Raekwon McMillan is expected to be one of four linebackers in the Miami Dolphins’ new 3-4 defense, along with Jerome Baker, Sam Eguavoen, and Charles Harris.

DAVIE — It’s never fun for a professional football player to have to sit and watch his teammates practice while not being able to participate alongside them, especially for someone as competitive as Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan.


That is no longer the case for the former Ohio State Buckeye who is about to begin his third season in Miami.


McMillan returned to the practice field this week after battling an undisclosed injury that kept him out of all four of Miami’s preseason games and is determined to stay healthy, starting with Sunday’s opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He missed his entire rookie season in 2017 after tearing the ACL in his right knee covering a punt in the first preseason game and has a newfound respect for being part of the active roster.


"You just are not out there with your guys," said McMillan about his time away from practices and preseason games. "You come to work every day and want to go hard with them; but I wasn’t able to, so I had to sit back and get my body right. Now that I am back, I am going to go out there and try to make up for it."


Not seeing his name on either of the first two injury reports that were released this week was a welcome sight for McMillan, who started all 16 games last season. He confirmed that he is getting his conditioning back and getting his legs back underneath them after missing almost a month and is getting reacclimated to being out in the heat.


"I’m for sure going to be 100 percent," McMillan said. "But I’ve got to work my way back and make sure I’m fully prepared to be out there. My coaches are not going to put me in any bad situations, so I trust in anything they do, so whatever happens on Sunday and however they want to play it we’re going to do it."


When the Dolphins line up in the 3-4 scheme, McMillan is expected to be on the outside alongside middle linebackers Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen, with Charles Harris on the opposite side. Last season, he wore the headset on the field and received the play calls from the sideline as the defense’s quarterback, but he is not yet sure if he will be asked to serve in that role again beginning this weekend.


After finishing second on the team last season in tackles with 105 (69 solo) and adding two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, McMillan is hoping to improve on that production under a new coaching staff. As long as the injury that sidelined him doesn’t hamper him, his coaches are hoping the same.


"He’s put in the time. He’s come into the meetings prepared," said linebackers coach Rob Leonard. "Raekwon has been excellent off the field – excellent. You can’t control the off-field injuries. I’m excited for Raekwon this season. Week to week, we’ll see where he is."