Jalen Ramsey declared almost from the moment he got hurt that he’d come back sooner than expected.
But the last time the Miami Dolphins played the New England Patriots on Sept. 17 in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Ramsey made a promise to his coach Mike McDaniel that he’d be back on the field the next time the two teams met.
Ramsey was true to his word returning to action on Sunday during Miami’s 31-17 victory over the Patriots - three months and a day after tearing his meniscus during a training camp practice on July 28.
Ramsey also lived up to his prediction to his teammates that he’d record an interception in his first game back when he picked off New England quarterback Mac Jones with 1:48 left in the second quarter.
“He totally disappointed me. He called he’d have a ‘pick 6’ in his first game back,” McDaniel said sarcastically. “That’s something you can’t manufacture what he brought to our team and the commitment it took to play in that game. You talk about not wanting to let someone down as a teammate. That was a special thing to watch his conviction. Telling his teammates hold it down and I’m going to come back and beat whatever timetable by a month.
“A big part of the reason we won was that collective nature that he epitomized.”
Ramsey’s participation Sunday was not limited either despite it being his first game action in months.
According to NextGen Stats, Ramsey played 47 of the Dolphins’ 51 defensive snaps. He was targeted on only three passes and only allowed one catch for 24 yards to Patriots’ tight end Pharaoh Brown.
On the interception, Ramsey was playing in zone coverage and perfectly jumped the route in front of receiver Kendrick Bourne and picked off the throw. Ramsey nearly scored on the play, but the Patriots receivers had the angle and forced him out of bounds at the New England 40 after a 49-yard return.
“It’s crazy. Dude literally called his shot, like, ‘I’ma catch a pick in this game,” Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill said. “He’s next level. I’m just so glad I’m not playing against the guy no more because the edge - everything that he brings. The mentality is next level. It’s dope to see him back doing it already, like forcing fumbles and locking down the whole side. I like that.”
Ramsey was introduced last during defensive player introductions before the game and received the loudest ovation from the crowd.
“It was one of the coolest walkouts I’ve seen from any Miami Dolphin player since I’ve been here, when he just walked out through the smoke and did his deal and the crowd went wild,” Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “To top it off, he got an interception, he got a forced fumble, all of those things. The hype is real when it comes to someone like Jalen Ramsey.”
Miami acquired Ramsey, a three-time All-Pro cornerback, in early March in a trade with the Rams for a third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long.
His return comes at a needed time for a defense still trying to gel and get to full health in their first season under coordinator Vic Fangio.
McDaniel says he told the team this week about Ramsey’s promise to him back in September.
It served as inspiration for a defense that recorded three sacks and held the Patriots to 218 total yards despite still missing key members of the secondary in Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland.
“Don’t get it twisted, I’m happy I had an interception, but I definitely don’t want that to be the storyline,” Ramsey said. “I just want to talk about how we got a good hard-fought division win. My success, it comes from the preparation that I put in and the team around me. It’s not just me.”
Ramsey said he underwent a “full repair” of his meniscus and still was able to return ahead of schedule.
“They might have to do a case study on whatever he did to help it heal so quickly,” Ramsey said. “The training staff, they did an amazing job. I had good days. I had bad days and everything in between. And the training staff, they never babied me. They pushed me. They were super smart with me, even when I didn’t want to be smart.”
Ramsey said he never had a doubt he would be able to come back sooner than expected even when there was uncertainty as to exactly when he would. He said he circled a few possible return dates, but that Sunday’s game was the soonest possible.
“The timeline changed so many different times, honestly, but it got to a certain point where I kind of circled this game,” Ramsey said. “When I put my mind to certain things, I just go for it all out, and I feel like your mind is so powerful that you can kind of will the rest of your body to heal quicker or get back strong enough or whatever you’ve got to do.”