Needham on returning from injury, position change. And more injuries, Hard Knocks reaction

David Santiago/

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Wednesday:

▪ After a grueling rehabilitation from a torn Achilles, Nik Needham is back and in something of a new role.

Used at cornerback much of his career, Needham is now working at safety and nickel corner as he makes his way back from a serious injury sustained during last October’s game against Minnesota.

Needham has played safety before, filling in for Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones earlier in his career.

“I am a versatile player,” he said Wednesday, a day after moving from injured reserve to the 53 man roster. “Whether safety, nickel, corner, linebacker, I can do whatever they need me to do.”

Needham stands as one of the Dolphins’ best undrafted success stories. He has appeared in 51 games and started 27 since joining the team out of UTEP in May of 2019.

He said Vic Fangio’s system should play to his strengths.

“We’ve been primarily man defense in past years; now we can all show our abilities in zone,” Needham said. “I think we’re all big playmakers in the secondary.”

He said the “last year to now was the hardest year of my life mentally and physically. Overcoming this injury is one of the hardest things in football for this position too. I’m grateful to be back.”

He said he feels back to normal but was limited in practice on Wednesday and reminded, “I haven’t played football in a year. There’s going to be a little rust but I can knock it off.”

Former Dolphins Brent Grimes and Cameron Wake both came back strong after torn Achilles.

For the first three months after the surgery, Needham was essentially “sitting on the couch watching football. Having to be in the boot three months straight, showering, having to sleep in a boot [was tough]. I think I didn’t leave my house for two weeks.”

He said “I appreciate the Dolphins wholeheartedly” for overseeing his rehab and re-signing him in March, to a one-year contract reportedly worth $1.67 million.

▪ Beyond the big news that receiver Tyreek Hill missed practice with a hip injury (“somewhere down the line, we’re going to get Tyreek back,” Tua Tagovailoa said), four other Dolphins missed practice:

Running back Raheem Mostert (ankle), guard Robert Jones (personal), safety Jevon Holland (concussion) and fullback Alec Ingold (foot).

Eight Dolphins were limited: cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey (knee) and Xavien Howard (groin), center Connor Williams (groin), Needham (Achilles), receivers River Cracraft (shoulder)and Jaylen Waddle (back) and cornerbacks Kader Kohou (neck) and Cam Smith (foot).

Cracraft remains on IR but practiced for the first time on Wednesday after missing four games. The Dolphins have 21 days to activate him.

Williams missed three of the past four games and Howard missed the Philadelphia game.

Waddle said his back is “solid. I had some nagging pain during the game. Shoutout to the training camp” for alleviating the pain.

Ramsay, who had knee surgery in August, conceivably could play Sunday against the Patriots; the team hasn’t ruled it out.

Tagovailoa said Ramsey “had a really good week. Very impressive how he runs with our fast guys. How he transitions in and out of breaks with them, some of them it was almost mirrored while our guys were running full speed and for him to break down on a dime, the way that he broke down, it’s very impressive.”

▪ Dolphins players had mixed reaction to the NFL’s decision to have the team chronicled on the in-season incarnation of “Hard Knocks,” which offers a behind-closed-doors look at teams.

“Some guys were worried,” Emmanuel Ogbah said. “Sometimes you can blurt stuff out [that you] might not want on TV.”

Waddle said: “It will be something we have to adapt to, having cameras all the way around. Watching episodes of former seasons, you kind of have an idea of what it’s going to be. I don’t think it will be as big as people make it. It’s something you have to deal with.”

Asked if the team would have agreed to appear on the show if it weren’t required, Waddle said that’s “above my paygrade.”

Receiver Braxton Berrios said “We are going to continue to go about our day as normal as possible. I think it’s impossible not to feel cameras in front of you. We want to make it as organic, as normal as possible.

“They’ve done a great job letting us know we’re able to be comfortable, be ourselves. It’s going to be impossible not to notice them but we’re going to try to be as normal as possible because at the end of the day, we’re not here for a TV show, we’re here to win games.”

McDaniel said Monday that appearing on Hard Knocks wasn’t a team decision. What were his concerns?

“I think it’s more of as a football coach, there’s enough distractions that you have to overcome, just in general, and in the natural – just the world that we live in and trying to get an entire team moving one direction,” he said.

“So I think that’s the immediate resistance. And then also some of the stuff that you don’t know until the decision is kind of made for you, that you’re worried about the some of the football competitive advantages leaving the building and being more accessible. I think in our short talks with the league and HBO, we’ve had that concern suppressed knowing that we’ll be able to protect our team and anything that’s a competitive disadvantage that may come up, we’ll be able to keep that from hitting the final copy.”

▪ New receiver Chase Claypool played four offensive snaps against Philadelphia but wasn’t thrown a pass. He might have a bigger role on Sunday if Hill cannot play.

He has enjoyed the experience playing for McDaniel: “I want to say [he’s] laid back, but he’s able to coach really hard in a good way where it doesn’t feel like he’s hounding you. He’s very informative, and he’s just super smart. You can tell by the way he talks. He knows exactly what he’s talking about and makes the game and practice a lot easier.”

▪ Quick stuff part 1: Edge player Chase Winovich, who appeared in three games for the Dolphins this season before being released with an injury, announced his retirement this week…

Tight end Tanner Connor is the only Dolphins practice squad player with just one more usable elevation. Moving him to the 53 would be difficult because Miami must clear out roster spots for Ramsey, Terron Armstead and De’Von Achane in the weeks ahead…

Former Dolphins linebacker Kyle Van Noy said, on The Punch Line Podcast this week, that his release from the team after just one season (2020) was the byproduct of a “civil war” between general manager Chris Grier and then coach Brian Flores.

▪ Quick stuff part 2: Count McDaniel among those pleased the Dolphins are wearing throwback uniforms on Sunday. “I’m a huge fan of the throwbacks,” he said. I think we’re fortunate to have an iconic logo; the whole idea of throwback uniforms I think is tailored to us specifically just because we do have [tradition]. That’s my whole childhood is what I picture. I love our [regular] uniforms, too, so it’s a win-win for sure.”...

McDaniel said losing multiple offensive linemen (Isaiah Wynn the latest) won’t affect his game-planning this season. “But this particular year, with these particular players, doesn’t really affect me at all,” he said. “We’re very fortunate here. That hasn’t always been the case in terms of my career and how you have to kind of adjust, but here it doesn’t really affect it that much at all... We have more than capable players, so we get the opportunity of playing our style of game with the guys we have, for sure.”

CBS is sending Sunday’s 1 p.m. Dolphins-Patriots game to only three Florida markets (Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples-Fort Myers) and just 8 percent of the country overall. Here are the Sunday TV regionalization maps. Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta, CBS’ No. 5 team, have the call.