It’s been a lengthy rehabilitation process from injury for Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson. His 2013 season took an unexpected turn in Week 8 when he landed awkwardly on his left knee against the New England Patriots. Gibson, who only missed three games from 2010-2012, tore his patellar tendon and was done for the season.
Before the injury Gibson was off to a fast start and had five receptions or more in four of his seven games with the Dolphins. He was quickly developing a rapport as a dependable safety valve for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill. However, Gibson was forced to watch from the sideline for the final nine games as the Dolphins faltered down the stretch and missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
I caught up with Gibson over the weekend to get his thoughts on rehab and the Dolphins.
“It was just frustrating from the fact that I really wanted to help the team,” Gibson said in a telephone interview. “Watching from the sideline, upstairs from the box and from my coach I felt helpless. I’ve learned a lot as far as patience. It was a humbling experience, and I just really value to chance to play football again. I think it’s incredible.”
Gibson was cautious to provide a specific date on his recovery. But the receiver said he "definitely" expects to be ready by Week 1 of the regular season.
Gibson spent the first six weeks on crutches after surgery. He's about five months removed from the knee injury and is at the point where he's doing light jogging.
“The important thing is to not overstress your patellar tendon; It's involved in everything you do, really,” Gibson explained. “It connects a lot, your knee and your quad. So I basically was on bed rest for a while, a couple months. The only thing I was doing was just rehabbing and little bit of upper-body work. You don’t want to cause too much heavy stress on your knee, but I’m slowly getting into things.”
The Dolphins will have no shortage of wide receivers once everyone is healthy. Starters Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace combined for 1,946 yards last season. Gibson, who had 30 receptions in 2013, is expected to compete with Rishard Matthews in the slot. Matthews caught 41 passes and filled in for Gibson last season after Gibson’s knee injury. Third-year veteran Armon Binns also is returning from a torn ACL last summer, and the Dolphins added receivers Kevin Cone and Michael Rios in free agency.
The Dolphins are in the process of installing a new offense in 2014. First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor replaced former assistant Mike Sherman this offseason. Lazor is expected to bring a more exciting, up-tempo version of the West Coast offense.
Coaches are not allowed to communicate with players until the voluntary offseason workout program officially begins April 21. Therefore, Gibson said he's not 100-percent certain of his role this upcoming season but expects to play in the slot for the second year in a row. Gibson learned the position for the first time last year after playing outside with the St. Louis Rams.
“It will be my second year playing in the slot and to me it’s not a big deal,” Gibson said. “All the routes end up being similar, it’s just a different feel to them. There’s more trash you have to sort, and you learn more blitz stuff to be on the same page. But I think it’s something I can excel at. I don’t think there’s a receiver position I can’t play. I just have to work hard and make sure I’m where I need to be.”
The 2014 season is important for many in the Dolphins organization. Head coach Joe Philbin is 15-17 and has yet to have a winning season. It is also the first year under new general manager Dennis Hickey.
Miami missed the playoffs by one game last year and made key additions such as left tackle Branden Albert, running back Knowshon Moreno and safety Louis Delmas. The Dolphins will enter this season with postseason expectations. But it will not be easy in an improved AFC East division where the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have all made upgrades to their rosters. The Dolphins will need all hands on deck.
“We will do whatever it takes,” Gibson said of the Dolphins' mindset. “We feel like this team is very complete. They’ve done a good job in the front office to put together a good team that can compete on all three sides with special teams and go a long way.”