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LT Albert joins action with Dolphins

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DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert practiced Tuesday for the first time in nine months, giving the team the first real indication he might be ready for the Sept. 13 opener at Washington. Until Tuesday, Albert’s readiness for the opener was a hope, but now it appears it’s close to a reality.

Albert, a Pro-Bowl selection in 2013, is trying to take things one day at a time and not look to the Washington game.

“I don’t know yet,” he said about his availability for the regular-season opener. “Only time will tell. We’ll see how everything goes the next few weeks, how well I do, and how well my knee is holding up.”

If Albert returns it could go a long way toward shoring up a shaky offensive line that already has question marks at left guard (Dallas Thomas) and right guard (Billy Turner).

The offensive line questions intensified a bit Tuesday because left tackle Jason Fox, Albert’s replacement, didn’t practice. Fox left Saturday’s 31-30 loss at Carolina due to what might have been a concussion.

That would have meant either Donald Hawkins or Aundrey Walker might have taken over at left tackle, and neither has fared well in training camp or the two preseason games. Beyond them, the Dolphins have Thomas and veteran Jeff Linkenbach who could be used, and might still be used depending on Albert’s health.

“We’ll get an idea as the week unfolds what’s the best combination,” head coach Joe Philbin said.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon, who faced Albert every day in training camp last year and would have done the same this year, said Albert, who teammates call “B.A.” because those are his initials, is essential personnel.

“I tell B.A. we need him for the first game of the season, Sept. 13,” said Vernon. “That’s the game we’re all concerned about, so as long as he’s 100 percent healthy and he feels he can come back and do what he has to do, I’m happy for him. He’s one of the top offensive tackles in the league.”

There’s no word on whether Albert will play in Saturday’s preseason game against Atlanta. Albert tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee so the Dolphins want to be cautious in his return.

But quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who needs Albert to protect his blind side, seemed fairly excited about having Albert on the field for even an abbreviated practice session.

“I was giving him a hard time in the weight room earlier,” Tannehill said before Tuesday’s practice, “but I’m excited to have him back out there. It’s been great just to see him kind of work his way back over the past weeks and to have him out there fulltime is going to be great.”

— When Miami placed free safety Louis Delmas (knee) on the injured reserve list, it officially ended his season and possibly ushered in the Walt Aikens era. Aikens, the 2014 fourth-round pick out of Liberty, got the start last week at Carolina and seemed to do OK, according to Philbin.

“I thought he did a good job,” Philbin said. “I showed him the pictures kind of on the same drive where he was in the alley, he had an opportunity to, they popped a lead draw against us and it got out to him in the alley and he missed the tackle.

“But yet then he came back within the same possession and, on third down, he made a big stop and a big tackle. He’s a young player, but I like the way he’s practicing and doing things.”

–With so many injuries, the Dolphins were asked whether training camp and preseason are too long. They were split.

“It’s unfortunate that players get hurt playing football, it’s very unfortunate,” Philbin said. “The flip side is it gives players opportunities to earn jobs. So there’s the balance.”

Veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings said he think the injuries happen because players are too fatigued.

“This is the hardest part of the year, training camp,” he said. “Your body is at its most vulnerable state because it’s so fatigued, it’s physically worn down.”

Tannehill said he’s unsure how to best handle the situation.

“It’s got to be a balance of getting ready to play,” he said, “because we do play kind of a physical, grueling game, so you do have to get your body ready to play. But it’s also finding that balance of not overdoing it and exposing yourself to unnecessary injuries.”

Notes: Middle linebacker Koa Misi (calf) returned to practice for the first time in three weeks Tuesday. … Wide receiver DeVante Parker (foot) ran in Tuesday’s practice, further extending his rehabilitation program, but there is no word on whether the rookie first-round pick from Louisville will be available for the Sept. 13 opener at Washington. … Cornerback Bobby McCain (ankle) practiced Tuesday, shaking off concerns that he might have been sidelined after sustaining an injury last week at Carolina. McCain, the fourth-round pick from Memphis, worked his way into the backup nickel position through aggressive play and a nose for the ball, but he was a bit shaky against the Panthers. … Defensive end Olivier Vernon (groin) didn’t play against Carolina but practiced Tuesday. … Defensive end Terrence Fede started in place of Vernon (groin) last week at Carolina. Philbin said he would like to see Fede improve on his pass rush but liked what he saw from his run defense. … Cornerback Jamar Taylor (thigh) practiced Tuesday after leaving the Carolina game on Saturday.


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