Barring an unexpected, unforeseen, and brand new suprise of some sort, Matt Roth will finally walk onto a Dolphins practice field Wednesday and do something he has not done since the team reported to training camp in August: Practice.
He said last week he feels 100 percent healthy.
He said Monday that Wednesday would be the day to welcome him back.
And so I wait with grand anticipation for this moment, because frankly, I have no clue how this creepy episode is going to reach a normal ending.
Yeah, I said creepy. That's how I describe it when a player tells you to expect a lot of sacks in 2009 in March, but by August is not able to pass the team's conditioning test and is placed on the non-football injury list.
That's what happened to Roth. On the first day of camp, he flunked his conditioning test. This came as a surprise to everyone, including coach Tony Sparano, because Roth had signed a statement that all players sign, basically confirming that he is not injured in any way.
Then Roth failed the test, raising eyebrows and prompting Sparano to have a career chat with the player to find out what was wrong. During that talk Roth basically made up a story of some sort that didn't have anything to do with the real reason he failed the test.
And he did that twice.
These facts are not up for debate. Roth fibbed to his coach. Not once. Not twice. But a total of three times.
"To be honest with you, the way this thing has gone, we have a signed statement from Matt, just like all of our players, on their medical status and his was that he has no illness and no injury," Sparano said in speaking of Roth's first misdirection the day training camp opened.
"We took the conditioning test and Matt did not do as well in the conditioning test. He did not pass the conditioning test so he and I visited. We visited on two occasions, and we talked about what was going on. [Matt indicated] he was sick. He did not feel good, he did not feel right, and so we sent him for blood tests. That work came back negative and that is where we are right now."
The blood work came back negative because Roth wasn't sick. He had a bad groin, which we know because his agent Drew Rosenhaus announced WSVN-Ch. 7 here in Miami. Rosenhaus said this before the Dolphins called him and told him to shut up with the truthful info.
Quick question: Matt Roth has just told his head coach he's sick. He knows he isn't. He knows something's wrong with his groin. So he goes for a battery of blood work anyway without ending the charade first?
Anyway, I asked Sparano about that troublesome fly in this strange soup, the groin injury.
"This groin thing… it is the first time I have heard of it," Sparano said in starting to detail Roth's other fibs. "We are going to investigate it, but I have been told on two different occasions that it is an illness. [The groin injury] is not what I was told was the reason for the performance [in the conditioning test] that I saw yesterday.”
Understand the dynamic here. Sparano usually moves Heaven and Earth so as to not uncover his players.
He tells you Ernest Wilford is improving week after week after week even though Wilford is causing every personnel man in the organization to pull their hairs out from disappointment. He tells you Shawn Murphy is playing pretty good even as Shawn Murphy is getting replaced by Donald Thomas. He tells you he can win titles with his receivers when your eyes tell you that's very unlikely.
Sparano might criticize players to their faces, but never to the media. And yet he basically uncovered Roth's deception because he was royally torqued off at Roth. I do mean he was red-faced mad.
Sparano was mad at Roth's prevarication and others in the organization were angry at Roth because he apparently got hurt while doing something -- no one knows exactly what -- that has nothing to do with playing football. The injury apparently did not occur at the Dolphins facility or as Roth was doing Dolphins work.
How do we know this? Well, I know because I've been told that's the case, but regardless of that can you not see Roth has been on the NON-football injury list? Players don't go on those when they suffer football injuries.
So there's another mystery that remains unsolved.
And now, today, we began to unravel perhaps the most of important wrapping around this mystery: Can Roth contribute to the team in 2009 and to what extent?
Roth will not play against the Saints Sunday. That would be begging to get him hurt. But if he is indeed healthy and is relatively quick in regaining his sharpness, he could begin to carve a niche for himself within the three-week window he has to make it back.
[For the record, Roth does not count against the 53-man roster now as he gets the 21-day roster exemption during which time he can practice. At the end of that time and anytime during that time, the Dolphins must activate, waive or place Roth on a reserve list. If he's activated, he would count on the roster and Miami must make room for him. If he's waived (not likely) or placed on a reserve list he obviously does not count on the roster.]
If Roth shows his 2008 form, he can be a pretty solid edge run-stopper. He has also shown pass-rush skills. So he's valuable and an asset.
The problem is Jason Taylor has taken Roth's strong side linebacker job and isn't likely to offer returning it.
So what do the Dolphins do? Do they keep Taylor as the starter? Do they put Roth in there if he wins the job back and risk alienating Taylor? Or do they platoon the two?
That decision cannot be made until the Dolphins see exactly where Roth is, until they see exactly how far he's come or how much ground he's lost. And once they see that, assuming this saga has no more twists, then the Dolphins can put this mystery to bed.