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Strangeness of Mike Pouncey injury; Anthony Steen talks

Mike Pouncey promises to be back.

He was not available to reporters in the locker room today and obviously was not on the practice field because he is now nursing a left hip injury (again) that has forced the team to shut him down the remainder of the preseason. And, yes, coach Adam Gase said Pouncey's status for the season opener in Seattle on Sept. 11 is uncertain.

Nonetheless Pouncey is unfazed.

"Weathering the storm!" he posted on his Instagram account. "Tough times don't last tough people do. I'll be back!"

And so there's that. But here's the thing ...

This injury is weird. It is weird not in that Pouncey had surgery on the same left hip in 2014. What is weird is the circumstances of how Pouncey hurt himself Friday night in the preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Pouncey got hurt with 13:10 left in the second quarter and the Dolphins trailing 14-0. Watching the play on tape, Pouncey was engaged blocking defensive tackle Cedric Thornton on a first-down running play by Jay Ajayi. And as Ajayi ran off Pouncey's left hip, all the action came to that side. And defensive end Ryan Russell, rallying to the football, rolled up on Pouncey's left side.

And then started the weirdness:

It was immediately obvious that Pouncey was injured on his left side. He grabbed his left knee as he grimaced in pain on the ground. Again, he grabbed his knee. Not his hip. Later, after he got up and was surrounded by medical personnel, Pouncey motioned toward his left hip. Pounceyhip

Then Pouncey came out of the game and the injury is reported in the official game book with Pouncey listed as questionable to return. Except three plays later, in the second quarter of a second preseason game, Pouncey found his way back into the game.

Why?

Maybe it had something to do with the fact two of the three plays run while he was out resulted in roughing penalties against the Cowboys and Pouncey felt a need to return and be there in the fight, so to speak, with his teammates. Maybe he just felt better. Maybe he just did a bonehead thing.

But the craziness continued because injured Mike Pouncey played 14 more plays in this game through two Dolphins touchdown drives that carried the game up to 2:52 left in the first half.

Why?

Look, it is the player's ultimate responsibility to communicate to trainers something is wrong. But it is also the responsibility of the head trainer and team doctors to recognize, upon examination, that something ... is ... wrong. The injury is not readily apparent through examination? In the preseason, the default position should be caution.

Stay on the sideline with us, big fella.

(In September through December? Get out there, big fella).

The point is someone has to communicate this information to the position coach. And the coordinator. And the head coach.

Somewhere, somehow, someone wasn't exactly communicating the message that Mike Pouncey, who has had chronic hip problems in the past and came out of this game with what seemed like a hip injury, could be hurt and probably should not be back in the game.

And ultimately, Pouncey should have been communicating that message.

Now, it is unclear if Pouncey felt good enough to return to the game and then aggravated what was already an injury. Or perhaps the injury that seems important now didn't seem all that important at the time so Pouncey played on.

Either way, this is a strange episode.

Whatever the issue, Pouncey is now out. Anthony Steen is now the starting center. Steen spoke the media in the locker room for the first time today. This is what he said:

(On how things have changed for him in the past week) – “Nothing has really changed. We’re missing Mike (Pouncey) right now but as (Head) Coach (Adam Gase) said, its next guy up so I’m the next guy up. I’m just trying to do my job.'

(On if he was comfortable at center with the first unit) – “Yes. It’s the same plays, just the next level – ones from twos. You’re going against different guys but it’s the same exact plays."

(On how much work he had with the first team prior to C Mike Pouncey’s injury) – “Probably just a couple reps. Mike would sometimes get two or three plays off and I’d go in then; but other than that, just a couple (reps)."

(On how long he has been snapping) – “Since I got here (to Miami). I’ve always played guard but when I came here, they told me that I looked more like a natural center. So then they started working me at center slowly, progressed me into it. Now I’m pretty much a full-time center, but I’ll still get a couple of plays at guard."

(On how difficult the process of switching to center has been for him) – “It’s been difficult at times. Mainly, at guard, you’re the guy sitting there looking at the center, waiting for the calls. Now you‘re the guy who has to get up there and make the calls yourself so there’s a little more pressure."

(On the challenge of making calls at the line) – “Really, the (challenge is the) fact of knowing that if you mess up your call you mess up everything for everybody else. It’s just that pressure on you as a center and you have to get used to it."

