E.A. Sports Today

T.J. back in the NFL

Heath signs deal with Dolphins’ practice squad

T.J. Heath (44) defends a pass during his days in the Buffalo Bills' camp. This summer (cover) he wore 41 with the Cleveland Browns. (Photos courtesy T.J. Heath)

T.J. Heath (44) defends a pass during his days in the Buffalo Bills’ camp. This summer (cover) he wore 41 with the Cleveland Browns. (Photos courtesy T.J. Heath)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

T.J. Heath is back in the NFL.

The former Alexandria standout, released by the Cleveland Browns at the end of training camp this summer, was signed to the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad Monday.

With the Dolphins playing the Bills Thursday, he isn’t likely to play right away, but he’s closer to the game than he’s been the last eight weeks.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Heath said Sunday as he prepared to fly to South Beach. “It’s almost like the first time I entered into the league, which was three years ago.

“I hated being away from the game (but) as long as I get back in and I’m able to play the game, I’m happy and my family’s even more happy.”

The spot apparently came available after the Ravens signed cornerback Rashaan Melvin off the Dolphins’ practice squad Saturday to replace injured Jimmy Smith and Cortland Finnegan hurt his ankle in Sunday’s 20-16 loss to Detroit.

He is expected to play corner, where the Dolphins start Brent Grimes and the former Samford star Finnegan in one of the best secondaries in the league. They went into Sunday ranked third in the NFL in total defense, third in scoring defense and second in passing yardage allowed. They held the Patriots, Bears and Chargers without a 100-yard receiver and only two passing touchdowns.

They lost Sunday on a touchdown pass with 29 seconds left and Finnegan out of the game. Grimes made a sensational one-handed interception that’s all over the internet, but also gave up a touchdown to Calvin Johnson.

“I don’t know any issues they’re having,” Heath said. “They could just want me to be a part of their organization. I’m just glad to go.”

Heath broke into the league with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent and played in five games as a rookie. He has been with Buffalo and in Cincinnati’s camp. Cleveland signed him to its practice squad in December, but released him the last week of the preseason.

“It was very surprising because I had done a lot of good things there in the offseason, even in training camp,” he said. “Basically nobody knew me when I got there, but by the end of OTAs they knew what I was capable of. … It was frustrating, but it’s how the business goes.”

Over the past eight weeks he has been training in anticipation of a call back and on occasion has been on the sidelines at Lou Scales Stadium showing support for his Alexandria Valley Cubs. He worked out for the Lions and Dolphins.

“It was hard for me to watch football because I know I wanted to play so bad; sitting out was the hard part,” he said. “You want to play football; that’s what I’ve been doing all my life.

“It’s almost like every day you wake up you wait for somebody to call you and you’re anxious. For those eight weeks I’ve been anxious every day hoping somebody would call. Now I have my opportunity back. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder.”

After living through the winters of Buffalo and Cleveland, Miami will be a downright, eh, paradise.

“That’s the funny thing,” Heath said. “My agent asked me (are) you ready to get to a warmer place. I said am I going to Miami and he said yeah. It’s the first time I’ve been to Florida since I was at Jacksonville.”



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