It has been two weeks now since Channing Crowder has been able to go full tilt in a practice for the Miami Dolphins. He's got a bad knee that prevented him from playing against Kansas City. The Dolphins will watch Crowder practice Friday -- assuming he can go -- and determine if he's able to start or even play against the New York Jets.
Crowder practiced on Thursday but it was in a limited capacity. Neither he nor cornerback Will Allen (groin) worked on Wednesday.
“I think they both want to be in this game, sure," coach Tony Sparano said Thursday. "It’s just a matter of right now, as I said yesterday, I think it’s day-to-day. And they did do some work today and it’s really getting a chance to come in here tomorrow and see how the thing responds one way or the other.”
So, again, Friday is a big day for Crowder and Allen.
But I would tell you it's a bigger day for Crowder.
Unlike Allen, Crowder has a history of injury problems dating back to his college days at the University of Florida. Knee problems also caused Crowder to finish the year on injured reserve last year. And now he is fighting to keep from missing the final two games this season because of the injury.
Obviously Crowder wants to play because he's a competitor. But he also wants to play because he doesn't want the Dolphins to somehow go into the offseason with the thought he's not reliable in crunch time based on that troublesome knee.
And that is a big issue for both Crowder and the Dolphins because the inside linebacker is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Crowder understands the importance most teams, the Dolphins in particular, place on investing their money on healthy players. Every game he misses will cost bargaining chips in contract talks. And chips represent dollars.
So whether Crowder can practice full go Friday and eventually play Sunday could make him or lose him money in contract negotiations.
There is, of course, another school of thought on the matter also.
Crowder, who is second on the Dolphins with 105 tackles, was not easily replaced by Miami against Kansas City. Reggie Torbor took his place in the lineup but had only one tackle. Akin Ayodele, who called the defensive signals, had only three tackles.
Crowder averages 7.5 tackles per game. So there was quite a drop in production in his absence.
The Dolphins put forth what was described to me as a modest contract offer to Crowder last month. Obviously nothing has been done on that front so neither side is ready to commit to the other. That means Miami this offseason will again weigh a willingness to pay Crowder despite his uncertain knee versus risking losing him and trying to find someone else who will be as productive and active.
It will be a difficult decision for all involved.
What would you do?
[Friday update: Both Crowder and Allen practiced today although to what degree -- either full or limited -- will not be known until later. It is pretty obvious Allen will play Sunday. Crowder? I would say he's 70 percent likely to play.]
[SHAMELESS PLUG: In case you missed it, I wrote this story in Thursday's Miami Herald detailing the interesting (to me, at least) parallels between this year's team and Don Shula's first team in 1970. If you can't think of reasons why that is important, click, click, click on the story and find out.]