On a line once known more for finesse pass blocking, Richmond Webb was its best finesse blocker, a Pro Bowl selection his first seven seasons.
But questions lingered about his toughness, his ability to run-block.The Dolphins' left tackle answered those questions in Saturday's 24-17 playoff victory against Buffalo.
His left arm still not at full strength after undergoing surgery Nov. 2 to repair a partial triceps tendon tear, Webb returned to the starting lineup and was instrumental in the victory.
``I think Richmond, if he hasn't done it already, I think [Saturday) really put an asterisk by it. This guy is a true professional and a real player,'' coach Jimmy Johnson said.
``I think in years past there have been inferences on Richmond. Was he too soft? Could he block for the run, etc. I think Richmond has gone past that. I think Richmond has proved that he is an outstanding player, he does warrant Pro Bowl status, and he can overcome some pain and play well against a great player [Bills defensive end Bruce Smith).''
Webb entered the week of preparation for Saturday's playoff game at Denver again bothered by the elbow.
He was unable to practice Tuesday or Wednesday but is listed as probable for the game.
``Richmond will be fine,'' offensive coordinator Kippy Brown said. ``He gutted it out last week, and he'll be there. [Right guard) Kevin Donnalley came out of the game very good, and [left guard) Brent Smith is getting better each week. We're pretty good there.''
With Webb and Donnalley returning from injuries against Buffalo, Smith, who had started in place of the injured Webb in seven of the Dolphins' final eight regular-season games, moved to left guard to give the Dolphins a bigger, more physical player at that position than John Bock.
With the revamped line, the Dolphins rushed for 117 yards after failing to crack the 100-yard barrier in either of their final four regular-season games.
This despite Webb essentially ``playing with only one arm,'' according to Donnalley, himself no stranger to playing in pain.
Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Donnalley brought with him a reputation for toughness.
He played in two of the final four games despite surgery on his right knee on Nov. 30. A familiar sight in the locker room is Donnalley walking around with both knees wrapped in ice.
Some of his toughness apparently has rubbed off on Webb.
``Richmond played really well [against Buffalo) considering where his arm is at now,'' center Tim Ruddy said.
``The guy's going to tough it out and do what he can no matter what. I think it really showed in the game. He definitely had some problems with his arm.''
With help from Brent Smith, Webb held Bruce Smith without a sack and limited him to four tackles.
Bruce Smith, second on the NFL's all-time sack list, is no stranger to Webb.
The two have gone against each other at least twice a season since Webb came into the league in 1990, and Bruce Smith doesn't understand the questions that surrounded Webb.
``What does he have to do to prove his toughness?'' Smith said last week. ``What is he supposed to do, cheap-shot someone or be a dirty player?
``I think Richmond is very aggressive. I think with Jimmy coming there, he gave a little more added dimension to his aggressiveness. I think Richmond has been playing outstanding the last couple of years, especially since Jimmy came around.''
With Webb and running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar nursing injuries late in the season, the Dolphins had just 36 yards rushing in the first meeting with the Broncos.
Webb was inactive for the game, and Abdul-Jabbar was still feeling the effects of a concussion.
With both back against Buffalo, the Dolphins rushed for more than 100 yards in a playoff game for the first time since 1994 against Kansas City.
``It probably did motivate some of the other players that Richmond was able to step in and do that,'' Johnson said.
``There are some players that probably wouldn't have done that, and if they had done that, they wouldn't have performed as well.''