Miami wide receiver Jaylen Waddle hasn’t done much in practice since the Dolphins’ joint workouts with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago. Wednesday was no different, as Waddle, wearing a white sleeve on his right leg and tape over his right shoe, left the field early.
That kept him from being as active a participant in the Alabama Crimson Tide reunion taking place during Miami’s combined practices with the Philadelphia Eagles as Waddle probably wanted to be, which is one reason he was sent off early, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.
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“He’s still mad at me,” McDaniel said on Thursday. “He got a little indy work and that was intentional because we knew that he had — not only is he yearning to compete and do his job, which he loves to do, but also I’m aware enough to know he has some close ties on the opposing team.
“So if we were practicing against ourselves, would he have practiced? There might be a stronger chance maybe. I’m just very acutely aware of even if a guy says, ‘All right, I’m going to take it easy,’ you have to protect people from themselves. I saw him on the field from my office after practice catching JUGS with his buddy that I knew he’d probably try to perform in front of, so yeah, he was out of there and it wasn’t because of any setbacks. We were just making sure that we took it step-by-step and didn’t go zero to 60. The rest has been awesome for him, and I’m really fired up and expect to see him on the field sooner than later. ”
Waddle’s JUGS pass-catching “buddy” was Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith. They spent the 2018 through 2020 seasons as teammates at Alabama.
In 2020, Smith won the Heisman Trophy for the Tide’s undefeated CFP championship team. An ankle injury caused Waddle to miss seven games that season, although he made it back to play in Alabama’s 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the national title game.
In 2021, Waddle set an NFL rookie record with 104 receptions after joining the Dolphins as the sixth player drafted. Smith followed four picks later.
“It means a lot,” Smith said of his friendship with Waddle. “Just the relationship that we have – I call him Nephew; he calls me Unc. That’s just kind of the relationship we have. With everything that went down and him getting hurt and me just being there with him all the time and him coming back for that last game, it just meant a lot just for both of us just to see that the past year everything we do has paid off.”
McDaniel didn’t have to hold back Waddle on Thursday. The Dolphins pulled out of the planned joint practice because of an illness that struck the team.
“That was kind of a unique curveball early this morning,” McDaniel said. “It was just an accumulation of some players having a stomach bug that we don’t really know totally where it was coming from, and we’re just trying to be overly cautious so that we didn’t further affect players on the team as well as we had to think of the best interest of the Philadelphia Eagles. …
“There’s more than a couple players, so it’s not half the team by any stretch. But that’s what I was trying to prevent, is I didn’t want to have half the team drained out from a stomach bug, fight through the heat and then have a depleted performance in the preseason game because, for a lot of guys, it’s the most important game of their career, and I hold a strong amount of value to that and didn’t want to compromise that in any way.”
The Eagles and Dolphins are scheduled to conclude their preseasons at 6 pm CDT Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
That will give Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts, another Alabama alumnus, the opportunity to catch up with Waddle, too. He said he’d been able to talk to former Tide teammates Tua Tagovailoa and Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins’ quarterback and nose tackle, respectively, at Wednesday’s practice but missed Waddle.
“I caught up with Tua, Raekwon,” Hurts said on Thursday. “I didn’t see Jaylen Waddle. I was going to talk to him today, but, obviously, they had their issues today. But it was good catching up with those guys. Good to see them, see them in action. Knowing what all they went through, coming from the same place, going through the same things, going through that same process, it’s always pleasant to see them doing big things, and I think they have a really good team.”
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Hurts said crossing paths will college teammates during the NFL season is a regular occurrence for Alabama alumni.
“When you go to Alabama,” Hurts said, “obviously, you know you’re going to win a national championship. You know you’re going to have the opportunity to compete for one, at least. That’s always the approach we had. And then, obviously, the next step is going to the NFL and take advantage of the opportunity if presented itself. Alabama has been able to turn over a lot of talent. That’s something (coach Nick) Saban has done throughout his tenure for a long time.”
Because he and Tagovailoa play the same position, Hurts said he has leaned on his former teammate for insight when the Eagles play an opponent that the Dolphins have played.
“I think the friendship we have in being able to talk about who we’re seeing in the league and just kind of being a companion throughout the process of that,” Hurts said. “I want to see him win. I know he wants to see me win.”
Hurts and Tagovailoa were teammates at Alabama in 2017 and 2018, and the Tide had a third future NFL starting QB in the position group those seasons with Mac Jones, now the New England Patriots quarterback.
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Smith caught passes from all three.
“Just being there with all three of those guys, just seeing the things that they do,” Smith said. “The things they were doing in college, it transitioned here. Just seeing all of them doing the great things that they’re doing and taking that next step, it’s been amazing.”
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.