(On if he feels that he has been thrown into the deep end) – “No. Right now you’re just going against a different bunch of guys moving up to the ones. It’s a part of football, that’s all it is."

(On the best piece of advice a coach has given him since C Mike Pouncey’s injury has elevated him to the first unit) – “Just to be calm. Yesterday, they told me that you have all the time in the world to make calls and not to be nervous about it."

(On how his attitude has changed now that he’s with the first unit) – “It’s just more studying – a more mental aspect to it – staying here longer, watching more film, trying to get prepared for the game."

(On what C Mike Pouncey has told him about playing with the ones) – “He’s told me it’s just part of the game. It’s nothing to be nervous about. That’s all he’s really told me."

(On his initial reaction when the Dolphins told him last year that they saw him more as a center than a guard) – “I kind of thought they were joking at first. They asked me if I could play center and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ When they started giving me reps, I thought it was just more (of them trying) to see what else I could do. I didn’t actually think I would be playing center but it’s a good thing."

(On if he is accustomed to the up-tempo style of offense) – “Yes. We did a little bit of that in college (at Alabama). It’s just a matter of trying to do it a little bit faster in the pros."

(On what it was like to rush into last week’s game to play with the first team when C Mike Pouncey was injured) – “I didn’t think anything about it. I saw Mike go down at first, so I immediately grabbed my helmet and I was already almost out onto the field and I turned around and looked at coach and said, ‘Do you want me to go?’ And he said, ‘Yes, go."

(On how long it took him to get comfortable at center) – “Pretty much all of OTAs. They slowly, the first week or two, they had me playing both guards. After the second week they tried to throw me in at center for one period, then two periods and so on. But now, I feel fine."

(On what type of player the Dolphins are getting with him at the center position) – “A hardworking player. I play with a lot of heart. I just don’t quit on a play. For me, winning a play and winning the game is more important than anything."

(On how his experience at Alabama helped prepare him for this increased role) – “As you know, we played in a lot of big games so the nervous aspect of just playing in a big game is not there anymore. It’s just another game. For a lineman, you just have to know that you have to be prepared for each and every play to win because that’s your job."

(On the possibility of starting in the season opener at Seattle and what he has to prepare for with that unique road environment) – “I think more of the mental aspect than anything. Trying to play four quarters and still be there mentally will be the toughest part. I think staying around after practice and getting here earlier will be better."

(On who played center most of his time at Alabama) – “Ryan Kelly was. He was my center for I think two years or two-and-a-half years and then Barrett Jones was for, I think a year."

(On if he’s asked either Ryan Kelly or Barrett Jones for tips) – “No, I haven’t. I actually watched Ryan play the other night (with the Indianapolis Colts) and I thought he played pretty well."

(On if the N.Y. Giants preseason game was the first time he played center in an actual game) – “I think I’ve played center just a couple of reps in Arizona. But as far as starting at center, yes."

(On what he took away from playing for Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban) – “He’s always said that this is a business for him. It’s the next guy up. You either do your job or else someone else will do it. That’s what I’ve always taken from him."

(On if he was surprised that he was second on the depth chart at center) – “No, that’s just how the coaches have been putting me in – with the twos. They felt comfortable with how I had been performing and they told me that I was going to be moved up. I didn’t know when I got here that Mike (Pouncey) was going to be out for a week or whatever it is. When they told me, I just knew, ‘Alright, I need to start studying some more and start looking at the ones and the next game and get prepared.’ "

(On the personality and leadership differences between Head Coach Adam Gase and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban) – “I think Gase is more of a player’s coach. He’ll get to know you. He likes to mess around (and) joke around. Coach Saban is more of a hardnosed, straight business type of guy. If you mess up, you’re going to hear about it."

(On if he was ever in Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban’s doghouse) – “I don’t think doghouse. He might have yelled at me a couple of times but I’ve never done anything to be in his doghouse."

(On if he’s had any contact with Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban recently) – “I haven’t. I’ve had some contact with Coach (Joe) Pendry – my first two years at Alabama, he was my offensive line coach there. I’ve talked to him a couple of times."

(On what kind of emotions he is experiencing with this opportunity for him) – “I know, for me, I’ve got to be on top of things, so I’m trying to stay focused as much as I can."

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