DAVIE, Fla. — Bring back the “NFL’s Fastest Man” competition. That’s the only way we’re going to settle this.
That was a television show from yesteryear in which NFL players battled it out on the track for that title. Hall of Famer Darrell Green of the Washington Redskins won it four times.
Now, all players can do is brag about who is the speediest of them all. And that’s exactly what Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace did Wednesday at training camp.
Asked if he’s the fastest player in the NFL, Wallace said without hesitation: “Yes.”
Wallace, who said his best time in the 40-yard dash has been 4.21 seconds, doesn’t even care whom he allegedly would leave in the dust.
“I don’t know,” Wallace said when asked to name the NFL’s second-fastest player. “I really only think about myself. Whoever’s second, they really don’t matter.”
Of course, this is like boxing. Many can claim to wear title belts.
A 2011 Sports Illustrated survey of NFL players ranked Wallace as only the league’s third-fastest. He got 12 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Tennessee running back Chris Johnson and 23 percent for Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Miami wide receiver Brandon Gibson is impressed with Wallace. But even Gibson wouldn’t say his teammate is the undisputed speed champion of the NFL world.
“He’s probably a top-three fastest guy I’ve ever seen, DeSean Jackson being one and Mike probably being (a second),” said Gibson, who then didn’t put anybody else in his top three. “(Wallace) has got to be in the running for one or two.”
Asked who is faster between Wallace and Jackson, Gibson said, “I couldn’t answer that question.”
But there’s a question that has been on the minds of Dolphins fans that is much easier to answer: When will Wallace finally play in a game-type situation for Miami?
Wallace sat out the team’s July 29 controlled scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium and last Sunday’s 24-20 loss in the preseason opener to Dallas due to a groin strain. But he’s optimistic about stepping on the field for Friday night’s second preseason game at Jacksonville.
“Hopefully. I felt pretty good today,” Wallace said about practicing Wednesday for the first time in a week and a half.
The highlight of Wallace’s day was hauling in a 40-yard touchdown pass on the right side from quarterback Ryan Tannehill while beating cornerback Nolan Carroll. There is hope on the Dolphins of there being many Tannehill-to-Wallace touchdown hookups this season, but that was the first one at training camp since it began July 21.
“I finally got one,” Wallace said. “I plan on catching a lot of those.”
Wallace was the NFL’s most coveted free agents last spring before signing a five-year, $60 million contract with Miami. In his first four NFL seasons with Pittsburgh, Wallace caught 235 passes for 4,042 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Wallace is expected to stretch the defense and open up all sorts of options for Tannehill. Considering he’s such an important player for the Dolphins, it’s not surprising they have been so cautious with his injury.
“If I can go, I can go,” Wallace said of Friday. “I don’t want to really go out there and go half speed to try to ease in. I just want to be able to go. That’s why Coach (Joe Philbin) gave me the time off because he wanted me to come back when I felt pretty good, and I felt pretty good (Wednesday).”
Soon, it will be seen if Wallace can live up to another boast. Miami players have asked him at times when he will hit peak speed.
“Sometimes. I told them, ‘Just give me a little time,’ ” Wallace said. “They’ll see a lot (of it) on game day.”
It might be hard, though, for Wallace to boast about being the fastest player in Dolphins history. Miami in 1969 featured Jimmy Hines, who won a gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1968 Olympics while setting a world record that would stand for 15 years. But Hines, who caught the only two passes of his career that season for 23 yards, was nicknamed “Oops” due to his lack of football skill.
Wallace has plenty of skills along with his ability to beat defenders. He burned plenty of rubber on the play against Carroll.
“He’s definitely back,” Carroll said of Wallace returning from the groin strain. “I think he’s 100 percent. He ran away from me and the safety. … It’s good for me to go against him because I think he’s one of the fastest guys in the league.”
Notice, though, Carroll didn’t call Wallace the fastest. That’s why we need the “NFL’s Fastest Man” back to settle this.