his favorite things, though, was watching him “talk a little bit of trash” to the officials during games.
“Have you guys seen that?” Stills asked, grinning. “That’s some good stuff. It’s interesting to see the relationship between a super veteran quarterback and all the referees around the league. That’s all I’d say.”
DAVIE — Jermon Bushrod wasn’t required to answer questions Thursday, but he did anyway.
Which was exactly the point.
Bushrod, a guard, appeared in the media workroom at Dolphins camp to accept the “Good Guy Award” from the South Florida chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association as the Dolphins player who best helped beat reporters do their jobs.
The team has a policy shielding players on injured reserve from fielding questions from the media — that’s why we haven’t heard from quarterback Ryan Tannehill — but Bushrod said, “I’ll take a few.” Which shouldn’t have surprised anyone in the room.
Bushrod hasn’t played since injuring his foot in the Tampa Bay game, and at age 33, there appears to be a good chance he’ll retire.
“We’ll really figure it out after the season, to be honest with you,” Bushrod said. “I can tell you how I’m feeling right now, then you ask me tomorrow, I’ll probably tell you a different thing. So as we are right now, I’m just worried about getting myself feeling better and then we’ll really kind of assess all that in the near future.”
Bushrod was taken in the fourth round by the Saints in 2007 and has played 134 games with 122 starts, including 26 starts with the Dolphins over the past two seasons. Bushrod made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and ’12 with the Saints.
From a media standpoint, Bushrod is known as a stand-up player willing to tackle tough questions even after losses.
“I would love to talk about a couple more Ws here and there, but I did miss you with everything that was going on with me health-wise,” Bushrod told reporters. “As far as myself, I’m just trying to get back on track so we can get back to 100 percent.”
Bushrod admitted “some guys don’t like dealing with” questions after a defeat.
“It’s easy to talk after a win but you know it’s a little tougher after a loss,” he said. “I appreciate you guys all just being very respectful, very good to me. And wherever this journey takes us, I do appreciate the image you betrayed of myself and this team for the most part.”
DAVIE—Few rookies would have the temperament to accept being benched all season with a positive attitude, but Dolphins guard Isaac Asiata is an unusual rookie. He’s about to turn 25 and he’s uncommonly mature.
Asiata came in as a fifth-round pick with an opportunity to fight his way into the offensive line rotation at guard, but it was clear early the team didn’t think he was ready to play. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen even went far enough to call it a red-shirt year.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned, and something my mom taught me in life, is to be humble,” Asiata said. “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t act like I do.
“It was nice for me to get adjusted. Now that adjustment period is over. I’m not doing this again.”
There’s a chance Asiata (6-foot-3, 341 pounds) could make his pro debut Sunday against the Bills as coach Adam Gase considers letting some of his little-used young players get some extended run in a game that has no stakes for Miami.
On the offensive line, Ted Larsen is one of the best candidates to rest. He’s been dealing with an injury most of the season and, as a veteran, doesn’t need reps in a game that doesn’t mean anything.
For Asiata, though, it’d be a great chance to play against Buffalo’s first-string defensive line. He said he hasn’t been told whether he’s playing this week. If he does get the opportunity, he believes he’s much more prepared than he would’ve been at the start of the season.
“It’s been nice because I’ve been able to work,” he said. “I knew I had to make some adjustments when I got here. It’s a different scheme and it’s a whole new speed.
“I was able to learn the playbook, have things slow down and go against some of the best d-linemen in the league. I appreciate (Ndamukong) Suh and Jordan Phillips and all those guys for going at me and being able to learn from them. It’s been a fun year.”
While he knew it would be a significant transition from Utah to the NFL, he didn’t expect to sit out his entire rookie year. That was a blow to his confidence.
“It was a little bit, but you’ve gotta just roll with the punches,” Asiata said. “I love this team because it would be easy to get down on yourself if nobody really cares, but the guys on this team supported me. Even though I wasn’t playing, they didn’t treat me any different. They know I’m working on things and trying to get better.
It became clear to him after the first few regular-season games that the Dolphins were going to keep him on the bench all year. Anthony Steen, Jesse Davis, Larsen and Jermon Bushrod all started games at guard this year
It’s unclear how many of those guys will be back in 2018. Steen will be a restricted free agent, and Bushrod could be ready to retire at age 33. Furthermore, it’s possible the Dolphins will shift Davis permanently to right tackle.
If Asiata wants to be in the mix for some of those snaps next year, the coaches have told him he must get faster overall and quicker with his footwork. He needs to “get my feet out of cement,” to use his words. Whether he plays in the Buffalo game or not, he has about eight months to get his play up to the level Miami expects if he wants avoid another season like this.
“I don’t think I could’ve landed with a better team,” Asiata said. “I fit here. I fit in the locker room. I fit in the scheme. Now it’s my turn to turn it up a notch and have a good year next year.”
