DAVIE, Fla. — Already behind in preparations for his first NFL season, Miami Dolphins top draft pick Dion Jordan sat out the first training camp practice Sunday, and declined to predict when he might take the field.
The defensive end and linebacker from Oregon wore uniform No. 95 but watched from the sideline because his surgically repaired right shoulder has not fully healed. He was placed on the non-football injury list.
“It’s really frustrating to not be out there,” Jordan said, “but I understand my health is the main concern.”
Jordan can join the active roster at any time before the regular season. If he isn’t activated by then, he must miss the first six weeks of the season.
The third overall pick in the draft, Jordan signed a $20.6 million, four-year contract Saturday that included a $13.3 million signing bonus. He has been in South Florida for the past two months working out with teammates, but sat out all of the Dolphins’ off-season practices.
Coach Joe Philbin declined to discuss Jordan’s status but said he’s not concerned about the rookie falling behind. Jordan said he was told in the past couple of days he would be placed on the NFI list.
“Coach and the people in the training room decided it was best for me,” he said. “I want to be able to have a good career, a long career. I’m going to do what I have to do right now to make sure that’s possible.”
Jordan, who totalled 14 1/2 career sacks at Oregon, missed playing time last season because of a torn labrum and underwent surgery in February. That didn’t deter the Dolphins from trading up nine spot to make him the first defensive player selected in the draft.
They’ll need the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Jordan on the field before they can determine his role. He wasn’t an every-down player at Oregon, and while he’s expected to help Miami immediately as a pass-rush specialist, it’s unclear whether he’s better suited to play linebacker or end.
Jordan’s one of 44 new players on the 90-man roster, and at least seven are projected to win starting jobs. The Dolphins were busy in free agency, and they expect several rookies — led by Jordan — to make significant contributions toward ending a streak of four consecutive losing seasons.
“It’s a good group,” second-year coach Philbin said. “There are some good pieces to work with. This is the beginning.”
While Jordan watched practice, new cornerback Brent Grimes lined up with the starters and reported no lingering effects from the torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2012 season with Atlanta in the first game.
Jared Odrick, a defensive end in his first three NFL seasons, took snaps with the first unit at tackle but declined to declare the switch permanent.
“I could be in a different position tomorrow,” he said.
Second-year tackle Jonathan Martin began his switch from the right side to the left, where he’ll attempt to fill the big shoes of departed Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long.
Players caught a break with an overcast sky that spared them from the sweltering subtropical sunshine typical at Dolphins camp. Even so, receiver Mike Wallace — perhaps the mostly highly touted newcomer — groused with a smile about the weather.
“This humidity is something serious,” he said. “I’ve never been around anything like this.”
The Dolphins started camp earlier than most teams because they play a fifth exhibition game against Dallas in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 4. The regular season begins in seven weeks on Sept. 8 at Cleveland.
Fans are sending mixed signals regarding their enthusiasm about this year’s team. While practice Sunday drew a standing-room-only crowd of 2,700, the Dolphins have sold only 40,000 season tickets, which matches last year’s total and represents a 20-per cent decline from 2010.
Players, of course, are fired up. July is a time for optimism.
“The excitement is tremendous, and the expectations are very high,” Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake said. “The sky is the limit.”