MIAMI TIGHT END Ferrell Edmunds does not think of himself as a Shakespearean performer, but he knows -- as any actor knows -- that there are no small plays, only small players.
However, some plays are much bigger than others.
The Miami Dolphins were clinging to a 17-10 lead against Seattle late in the third period Sunday. Just outside the Seahawks' 10, the Dolphins had just failed to get a first down on a running play, although they needed less than two feet -- but that's another story.
Fourth down. The usually conservative Dolphins were not going to take the field goal. They also were not going to run, heaven forbid. They were going to pass, and the receiver was going to be Edmunds.
Dan Marino rolled to his right, and Edmunds drifted to his right, alone. Edmunds knew it was a moment that could affect his entire career.
"I was so open," Edmunds said. "I said to myself, 'You had better catch this, no matter what.' "
He did, registering his first touchdown of the season. The gamble and the result proved crucial. Edmunds' score turned out to be the winning margin in a 24-17 victory.
The play was perfectly chosen. Close study of Seattle's game films showed that, in that situation, the Seahawks would not have anyone assigned to cover the tight end. Seattle coach Chuck Knox confirmed that after the game.
Edmunds caught five passes, tying his career high, for 76 yards, his third-best total, and earned a game ball. More importantly, he earned renewed confidence in his catching ability from the coaching staff.
"Ferrell had a 'game ball' day," Miami coach Don Shula said. "He came up with the big plays."
Edmunds has had a short and odd career since the Dolphins drafted him in the third round in 1988 out of Maryland. He drew rave reviews in '88 as a rookie, catching 33 passes for 575 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season was different. He caught 32 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns -- but dropped many easy balls, fumbled frequently and often was called for holding. The Dolphins felt he had regressed, but his peers voted him into the Pro Bowl anyway. That was both a compliment to Edmunds' potential and a comment on the quality of tight ends in the AFC.
Edmunds has 27 catches for 398 yards and the lone touchdown this season. Players and coaches around the league are making their Pro Bowl this week. Whether Edmunds will return to Hawaii is unknown, but Sunday's game ball in Miami seemed to be sufficient reward for him. He clutched it as if it might disappear if he let it go.
Two games are left in the regular season, including Sunday's all-everything battle in Buffalo. Miami has been playing without two of its top three receivers in injured Mark Clayton and Fred Banks. If Edmunds wants to be a major part of the club's success, now is the perfect time to prove it.
After his catch against Seattle, Edmunds immediately kneeled and said a short prayer. He was thankful, but he also knows the Lord helps those who help themselves.