The 2017 Miami Dolphins training camp turned into a nightmare for everyone involved, as player after player went down with season-ending injuries before they could get a chance to contribute in the regular season.
One of those players was now fourth-year cornerback Tony Lippett, who after clawing his way into the starting lineup in 2016, tore his Achilles tendon in training camp and spent the entire year on injured reserve. Now, several months later, Lippett is continuing to rehab, and during a discussion at the eighth annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge, Lippett made the implication it's been a surreal experience.
"It's been intense, it's been good, I learned a lot of stuff about my body, learned a lot of stuff about the body, and I've just been grinding, taking in every day, getting better every day, not thinking too much about the situation it is, taking it one day at a time just like I did when I was playing."
Lippett, one of four 5th-round picks selected by Miami in 2015, was selected to be a long-term project by the Dolphins coaching staff - headed by Joe Philbin at the time - as he was to undergo training to switch from wide receiver to cornerback. The project was sped up, and it seemed that he was on the fast track to being a viable starter in the NFL, racking up 45 tackles, 10 pass deflections and four interceptions in 2016.
Then the injury happened, and Lippett's progress was abruptly halted.
"I never really missed no games ever in life, I never missed a game, so I don't think I ever witnessed an injury like this as far as my behalf. It was just training camp, I was just going up regularly to make a play on the ball, I came down, and someone wrecked my foot."
Without Lippett, Miami was forced to rely on Xavien Howard - who was only entering his second year in the league - and veteran Byron Maxwell, who was eventually released. In his place, rookie CB Cordrea Tankersley was forced to step up, and depth in the secondary was an issue all year.
Thankfully, Lippett stated that he would be ready to go during the offseason training in April, which will give the Dolphins some much-needed breathing room in the secondary.
But despite everything he went through, Lippett said that his overall outlook on football hasn't changed.
"It didn't change how I look at football, no, it just opened my eyes a little bit, it's all God's time, it ain't on my time at all. I'm believing in his time, approaching every day the same way grinding, that's basically what I'm doing."
Lippett's return to the lineup will provide some much-needed competition to the secondary, and he is already looking forward to working with secondary coaches Tony Oden and Renaldo Hill. Assuming he stays healthy, things are already looking brighter for the Dolphins secondary.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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