The last time we saw Albert Wilson in a full game, he was putting on a stunning, player-of-the-week performance. Now, he believes he’s on track to face the Baltimore Ravens in the opener Sept. 8.
TAMPA — Two days of practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered Brian Flores ample reason to feel both concerned and optimistic about his Dolphins, but one of the best bits of information was quietly offered while players for both teams mingled post-workout in the indoor practice facility Wednesday.
Receiver Albert Wilson, who missed the final nine games of 2018 with a hip injury, had just completed two consecutive days of being able to participate in seven-on-seven drills — catching a pass for the first time on both days — then followed by reassuring that he expects to be available for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Wilson said. “We plan to get there and I think it’s going to happen.”
That would be an important development for what can be a formidable receiving corps when healthy. It has been so long since fans have seen Wilson that it’s easy to forget how his quickness and versatility offers this offense elements no one else can provide.
Yes, that’s subjective. If you want objective evidence, try the Oct. 14 game against Chicago. Wilson caught six passes for 155 yards that day. It was a career high and a sign Wilson, now 27, was hitting peak form.
They were game-changing plays, too, in the final 9 1/2 minutes against the Bears. First came a 43-yard touchdown from Brock Osweiler to tie the score at 21, then a 75-yarder with 3:01 left to tie it at 28. Wilson’s 150 receiving yards were the third-most in a fourth quarter in the NFL since 1991.
The Dolphins won 31-28 and Wilson was named AFC offensive player of the week.
Then, he disappeared.
Wilson was injured the next week against Detroit. The Dolphins’ offense was never the same.
Once players land on injured reserve, they tend to vanish from sight and rarely if ever speak to the media. That doesn’t mean their work is done. Rehabilitation doesn’t just happen without hard, often painful, work.
“Definitely,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely been a lot of hard work. We pretty much had to start from ground zero because I took a lot of months off of just doing nothing. So for me to start back up, it was pretty much just learning how to walk straight again, or just jogging or running.
“So yeah, it’s been a long journey.”
Wilson wouldn’t categorize his current health as behind or ahead of schedule. It just is.
“We’re just going by the game plan,” he said. “If I’m feeling better than I’m supposed to, if I’m feeling worse than I’m supposed to, we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Wednesday was a good day. Ryan Fitzpatrick, afforded reasonable time by an offensive line that let him down Tuesday, zipped a pass to Wilson in traffic. Seeing No. 15 with the ball in his hands again was a welcome sight on the Miami sideline.
“I thought he did a really good job on that,” Flores said. “Good route, turned it upfield.
“ … He’s doing a good job. You’re seeing a little bit more from him every day. It’s a new offense for him so getting those reps and having the ability to play fast and play with his teammates and get with the quarterbacks and understand them — I felt it was a good throw by Fitz, as well. I don’t even think Albert was out of his break. It was good anticipation there, he gave him a good ball, he turned up and went.”
This week has offered a glimpse, a reminder, of what Wilson can do. There’s no guarantee we’ll see him under the lights Friday night against the Bucs, but the more important matter is seeing him against the Ravens in a few weeks.
“Feeling good,” Wilson said. “Another step we’re taking. I think we did pretty good. I’m just looking forward to seeing what’s next.”