What does Joey Porter's surgery mean?
Well, let's backtrack a minute, first. The Dolphins have released zero information what the surgery was intended to accomplish. Was it to clean up a loose body floating around in there, which would make the surgery minor? Was it to repair meniscus damage which would be more serious?
Nothing yet here so anyone telling you this is routine is full of it. And anyone telling you this is really serious is equally full of it.
But this much we do know this surgery means:
Donnie Spragan, who started most of the last two years, will take Porter's place (at least initially). That means the Dolphins defense is lessened because Spragan doesn't make big mistakes but doesn't really make any big plays, either. He is what he is: A backup stopgap.
Porter, assuming he returns by the regular-season, will now have to pretty much get acclimated on the fly. I think all of us are guilty of thinking that once a player has been in the NFL for an extended period, training camp is just a fine-tuning exercise. It is more than that.
The players need training camp to have their timing. They need camp to overcome weaknesses in their game. In short, they need camp, as Zach Thomas told me last week, "to get the rust out and improve." There are very few examples of players missing all of camp and having good seasons, although Emmitt Smith in 1994, I think, comes to mind.
So Porter won't be honing his game any time soon. That diminishes what the Dolphins can do on defense.
Another problem with the injury is that because Porter is new to the team, coaches were still tweaking things to figure out how to best use him. Sure he was going to rush the passer, but was he going to come off stunts, was he coming strictly from the outside, was he best in certain coverage situations? All that will now have to be learned on the fly during the regular season. There will be no preseason experimentation to figure it all out.
Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, Porter admitted to me last week that he still didn't feel comfortable with the Miami terminology and chemistry. He said he couldn't be the Joey Porter everyone was expecting until he got that stuff down and could play on instinct. So even if he is able to play in the regular-season opener, we may not see the real Joey Porter until later in the season.
Assuming, that is, this surgery has no lasting effects.