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Dolphins LB Jaelan Phillips 'motivated' to get back on the field after Achilles injury

Jaelan Phillips is already itching to get back on the field, but he's still focusing on taking this offseason day by day.

Having had his 2023 season prematurely ended in November by a torn Achilles, the Dolphins linebacker is attacking the unexpected setback with a fresh mindset.

"It's definitely different," Phillips told David Furones of the South Florida Sun Sentinel during Saturday's Dolphins Challenge Cancer charity event. "It's something that's kind of new to me because I've never had a lower-extremity injury like that -- long term, at least. So it's been cool, it's been a new experience learning my body and figuring out what to do is best for me. So it's been great."

It has been three months since Phillips suffered the Achilles injury in Week 12 versus the Jets. Up to that point the third-year linebacker was on pace to have his best season as a pro, having recorded 43 tackles, 11 QB hits, seven tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and his first career interception in eight games played.

Although Phillips' attention has been focused on making his comeback in the fall, he has not been able to ignore that the Dolphins defense could look very different in 2024. NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo and Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager reported Friday that Miami is expected to part ways with four-time Pro Bowler Xavien Howard. The team also announced the release of pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah Friday, with both moves intended to help get the team under the salary cap.

"It's going to be tough," Phillips said about the roster moves. "Me, personally, Emmanuel was somebody who had me under his wings since I came in as a rookie. It's really unfortunate to see him go, but the team's going to rally around each other. Definitely going to miss my brother. Same thing with X (Xavien Howard). Those two were staples on this team for quite a while."

Though he won't have as many familiar faces around the locker room in the upcoming season, Phillips is still seeing another on a regular basis, as he's been working through rehab alongside teammate Bradley Chubb, who suffered a torn ACL in Miami's Week 17 game at Baltimore.

"We've been pushing each other hard," Phillips said. "We love each other, and we're just motivating each other always and just getting each other right."

While Phillips is on the road to recovery, Miami faces a difficult decision coming up regarding his future with the team. The Dolphins have until May 2 to choose whether to exercise the fifth-year rookie option for Phillips, who was selected No. 18 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Despite that decision looming, Phillips remains focused on rehab for the upcoming campaign.

"Been locked in and just motivated to get back for the season," he said. "I guess the biggest thing I've taken out of it is just understanding that God has a bigger plan and sometimes life, things happen that it's hard to find a reason why, but why doesn't really matter, it's how you respond. For me, just being able to keep my head up throughout this process and find some silver linings and just understand that I can use this time to improve on other aspects of my life. It's been great so far."

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