It's not often that you see reigning conference sack leaders hitting the bench without fully disclosed injury situations, but that's just what's happened in Miami, as the Dolphins have elected to sit linebacker Joey Porter(notes) against the 1-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The reason? "Coach's decision", according to the team. Porter has been struggling with knee and hamstring issues and was listed as probable on Friday's injury report after missing Wednesday and Thursday drills and participating in full practice on Friday. The decision to sit Porter, who did not speak to the local media this week, was made after Friday practice.
Not speaking to the media is an unusual act for Porter. Last week, before Miami's 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots, the outspoken defender claimed that the league had specific rules designed to protect Tom Brady(notes), that he had a "natural hate" for the Patriots, and that the Pats were "cheaters", an obvious dig back to the Spygate days. But in the game, Porter was completely shut down by rookie left tackle Sebastian Vollmer(notes) -- he registered no sacks and no tackles. His backup, former CFL standout Cameron Wake(notes), has been as productive as Porter, registering 11 tackles to Porter's 12, and 3.5 sacks to Porter's 2.5. It's a big comedown for a guy who had 17.5 sacks a season ago, but the downturn can't be too much of a surprise. Porter's sack total last year was five more than in his two prior seasons combined, and at 32, he's hit an age when most edge defenders start to trend down.
Word is that Porter will be replaced in this game by Matt Roth(notes) or Charlie Anderson(notes), and Wake will get more looks as well. But the important thing to note in this case is that the Dolphins have gone out of their way to indicate that injury is not the reason that Porter is out -- team spokesman Harvey Greene told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that this is not a coach deciding that a player will sit because he can't go.
Is this a motivational tactic or a peek into the future? When asked recently about Porter's disappointing season, head coach Tony Sparano didn't go there. "I see no frustration," Sparano said. "I don't think that he's affected, but what I do see is a guy that's played in enough football games to know ‘there's some things I need to do better out there.' There's a lot of things that people say about Joey that are not always favorable, but one of the good things about Joey is [that] the guy's a pretty good pro. He sees it, he knows. When he sees it, and he knows, he takes it personally. The guy cares, and I think that's a hell of a quality to have when you've played the game for as many years as Joey."