Players talk football and take photos with cancer survivors at Dolphins Cancer Challenge
Miami Gardens —
Miami Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald said it best Saturday as he mingled with cancer survivors, cancer patients, bicyclists, runners and walkers at the Dolphins Cancer Challenge at Hard Rock Stadium.
"Sometimes we think we have it tough, even as players … there's a lot of survivors here," he said. "Their cause is for the people who may not have made it, but the survivors here are really motivating for us to be able to see what they've gone through and see how they've overcome it."
A host of Dolphins players were on hand at the eighth annual event that's raised more than $22.5 million for cancer research at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Dr. Edward Abraham, CEO of UHealth and executive vice president for health affairs at University of Miami, said the funds will aid in areas such as precision oncology and efforts for new drugs in areas such as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma.
Organizers were expecting close to 4,000 participants among all the events.
There were a pair of concerts in the afternoon - one by Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and one by the Goo Goo Dolls.
"It's just a spectacular event," Dr. Abraham said. "To be able to see the survivors, their families, our staff their faculty it's just a magnificent event."
Among the players glimpsed by media, in addition to McDonald, were cornerback Bobby McCain, defensive end Andre Branch, long snapper John Denney, running back Senorise Perry, and cornerback Tony Lippett.
McDonald said he's completing his required community service stemming from his violation of the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. McDonald served an eight-game suspension for his May 2017 automobile incident.
There was a report he hadn't completed his community service by the required time and therefore had run afoul of the courts and might face further legal discipline. McDonald said that's not the case. He said there's "no doubt" he'll be eligible to participate in offseason workouts when they begin in April.
"I'm in the process of doing all my community service and making sure I knock everything out," he said. "I think it got a little bit out of hand with what people were thinking. I basically got an extension on everything I needed to do, and I'm knocking that out and I'll be ready to go."
Branch, who revealed on Twitter about two weeks ago he had knee surgery, said his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule.
However, Branch, who battled knee and groin injuries last season, avoided saying he'd be ready for April workouts. Branch also avoided saying whether he had arthroscopic surgery or a more invasive procedure.
"I'm just taking it day by day," he said. "We'll see how it goes, and just go from there."
Lippett, who missed the entire 2017 season after sustaining an Achilles injury in training camp, said he'd be ready for April workouts. Lippett hadn't talked publicly about the injury because players are basically off limits once they go on injured reserve.
"I was just going up regularly to make a play on the ball and I came down and something wasn't right in with foot," he said. "That night they told me that's what it was.
"I just had to re-focus myself, get my mind back right and just attack this just like I was going to attack the season so that's what I've been doing."
The defensive backs have all met individually with new secondary coach Tony Oden, who joins Miami after spending the past three years in the same capacity in Detroit.
"Coach Oden's a really good coach, great guy," McCain said. "I met with him a couple of times and so far he knows football. He's had players such as [cornerback Darius] Slay and [cornerback Quandre]Diggs, [safety] Glover Quin with Detroit. He's a really good coach. He knows what he's doing. We're happy to have him. And we're excited to get started."
And, yes, Lippett, said he's kept in touch with running back Jay Ajayi, who was traded to Philadelphia midseason and ended up winning the Super Bowl.
"Me and Jay, that's my boy," said Lippett, who was drafted by the Dolphins in 2015, the same year as Ajayi.
"That's my boy from when we first got here, even before that. We trained together [before the draft], so I already knew him. So, yeah I was happy for him. I was talking to him after he left, weeks on before the Super Bowl, after the Super Bowl. So I'm happy for him. That's what we play this game for to get the Super Bowl. And he's done it in his third year. I'm happy for him. That's my dog."