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The sad tale of Justin Smiley's shoulder injury

[Before I begin today I simply want to thank you, the readers, for your loyalty to this blog. April was a record-breaking month here. This blog enjoyed nearly 1.2 million page views in April. Yes, I said million. It is amazing to me that so many of you are so hungry for Dolphins information, analysis and opinion. It is humbling that you come here to satisfy that hunger. Thanks again.]

There is a good reason the Dolphins asked Justin Smiley not to show up for the offseason conditioning program when it began in late March: The team is concerned their left guard would blow out his already weakened right shoulder by merely lifting weights.

That's how bad things have gotten for the gritty, wily, tough, often injured Smiley.

The Dolphins have been trying to trade Smiley for over a month. No other NFL team has shown enough interest in Smiley to convince the Dolphins to trade their starting left guard of the last two seasons. Miami doesn't simply want to give him up for an afterthought sixth- or seventh-round pick.

But there is probably no choice. No team has offered anything higher. And I would predict no other team will offer anything higher anytime soon.

So Smiley is still on the team -- for now.

"I'm not sure where that whole thing is right now," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Friday. "And I'm not really skirting it. I really am not. At this particular time, right now, we are not sure and he is a member of my football team right now."

He may be a member of the team but that could change before the Dolphins report for the mandatory full-squad mini-camp at the end of May. By then the team hopes to have the issue resolved one way or the other.

The solutions?

It is clear the Dolphins intend to go in a direction that doesn't include Smiley. The club has told him he still might be brought back for 2010, but who is kidding whom here?

Smiley's shoulder is shot. The Dolphins know it. The San Francisco 49ers knew it when Smiley signed with Miami as an unrestricted free agent in 2008. Smiley missed the final eight games of the season with the shoulder that required surgery in 2007. He injured the shoulder again in 2009 and missed one game and was a backup in three others because of that injury.

The 2007 surgery apparently didn't go very well. Smiley, according to two sources, has lost strength in the shoulder over the past two years. He often struggles to lift his right arm over his head and has lost some of the punch and explosion generated at the shoulder.

That wouldn't be a problem for a school teacher. But Smiley makes his living as an NFL offensive linemen. He is supposed to push and punch at 300-pound defensive players and the torque for that is generated at the shoulder and elbow. For Smiley, the shoulder isn't generating the necessary torque.

The problem for Smiley is also that lifting weights to strengthen the shoulder isn't really the solution. Lifting extremely heavy weights, you see, could cause another injury to the shoulder.

So while he could come back and probably play and contribute at his current weakended condition, the Dolphins and probably even Smiley recognize he is on borrowed time. More games or more strenuous weight lifting would probably land Smiley on another injured list.

That is the reason he is on the trade block. That is the reason no one has jumped at the opportunity to trade for him.

Simply, for the Dolphins, the future at left guard once belonged to Justin Smiley. Now it belongs to rookie John Jerry. And Smiley?

He may have played his final game for the Dolphins.

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