BUFFALO, N.Y.—There aren’t many places where 30 is considered old, but that’s absolutely the case in the NFL. Teams treat the number like an expiration date for running backs, and it’s a badge of honor for anyone else at the collision-heavy positions to keep going past that age.
Players can race around and take the hits when they’re young, but it takes meticulous work to make it in this arena once their hairline starts to retreat. The Dolphins have 10 active players who are 30 and up, and almost all of them will have a significant role as the team tries to keep its playoff hopes alive at Buffalo on Sunday.
“Chill out, bro,” Lawrence Timmons admonished. “I don’t think it’s that old. I try to do a lot of extra stuff to stay out there, but don’t say 30 like it’s like that.”
Timmons, 31, wouldn’t even be in the prime of his career yet in most professions, but he was getting hit with “How much do you have left?” questions when the Dolphins signed him. He’ll be asked some version of that the rest of his playing days.
This is his 11th season, which means he’s probably played around 10,000 snaps at linebacker and withstood the impact of more than 1,000 tackles—not to mention whatever he’s endured in practices. He’s still good enough to start every game for the Dolphins, who play him over backups who range from 24 to 26.
It’s not insulting to point out that he’s high-mileage; it’s a compliment.
“That’s true,” he said, slowly coming around.
He paused for a moment.
“Right,” he said. “It’s a blessing. Thanks for saying that.”
There’s an inherent respect among those who make it this long. There’s a look of recognition when Cameron Wake or Jermon Bushrod sees another guy in their age group still getting it done. It’s a club.
They know the secrets, like Wake’s aversion to pizza or Timmons double-layering all his clothes for practice to help him sweat off some weight.
They use terms like “pre-hab,” a favorite of 33-year-old tight end Anthony Fasano. They still get treatment on injuries they sustained years ago. Therapeutic massages are a must, usually every other day. Most are rigid in their weekly routines.
“The young guys need to pay attention to what they’re doing,” said Bushrod, an 11th-year pro who delayed retirement to play at 33 this season. “You don’t get to play 10-plus years in this league if you’re not doing something right on a daily basis.”
Of being an elder on the team, he said, “I embrace it. I think it’s something every player should want to get to. It’s a beast to get back out there every week and get through practice, but you do it and that’s something I’m proud to hang my hat on.”
Hear that, Timmons? You chill out, bro.
According to Pro Football Reference, 84 percent of the players who have appeared in an NFL game this year are under 30. There are 41 players in the NFL this season who are old enough to run for president. Sift out the kickers, punters and quarterbacks, and that number drops to 20 men playing the more grueling positions.
The gold standard among that group is a sculpted, 6-foot-2, 236-pound man who looks like he could be a new Avengers character. That would be Wake, and he knows better than anyone what it takes to survive in a league full of players a decade or more younger than him.
For Wake, there are countless small decisions that keep him in this shape. He’s on top of everything he eats, for starters, and the overall maintenance of his body started years ago.
“I’ve obviously been around the league long enough to see guys who (are) treating today like it won’t affect them 10 years in the future,” he said. “If you’re eating a bunch of (garbage) and you’re partying and you’re staying up late and all of those things, that might be fun now, but there’s nothing free.
“In Year 6, when you feel like a bag of dog crap—when you probably could have been OK and played a few more years—maybe that was based on those early years where you didn’t really do what you were supposed to. This locker room, for the most part, guys have taken notice of some of the older guys who we have who do things to continue to play.”
Mentioning pizza—hot, cheesy, delicious, grease-soaked, carbohydrate-filled, sweet, beautiful pizza—around Wake is sure to prompt a lecture.
“It’s a very simple risk-reward or cost-benefit,” Wake said. “The pizza is great for 10 minutes, then you finish eating the pizza. Once it gets in your body, you feel like crap for two days. Ten minutes for two days, what kind of return on investment is that? Now if I give you a salad, it tastes like ‘crap’–I think salads taste great—for 10 minutes, but you feel great for two days.”
Anyone who’s in their 30s knows that wasn’t true for them in college. A 20-year-old can guzzle or devour just about anything and wake up the next morning for the best day of their life.
Athletes can, too, at that age. It’s no surprise to walk into a locker room in any sport and see the younger players chomping wings and fries. That won’t work for “the grandpas and uncles,” as Bushrod affectionately calls his crew.
Not only has Wake preserved himself well enough to still be fearsome at almost 36, he powered through the rehab on a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2015 to come back with 11.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl selection last season. He’s got eight sacks this year. That’s more than just good genetics.
“It’s super impressive,” Fasano said. “Because he’s super old.”
