It had to be a bittersweet moment when Spencer Paysinger learned he's quite possibly going to be taking Jelani Jenkins' spot in the regular-season opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 11 because Jenkins is recovering from knee surgery.
"Yeah, I mean, J.J. is one of my closets friends. He's my closest friend on the team," Paysinger said Monday. "So when he went down, we were all bummed. But he told me, 'If you get to go in, you're more than capable.'
"I'm not sure how the rotation is going to go -- some of us will be in nickel, some will be in base -- but the coaches are doing a great job of preparing us from the ones all the way down to the threes that you can go in and probably do a good job."
If Jenkins cannot regain his strength following minor knee surgery, it will indeed be Paysinger playing the weakside linebacker spot. Perhaps he plays on passing downs and Neville Hewitt plays early downs. Perhaps it is the other way around.
Maybe Paysinger gets all the snaps.
Whatever the assignment, Paysinger promises to be ready. He promises to be excited about the chance.
"Absolutely, absolutely. There's always excitement no matter whether you're running down on kickoff for special teams or getting in there on defense," he said. "You put the helmet on, you put the logo on. You're excited.
"If you're in this league you want to be the best you can possibly be. I've carved out a role as a good special teamer in this league. Also, I'm in the league because I'm a pretty good backup linebacker. All my years as with the Giants, I've always been counted on. The fact this situation came like this past couple of days is nothing new to me."
So what do the Dolphins get when they switch out Jenkins and put in Paysinger?
“What he brings to the table is he knows all the positions," coach Adam Gase said. "Obviously, he’s a very good special teams player for us, but his ability to be able to plug into any spot – and us not really lose anything as far as a guy knowing what to do – is valuable.
"When you have a player like that, especially that has some experience, that makes you feel better as a coach, and I think he’s been doing well as far as the way he’s played in preseason games and the way he’s practiced. You see a guy that’s constantly trying to get better."
Spencer talks about being able to see and understand defense and read the action "from one side of the field to the other side of the field."
As a sixth-year veteran, he's not going to be overwhelmed by starting in a season opener. Or playing in Seattle.
"I've had the opportunity to play there a couple of times," Paysinger said. "I've had some friends who have played there throughout the years. So me being an older player and being able to bring guys along, I know it's going to be a really rowdy crowd. The 12th man is serious."
The Dolphins play their preseason finale Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium. Gase has said veterans are going to play and Paysinger apparently welcomes that approach.
"Yeah, I mean, for myself I always like game reps for the season if it's preseason," he said. "... For me, I can't go into a season cold, whether its defense or special teams."
If the Dolphins do indeed need Paysinger to step in, it will offer them a dividend after they signed him in April of 2015 as an unrestricted free agent -- an addition done exactly for this role as a special teams leader and capable backup.
"Actually, going into free agency with the Giants I kind of felt like it was time for me to leave there," Paysinger said. "They actually offered me a great contract. It was actually a better contract than Miami offered me. But it was something that came down to happiness. I could have taken more money in New York and stayed ... I prayed on it. I did my research. And I knew that Miami was one of the top teams and I knew there was a position down here I'd love to play.
" l was coming back a teammate's wedding and my agent called and said, 'Hey Miami called.' So I flew here that night, and as soon as I landed and got outside and felt the warm air, I said, 'If they offer, I'm signing.'"
Paysinger is the team's third leading tackler on defense this preseason with 10 tackles. That puts him behind only Mike Hull and Shamiel Gary in tackles. One of Paysinger's tackle was for loss and he also recovered a fumble.
"I've done a pretty good job this preseason," he said with a smile.