- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey walked up to the media Friday and was all smiles. He shook hands with several media members, including myself, and spoke about the excitement of new beginnings for his 2014 team.
It's been a whirlwind month for Miami's Pro Bowl center. First, it was major hip surgery following minicamp. Reports have varied that Pouncey could miss anywhere between four to eight games. Then, there was an alleged incident at Pouncey's birthday party in South Beach in which a person claimed he was attacked by Pouncey's entourage. Pouncey's lawyers quickly denied those claims in a statement.
Pouncey didn't shed much light on the off-the-field issue other than refer to his lawyer's statement. But he is optimistic about his rehab and trying to get back in the Dolphins' starting lineup as soon as possible.
"I'm very confident; I feel I'm already ahead of schedule," Pouncey explained. "My goal is not to miss any [regular-season games]. But I've just got to be smart about it so I won't have any relapses when I come back. I'm just going to listen to the team doctors and Coach Philbin. Whenever they tell me I'm ready to go, then I'm going."
It's always tricky when a player talks about returning to good health -- especially a player as tough as Pouncey. It appears Pouncey has a high threshold for pain and wants to return earlier than expected. But it will be a balancing act with team doctors to make sure Pouncey doesn't extend himself to rush back on the field. He's currently on the physically unable to perform list.
Pouncey said he first "felt something" during the spring in his hip and got it evaluated. The situation wasn't getting better. Therefore, Pouncey and the Dolphins decided it was best to get the hip surgery before the season.
Although nothing is set in stone, Shelley Smith started at centerin place of Pouncey during Friday's first practice. The Dolphins are expected to have five new offensive linemen in Week 1 when they host the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium.
Despite the injury, Pouncey believes the Dolphins have the makings of ending their five-year postseason drought.
"That's our only expectation -- to make it to the playoffs," said Pouncey, who is on the physically unable to perform list. "We were so close last year. I know that's in the back of a lot of guys' heads."