In his own corner of the Dolphins’ locker room, Wake sits kitty corner from defensive end Charles Harris. He’s the first-round pick Miami chose with the thought that he’d eventually replace Wake, and at 22 he’s young enough that he could’ve worn Wake’s jersey to class in middle school.
Wake didn’t flinch when the Dolphins drafted Harris. He didn’t take it as a threat. He’s built to outlast anybody, no matter how fresh their legs.
Heck, he even said he’d be happy to help mentor him. The best thing for Harris—and the organization—would be for him to immediately start implementing what he sees from Wake. He says he’s learned a lot from him already.
That’s where old guys provide added value. They’re still good enough to be major factors on the field right now, plus they offer a roadmap for the Dolphins’ promising batch of young talent.
They have 18 players on the active roster who are 25 or younger, plus four other rookies on Injured Reserve. What they pick up from players like Wake will go a long way toward making Miami’s future as bright as it hopes to be.
“I speak to the rookies every year and I tell them the hardest thing won’t be your opponent; it will be you,” Wake said. “We’re all big, we’re all fast, we’re strong… Either you want to be great or you want to be just a guy.
“The guys that play video games, that have got all of the numbers and all of the promoters on South Beach, they’ve got pizza on speed dial–They play for two or three years and nobody ever hears from them. If you want to be great, you eat a salad with no dressing.”
DAVIE—Jermon Bushrod knew what he signed up for when he bypassed retirement for one more season on the Dolphins’ offensive line. As an 11-year veteran, he’s fully familiar with brutal nature of the game.
But that doesn’t make this any easier.
Bushrod has been inactive for three straight games with a significant foot injury and seen the o-line play well in his absence with Jesse Davis replacing him at right guard. When he returned to the practice field today, he did so realizing it’s not automatic that he’ll resume his role as the starter. If that ends up being reality, it’ll undoubtedly be hard to accept.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Things have been (going well), and that’s the tough part when you’re not in the lineup. That’s how other people get their opportunities, and you have to figure out what the coaching staff wants to do. If they feel like when I get back I can help out, that’s out of my paygrade.
“Would I be comfortable with (coming off the bench)? I don’t know. I can’t answer that, because I’ve been a starter and played in this league for a long time. I’ve taken a backseat once, but I don’t know.”
It’s been difficult watching from the sideline as the Dolphins kept their season alive with wins over the Broncos and Patriots the last two weeks. For those games, as well as the loss at New England before them, Miami used Sam Young at right tackle and Davis in Bushrod’s spot.
If the Dolphins want to reinsert Bushrod into the starting lineup, they would likely bump Davis to right tackle.
The rest of the line is solidified with center Mike Pouncey, left guard Ted Larsen and left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Bushrod didn’t fully participate in Thursday’s practice, but did get enough movement to test out his foot and get a gauge for how well it’s recovering. He does not want to play until he’s certain he can do so at full strength and be an asset rather than a liability.
“We’re just trying to work the kinks out and figure out where we are,” he said. “I gotta take it day by day, see how I felt, assess it and then figure out what we need to do for it to get better. As long as we’re continuing to go up, that’s gonna make me happy.”
Bushrod, 33, must also wrestle with the possibility that these final three games—or fewer if he’s not healthy enough to be active Sunday at Buffalo—could be his last chances to play in the NFL.
While he’s not ready to discuss that publicly yet, it’s logical to believe it’s on his mind. Bushrod’s taken his fair share of bruises over 11 seasons (knee, shoulder and foot in the last two years alone), he’s got a family and Spotrac reports his career earnings at more than $40 million.
However, he said he’s not viewing these last three games through that lens.
“I don’t really want to think about it like that,” Bushrod said. “Just week by week, day by day, I’m fighting to get better. If I can get back out there, that’s my plan. I’m gonna keep fighting to get back out there, then we’ll think about those kinds of things at an appropriate time.”
DAVIE–The Dolphins are stuck in a five-game losing streak and will look to break out of it Sunday against Adam Gase’s old team, the Broncos.
Miami is coming off a 35-17 loss at New England with Matt Moore at quarterback, and Gase said Jay Cutler will start against Denver. Cutler’s been cleared from the concussion protocol and will practice today.
Here are some other updates from Gase:
–He described running back Damien Williams (shoulder) as day-to-day and hasn’t given many details on his injury. NFL Network reported it is a separated shoulder, which would mean he’ll miss this weekend for sure.
–Third-string running back Senorise Perry is in the concussion protocol. That means Kenyan Drake is currently the only running back on the roster.
–The Dolphins will add running back De’Veon Smith up from the practice squad today.
–Gase said he has a few players from other positions who can play running back if needed, but did not specify which guys.
–There’s no update on right guard Jermon Bushrod (foot). The Dolphins have started guard/tackle Jesse Davis in his spot while he’s been hurt, with Sam Young at right tackle.