Xavien Howard might end up missing the final four games of the regular season, but the awards keep coming for the third-year cornerback.
Eight days after being announced as a Pro Bowl starter, Howard was named the 2018 winner of the Dan Marino MVP award. Howard remains tied for first in the NFL with seven interceptions with Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller.
He’s the third cornerback to earn team MVP honors, following Sam Madison in 1999 and Brent Grimes in 2013.
“It’s great to accomplish those goals,” Howard said Wednesday. “I just really want to build from there and keep going.”
Howard is hoping to return to the lineup for the season finale against the Buffalo Bills and took part in practice Wednesday on a limited basis. Howard practiced on a limited basis all of last week before the decision was made to keep him out of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Head Coach Adam Gase said the Dolphins would continue to err on the side of caution with Howard, who sustained a knee injury in the first game against Buffalo on Dec. 2.
“He’s going to go through practice this week,” Gase said. “He would really have to push me for me to let him play. He would have to tell me he absolutely, 100 percent, wants to play and feels great. We’re not going to put him out there if he has any kind of pain.”
Howard, for his part, made it clear he really would like to play.
“It’s very important,” he said. “I want to go out there and be able to help my team win. At the end of the day, I just want to finish where I left off at and show them that we still can get the job done.
“I’m feeling good. I’m trying to push it this week. It really just depends on how I feel this week at the end of the week. I’ll go from there.”
Dolphins awards: The team announced three other major awards Wednesday, with Frank Gore earning the Don Shula Leadership Award, Ryan Tannehill winning the Ed Block Courage Award, and Kenny Stills winning the Nat Moore Community Service Award. Gore succeeded Cameron Wake, who had won the leadership award the past two years and four of the past five years, and became the fifth player to win the award in his first season with the Dolphins. The last to do it was linebacker Karlos Dansby in 2010. Stills won the community service award for the third consecutive year, joining Brandon Fields (2011-13) as the only players to do it three straight years—though Fields shared the award in 2011 and 2013. As for Tannehill, he joined Dan Marino (1995) as the only quarterbacks to be nominated by the Dolphins for this league-wide award. “Watching him come back from that knee injury, he was excited to get out there and get going this season,” Gase said. “Whatever he had, he gave it. To see him come back and look good moving around, running and all of those things, there were just no limitations.”
Clear focus: As they began their week of practice for the season finale against the Buffalo Bills, Gase said his players did a good job Wednesday of showing the same focus despite the game having no playoff implications. “It’s the same mind-set going into every week is you start fresh and your goal is to win one game,” Gase said. “Our goal is to go on the road and win a game and try to finish the right way in the division and overall record because 8-8 sounds a lot better than 7-9, I know that. We’re focused on that. I feel like the guys did a really good job at practice today. It was good to see them flying around and enjoy being out there. They just know it is the last week that this team will be together. It’ll never be the same.”
Hard Rock shout-out: Wide receiver Danny Amendola went out of his way this week to show his appreciation for the fan support the Dolphins got at Hard Rock Stadium this season. He posted on his Instagram account (@dannyamendola) a ground-level picture of the back of the Dolphins offensive huddle during the game against Jacksonville this past Sunday, along with the message: “thanks to all the fans that love and supported the squad at The Rock all year. Nothing like a home game.”
Marino mention: Pittsburgh Magazine just recently unveiled its list of the 50 Greatest Pittsburghers of all time and the selections from business to sports to politics to culture included Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino. He came in at number 34, 13 spots ahead of the only other football player on the list, Johnny Unitas. The list was topped by television personality Fred Rogers and included people like baseball legend Roberto Clemente, football owner Dan Rooney, composer Henry Mancini, actor Gene Kelly, playwright August Wilson and scientist Jonas Salk. About Marino, the article said, “In an era of dominant quarterbacks, Marino, 57, was the most reliable and accomplished; in a region known for producing more legendary arms than any other part of the country, Marino edges out the competition. The Dolphins legend is the kind of the Cradle of Quarterbacks.”